Sharing the stories of those who care
Kimberly Lopez shifts the conversation of long-term care research in her dissertation work to the stories of individuals who are involved in care labour in these settings – Personal Support Workers (PSWs).
I think it’s important that their stories are heard. Because they’re not a regulated profession, they are often made invisible - we don’t hear what they have to say about how things in long-term care can get better.
Kim uses art-based and digital methods in her research where PSWs come together in groups to uncover racialized, gendered, and classed issues that structure care labour, “What I’m finding is that the majority of the women that I’m speaking to have two jobs, are trying to upgrade their qualifications, and also have children. They’re providing care on multiple levels and they often realize that they’re forgetting ‘self’ in that caring equation”. Kim’s motivation to understand and improve the working conditions for PSWs stems from her own family’s experiences. Kim’s mother, a single parent, attended school on top of her full-time and part-time work as a health care aide in order to upgrade her qualifications to a Registered Practical Nurse, “…my aim is to really ensure that PSWs are considering ‘self’ because what happens when they don’t is that they fall ill, they take time off, and often this lands them in a cycle where they’re not able to work and provide the necessities needed for their family”.
Making the most of the experience
Kim was recently hired as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, and is looking forward to putting into practice the skills she learned as a graduate student at the University of Waterloo.
Having completed her Master's at the University of Waterloo, Kim decided to complete her PhD in the Aging, Health and Well-Being. In part, she selected AHWB as she felt the need to distinguish herself with a specialization in aging, combined with a preference for an interdisciplinary learning environment. “AHWB includes people who are working on such unique projects – I think that’s something we can all gain from”. While she had a very supportive and open relationship with her two supervisors, Prof. Sherry Dupuis and Susan Arai, PhD, Kim recognized the exceptional opportunities and resources afforded to her at the University of Waterloo. In particular, she felt the Graduate Research Assistantships within her Department gave her an opportunity to refine her research skills, as well as the Centre for Teaching Excellence as a resource that helped enhance her teaching abilities.
Now that she is looking forward to supervising graduate students herself, she can say as her message to incoming doctoral students: “Do the most you can with your program, make the most of it!”.