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From Dentist to Health Care Assistant: The Story of Starting Over

From Dentist to Health Care Assistant: The Story of Starting Over

Starting over in a new country is a difficult and overwhelming process. It can turn life into a powerful mix of emotions ranging from terrifying to exhilarating – uncertainties, new language, new people, new places, new habits, and, all too often, new careers.

A significant number of residents in our city have made Surrey their first Canadian home, and are starting fresh with new opportunity and challenges. Meet Mariano Rivera, a Dentist originally from the Philippines, who, after seeking opportunities all over the world, decided to make Surrey his new home with his wife and 2 children. After coming to Canada, Mariano began exploring a new career path since his Dental training was not recognized here. When we asked Mariano about his experiences and the challenges of starting over, this is what he shared with us.

How did you decide to become a Health Care Assistant (HCA)?

I really liked working in health services and wasn’t happy with the idea of working outside  the industry. I wanted to stay in a field where I could help people, work with patients and make a difference.

What were some of the initial fears you had?

I had a lot of concerns about finding the right job, one where I could be successful and there wouldn’t be too much competition making it hard to get work. I was also worried about finding the right school where I would fit in. When you are new to a country, cultural differences and communication are always a concern. I wanted to make sure that the industry I chose and the school I went to would make that less of an issue.

How did you overcome those challenges?

I am a positive person so the first thing I did was to always think, ‘If someone else can do it, I can do it best!’ The school also helped as the training program included the areas that I was concerned about most; culture and communication. The fact that I could also finish is such a short period of time and still work in health services in a good job, made me feel like I made the right choice.

How did you find out about Pacific Coast Community College?

I did a lot of online research and finally found Pacific Coast Community College. When I met with the college I really liked the way that the they treated me during the information session, there seemed to be real respect and I was treated like a person and not a number.

How was the training process?

It’s been an eye-opening experience to learning the true nature of being a caregiver The course covers everything and makes you really think. At the beginning the program was challenging, but by clinical I felt more comfortable and that I knew what I was doing. This is very different from what I did as a dentist, but when I finally started working with patients again it made me more sure of my new career path.

Can you compare the training you had at Pacific College with your previous training?

The dental program I took was very heavy on the sciences and much more of an academic program. It was also just focused on one area of the body; the mouth and head. But the Health Care Assistant program at Pacific Coast Community College is much more holistic. In some ways since it’s a vocational program; it’s less challenging but it covered a lot more about the human body and how people behave which made it interesting.

We also chatted with Laila Pittalwala, HCA Program Instructor and Senior Education Administrator at Pacific Coast Community College about Mariano’s experience during the training, and she told us, “Like many of our students beginning a brand-new career path, Mariano found the program challenging to start, but once he got to clinical component things started to click for him and he really excelled. He has a way with the clients that will make him an excellent HCA!”

What was the outcome of your training?

It’s looking pretty positive as I already have a job offer before even completing the program! I am looking forward to working in the industry as a caregiver and am excited about my new career.

Would you recommend Pacific College to others who are starting again?

Yes I would! You must find the right people to teach you, as that makes all the difference. I believe that the staff at Pacific Coast Community College are the right people to learn from if you want to be a Health Care Assistant.

What are you most looking forward to in your new career path?

Excelling in the profession and giving my clients the best treatment and care 

What are you hoping for in your future?

Success for my kids in Canada. I really want my kids to get good educations and have good lives. For me and my wife I want a simple life, where we can help our community and our family. Starting a new career is always a challenge but if you find the right one it can make all the difference in your life. If you’d like learn more about opportunities in the healthcare sector for individuals looking for a new career path, check out Pacific Coast Community College online at

About The Author

Surrey604 Staff

Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.


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