Professional women in their 20s and 30s were active in nursing care and welfare-related occupations. Each of them chose a career in nursing care for different reasons, and at different turning points in their lives. But what were the turning points that led them to choose their current profession? Hisako Takase, the founder and representative of Kaigo Cafe (Nursing Cafe), who also has extensive experience in nursing care, delves into the lives of these women of the millennial generation, who will be shaping the future of nursing care.
Hisako Takase: Founded Kaigo Cafe based on her desire to revitalize and change the image of the nursing care industry.
Shiori Mishima: Born and raised in Shinjuku. After working as a caregiver, she is currently in charge of front desk operations as a lifestyle coordinator.
Yukiko Sasaki: Born in Wakayama Prefecture. While working as a caregiver, she formed Team W, a group of women who offer both nursing care and beauty services, and conduct activities such as fashion shows featuring the elderly as the main models.
Mayu Watabe: Fresh out of university; recently started her career as a caregiver. She began to take an interest in the subject “welfare and the community” after studying community design at university.
Saho Otsuka: After working in sales and designing proposals for classified employment ads at an advertising agency, she switched careers to join a company that operates day-care facilities where she currently works in human resources and public relations.
Takase: What motivated all of you to work in the nursing care industry?
Watabe: At university, I was studying community development and community revitalization. It was at that time that I became interested in pursuing a career related to community and welfare, which is what prompted me to work in the nursing care industry. Plus, because my friends would often seek advice from me, I always had an interest in working directly with people.
Takase: How have your university studies helped you in your current job?
Watabe: I learned a lot about interacting and building relationships with people at university. That has helped me to develop relationships with the elderly, who I currently engage with through my job in nursing care.
Takase: I can understand that in terms of personal interaction, welfare and community design are alike. What about you, Mishima-san?
Mishima: I used to visit terraced fields as a hobby when I was a university student, and I realized that there are many elderly people in the mountainous areas. And this is what triggered my interest in nursing care. I accepted a job at a nursing home but I did it secretly because there was a risk that my family would oppose my decision.
ALL: You kept it a secret from your family!? (laugh)
Mishima: Yes, I told my family later (laugh). In general, the nursing care profession carries the image that although it’s a tough job, the treatment isn’t very favorable. My parents used to ask me why I felt such a strong need to be involved in nursing care, but they gradually came to accept my decision and now they tell me that it’s okay as long as I’m happy.
Watabe: My family was also initially opposed to a career in the nursing care industry, but to help them gain a better understanding about the profession, I always talked about my internship experiences, or I would invite them to lectures held at the university, and in the end, I succeeded in persuading them.
Takase: Otsuka-san, you decided to make a career move, didn’t you? What did you do before you switched jobs?
Otsuka: After joining a “Yosakoi” adult dance team when I was a university student, I wanted to become involved in “monozukuri” (craftsmanship), so I joined an advertising agency as a new graduate. While I worked in classified employment ad sales for around two years, I came to realize that I enjoyed direct interaction with people.
Takase: Why did this prompt you to enter the nursing care industry?
Otsuka: One of the clients from my previous job was the company that I currently work for. While I was assisting them with recruitment as a sales representative, I was offered a position in their company which I accepted. Rather than choosing to do so because it was in the nursing care business, I thought that in this particular company, I would be able to gain a lot of meaningful experience.
Takase: So, you weren’t necessarily interested in the nursing care business!
Otsuka: That’s right. After I joined the company and was put in charge of human resources and public relations, there was a period when I questioned myself whether my work was actually benefiting the users and staff members in the workplace. However, I gradually began to feel that even though it may not impact them directly, my work was contributing to enhancing the environment of the facility.
Takase: Sasaki-san, I heard that you are involved in initiatives that combine nursing care and makeup while also working as a caregiver?
Sasaki: I’m currently involved in the activities of Team W, that offers collaborative services of both beauty and nursing care. We conduct events at day-care or rehabilitation facilities, and also organize fashion shows featuring the elderly as models. I want to show young people that working in nursing care can be cool, to provide them with an opportunity to take an interest in this field… And I also want our activities to motivate the elderly women to make it their goal to walk down the runway once a year, to motivate them to exercise more and practice their walk.
