Jolene Ross’s passion for human resources began with a different goal — to become a lawyer.
“Human resources people are often frustrated lawyers,” jokes the 31-year-old, echoing the words of her Red River College instructor, Angie Cusson.
While the legal intricacies of the profession initially drew her to sign up for RRC’s Human Resource Management program, the personal aspects of it are what she now finds the most rewarding.
“Every time you hire somebody, you’re making a change in their lives,” says Ross, a recruitment and retention officer with the Southern Health-Santé Sud regional health authority. “It’s the happy side of human resources; it’s the fun side. I think that’s kind of what drew me to it. It’s being able to interact with people, but still getting to participate in a process that has a legal side to it.”
Ross has helped make that dramatic change in many people’s lives. Since joining Southern Health-Santé Sud following her graduation from RRC in 2008, she has been part of several massive staffing transitions — including the 2012 amalgamation of regions that saw the health authority grow from 3,500 to 5,500 employees.
With sensitive personnel decisions a part of her daily work, Ross says maintaining professionalism throughout every aspect of her job is imperative. It’s a lesson she credits to the Human Resource Management program.
“[RRC] challenged me to become more of a professional,” says Ross, who also holds an arts degree from the University of Manitoba. “In our line of business that’s extremely important, because you sometimes deal with people when they’re at their worst, and when they’re at their worst, you have to treat them with that respect.”
The program also taught her the importance of making a good first impression.
“Especially when you’re dealing with people, you have to build that credibility with them. When things are going poorly or there are hard decisions to be made, you have that one opportunity to do things right, and you better take it, no matter how hard it is to do.”
Filling a wide, rural area with crucial health care jobs has its challenges, and Ross often has to travel across Canada in search of potential employees. In 2009, she was responsible for the immigration and settlement of 33 nurses from the Philippines — the result of a global recruitment effort by the region.
“They have made such an impact — not just on me — but on the entire region,” she says of the nurses. “I think a lot of people thought, ‘We’ll hire these nurses and in a year they’ll all just leave us.’ But they were so loyal to our region; they’ve made families and homes here.”
She’s also reaching out to high school students, teaching them about every available position in health care — from doctors to maintenance staff — and engaging a burgeoning aboriginal population in southern Manitoba.
“Aboriginal people in the region are young, and often all they need is the opportunity to know where they can gain the skills necessary to work in health care,” says Ross, who attributes the success of Southern Health-Santé Sud’s outreach to its aboriginal employment director, Holly Leost.
“We’re working really hard as a region to increase the representation of aboriginal people in all areas of our workforce, as we want to be representative of the people we serve.”
A native of Gladstone, Man., Ross understands the important role health care practitioners have in sustaining small towns. Having put down roots with her husband and two young children in Portage la Prairie, her commitment to seeing such communities thrive is stronger than ever.
“Sometimes people think that health care facilities in small communities are no longer viable, because they are difficult to staff. When you grow up in a small town, you understand how important your health care facility and your ability to seek health care close to home really are.”