Rosemarie works full-time in the environmental services department at The Salvation Army Toronto Grace Health Centre (TGHC) but if you were to ask her what she is most passionate about she would tell you, “helping patients take care of their personal grooming.”  For over ten years Rosemarie has volunteered in her personal time her skills to help patients at the TGHC with their cosmetology needs.

“Helping them with their appearance raises their spirit and their hope,” she said, and then added, “looking good is part of feeling good.”

In 2005, Rosemarie was working part-time at the TGHC and noticed the challenges patients were having when they needed professional haircuts and beauty treatments.  Scheduling such appointments is difficult since most hospitals do not have an in-house salon to provide such services and it is difficult for patients to get out to an appointment at an outside salon.  Eager to establish cosmetology services for the patients at the TGHC she enrolled at Marca College, where she took an eighteen-month cosmetology course.

The cosmetology course at Marca College requires students to obtain practical experience working with clients in a professional environment.  Rosemarie realized she could gain immediate practical experience if the patients at the TGHC could be her clients.  After a discussion with the unit manager, it was agreed that she could approach the patients and volunteer her services to help her gain experience.

Having a steady clientele of patients helped Rosemarie develop her skills and experience, but it was also beneficial for the patients, who could request proper haircuts and professional make-up services.

Rosemarie took her final exam in 2007 and obtained her Ontario hairstyling license. She has continued to volunteer her professional cosmetology services for the patients at the TGHC since receiving her license. As well, she has also been able to establish a small in-home cosmetology business and takes requests from clients who want her to come to their home.

I asked Rosemarie, “How is it that you keep getting requests for your services?”

“The nurses know about me,” said Rosemarie, “and they usually approach me to help with a patient. Sometimes patients see me working on another patient in their room and ask me for a shave or haircut.”

“You work all day in environmental services, where do you find the time to volunteer?” I asked.

Rosemarie simply shrugged and told me that she always finds time to volunteer her services. Sometimes she devotes time on her lunch hour, and other times she stays after work to give a patient a haircut or a makeover.

“Why do you do this for the patients,” I asked.

“Some of our patients can’t leave to have their hair done,” said Rosemarie, “and some women who have limited mobility need help applying their makeup. Sometimes patients who have come from acute care have not been able or have even thought about a haircut or shave. I do this for them,” she continued, “because I want them to feel good about themselves. I want to help them feel like a real person.”

Special care is often necessary in order to provide cosmetology services. Some patients, Rosemarie pointed out, must remain in bed when they’re receiving their haircut. Over the years of helping patients with their personal grooming she has devised methods of her own on how to wash and cut hair when a patient is bedridden and their head mobility is limited.

“I have a lot of compassion for the patients and treat them like I want to be treated, with respect and dignity,” says Rosemarie. “Everyone is here to help the patients with what they need, and taking care of their appearance is part of taking good care of them. I’m very devoted to that.”

By Gerry Condotta