Takase: Have you received any feedback regarding the fashion shows?
Sasaki: There was an elderly woman who was overjoyed in trying on nail polish for the first time in her life. I also heard that there was a woman who said on her ride home, that she was still too excited to sleep! I feel really flattered when they tell me that it was a memorable event.
Takase: What was your previous impression of the nursing care industry before joining?
Otsuka: I had always wanted to become a veterinarian up until high school, so I already had an interest in the medical field. So, I have never held a negative preconception towards nursing care, and in my case, I feel that nursing care is medical care.
Takase: Did this impression change after entering into the professional field?
Otsuka: It became a part of my lifestyle and livelihood, and my perception of my occupation became even more positive. Medical care aims to cure. But taking dementia as an example of an illness where the objective is not necessarily to cure, I feel that the aim of nursing care is to allow the patient to live happily in his/her current state, even though they require professional care.
Watabe: To be honest, I used to think that it was an unknown world in which I shouldn’t set foot. But after the experience of an internship, I realized that nursing care is also about human relationships, and the negative notions were completely wiped away.
Takase: Did you experience a turning point where you truly felt that you enjoyed working in nursing care?
Mishima: I feel that the end-of-life care experience made a huge impact. It reaffirmed the significance of a profession that allows you to care for a person up until the very end of his/her life. Although the very first time, because I had never had the experience of end-of-life care even among my own relatives, I couldn’t stop crying and it took a while until I could regain myself…
Takase: Yet, you still didn’t think about leaving your job?
Mishima: After a couple of experiences, I came to think that it wasn’t necessary for me to be sad, that we were there to support that person, so that person could pass away with the thoughts of having spent a happy life.
Takase: Did that experience also influence your life?
Mishima: Yes. I began to think that it’s important to cherish and enjoy each and every day. And, when I ponder about my future, for example, I often worry about marriage or having children. There is a lot to learn from the conversations with the elderly, who are much older and have gained far more experience in life. Watabe: For me, it was entering university. The good thing about the Community Design Department was that compared to other fields of design, the objective of what and for whom to design was clearer. For example, if there was an issue of many elderly people dying a solitary death and there was a need to address it, we would design a mechanism that bridges the local elderly community with the other residents. I felt comfortable working on specific projects and developing mechanisms where it was easy to visualize the faces of people who needed a “design.” Another significant turning point in my life was the death of my grandfather.
Takase: What did your grandfather mean to you?
Watabe: He was my beloved one. He used to be so lively, and I was shocked to see him gradually deteriorate after being hospitalized. That experience, where I wanted the attending doctors and nurses to learn more about my grandfather, whom I loved, has led to my attitude towards my work today. In my current job, I vow never to do anything that my grandfather felt uncomfortable with back then.
Otsuka: In my case, there was a period of time when I had doubts about whether the work that I was doing (human resources, public relations) was actually meaningful and beneficial to the users… Once, I was asked to assist a partially paralyzed female user who needed to use the bathroom, and she said to me that she felt utterly useless not even being able to take care of herself. But a few days later, she fondly talked about memories of her beloved husband who had passed away, and she looked entirely different from when she spoke about herself as being “utterly useless,” with such a joyful look on her face. What left a deep impression was when she finally said to me, “all can end well with happy memories.” At that moment, it dawned on me that I wanted to create a comfortable environment for the elderly to spend their remaining days, and in order to do so, I had to recruit the best staff. That experience was a significant turning point for me.
Takase: Sasaki-san, I believe that you are raising two children while also working. Are there any aspects from your experiences in parenthood which have helped you in your profession?
Sasaki: As a result of becoming a parent, I tend to probe deeper into things when I’m working in nursing care, like, what is the underlying thought or cause of a person’s remark. Also, by carefully observing a person from a beautician’s perspective, I have become more alert to skin conditions and problems, and I would notify any concerns to the attending nurse. My days are hectic, and there are times I feel bad for my children…but I’m hopeful that in the future, I will be able to limit my work to 2-3 hours a day by providing beauty recreation programs in day-care facilities or something similar.
