For Akela Harris, work is not just “a job” – it’s what she looks forward to every time she comes in to AAMC’s Neuro Care Unit. And sometimes, it’s a safe haven from her packed schedule.“When I’m going to work I always tell my children that I’m going to my happy place because it’s the busy that gets me away from my other busy,” she laughs.
A single mother of three, Akela is a full-time mother and granddaughter during the day and a full-time patient technician at night. “I work three nights a week and go to school four days a week all for my children, as well as looking after my grandmother by taking her to doctor appointments,” she says.
Akela embarked on her health care journey 13 years ago when she was working as a kitchen chef assistant at Ginger Cove. She says she didn’t find her passion – her passion found her.
“Ginger Cove was offering certified nursing assistant classes and my boss at the time encouraged me to take them,” she says. “She told me I paid a lot of attention to people and she knew the kitchen wasn’t what I loved. I took the classes and it went from there.”
Getting to interact with people during their time of need was what attracted Akela to health care. Though sometimes it’s rough, she finds meaning in her work.
“You really have to love it,” she says. “Sometimes patients don’t feel well and say things that hurt. This job can be stressful. But for me, sometimes you go into a person’s room and they make you feel like you’re appreciated and that one person can make up for the other five that aren’t treating you as kindly. It takes just one person saying they appreciate what I do or thanking me for helping them. To me, that’s enough.”
For Akela, it’s also about the team she works with. Though it’s a small team, they are like a family and look after each other.
“I have people here to support me through the ups and downs,” she says. “We can be having a horrible night and someone says something and we all burst out laughing. I love that, you don’t get that everywhere.”
Currently working to become a surgical technologist by December 2018, Akela says she looks forward to a new challenge and learning new skills. Her only condition: continuing to interact with patients.
“When you do what you love it doesn’t feel like you’re trying, you’re just going to do it because it’s what you love doing anyway,” she says. “It’s effortless.”
PRO TIP: “Never give up no matter how hard it gets. If it’s something that you feel in your heart that you’re supposed to do and you want to do, don’t give up. Don’t allow one or two days to make you give up on your dream. If you have a dream and that’s what you want to do, give it your all and do it with a passion.”
*Akela Harris received an AAMC Champion award for the month of May.