Takase: That’s true, part of the appeal of the nursing care industry is that it offers diverse working styles.
Takase: If you all choose to continue to pursue your career, you still have over 30 years ahead of you. As a woman, what kind of lifestyle do you want to lead?
Otsuka: My mother is my role model. She is a stay-at-home housewife, so when I had any worries about school, she would patiently listen to my concerns at home, and she was always there to greet me when I came home from school. These kinds of things meant a lot to me.
Takase: Do you want to continue with your career even after you have children?
Otsuka: Yes. Nowadays, various working styles are accepted, such as working from home or working reduced hours. But in order to be able to select a suitable working environment, it is necessary to have acquired adequate skills or to seek out new needs proactively. I think that people who are actually making an effort, rather than simply talking about what they want to do are awe-inspiring, and I want to be that type of person.
Watabe: I want to be a person who is adaptable yet has willpower, a person with compassion. A person who possesses a personal philosophy and the firm will to persevere, but doesn’t force it on other people and owns the resilience to be receptive to different ideas.
Mishima: I also agree that a woman with willpower has allure. Since there is no correct answer in nursing care, it’s easy to conform to what others say in a workplace, but always agreeing to others’ opinions often leads things to move in the wrong direction. I’m not comfortable with that, so I want to maintain my own will.
Takase: Lastly, I would like for you to tell me about your dreams and goals.
Otsuka: I want to be able to deliver more accurate information about the nursing care industry. Because, among those who aren’t yet aware of the appeal of this industry, there are definitely some who are well-suited and would thoroughly enjoy working in this field. And even though a great match can result in benefits for both the caregiver as well as the cared person, it’s such a shame that only inaccurate information and negative images persist.
Watabe: I want to be able to be open-minded about growing old, or how to approach the end of life. And hopefully, to discuss related topics with people from other professional fields. Keywords such as “end of life planning” or “Advance Care Planning” are becoming widespread, but I think that right now, it’s only resonating among the generations that are interested.
Takase: Do you have a specific image of how you want to fulfill this idea?
Watabe: I feel that if it’s possible to combine culture with welfare and end-of-life care, then people would be able to be more proactive in thinking about growing old, or how to approach the end of life from a younger age. Given an opportunity, it would be great if I could develop this idea into a job.
Sasaki: You’re right, it’s true that there are a lot of negative images associated with growing old. I want to change this country into a nation where people enjoy growing old, using the power of beauty.
Takase: Do you want to continue with the fashion shows?
Sasaki: Yes. The reason why we started the fashion shows is because we wanted to spark the feelings of joy and fun which lay hidden in the elderly who have given up hope in life. Hopefully, in the future, our activities will reach various parts of the country and contribute to revitalizing local communities. Perhaps something like asking a local clothing store in a run-down shopping street to provide the costumes for a fashion show, and a grandma and her grandchild walk down the runway together.
Mishima: My current goal is to become a Certified Social Worker. Because when it comes to nursing care, we must be equipped with knowledge and skills for giving care not only to the elderly, but also to the disabled.
Takase: Do you have any future plans or goals?
Mishima: After I obtain certification and have gained sufficient knowledge and experience at my present job, I want to open a welfare cafe in a stylish retro farmhouse. My dream is to create a place in the mountainous region where people of all ages can mingle. I would, of course, place pamphlets of care goods and welfare-related services, but I also want to create an area where I can provide support and assistance in application procedures for nursing care insurance.
Takase: Being a cafe operator myself, I also believe that the power of physical space is great. I think that people would want to revisit a place that is stylish and relaxing, and a place like that would also attract people who aren’t directly involved in nursing care. And if there’s a place where people from a wide range of ages can interact with each other and provide more opportunities to become more familiar with nursing care, it can gradually help change people’s perception about nursing care. Through today’s exchange of ideas and conversations, there are aspects that I have rediscovered in terms of the true depth and value of working in nursing care, which plays a crucial role in this rapidly-aging society; and I also believe that there is much more that we can communicate. It was a pleasure talking to you all today and thank you for your time.