After undergoing shoulder surgery, warehouse worker Katja Saukkonen had to find a new job. Barona´s Occupational Health Services provided her with support and encouragement. The art of encouragement might actually become her future profession.

Katja Saukkonen, 41, was working as a warehouse employee until her right shoulder was so strained, she had to have surgery. After the operation her doctor told Saukkonen she would not be able to return to her former position and recommended the occupational rehabilitation provided by pension insurance companies.

As a part of her occupational rehabilitation in the Spring of 2015, Saukkonen met with occupational health coach Anni Korhonen from Barona. By fall, Saukkonen was already taking part in a work trial at a Reception Centre.

The process was so swift, partly because Saukkonen could tell her coach right away what she wanted to do.

“I had been on sick leave for 11 months so I had had time to reflect on things. At the meeting I informed my coach right away that I wanted to study to become a Bachelor of Social Services, I have a degree Financial Administration and I would like to work with foreigners,” explains Saukkonen.

Her occupational rehabilitation started with a work trial.  Saukkonen has a diverse educational background: in addition to Further Qualifications in Financial Administration and Sales, she had some unfinished studies toward a Vocational Qualification in Business and Administration.

As soon as the plan was clear, Occupational Health Services coach Anni Korhonen called a Reception Centre to set up an interview for a possible work trial.  Saukkonen and Korhonen went there together.

“Anni encouraged me, and even after the work trial she called to see how I was doing and to make sure my contract had been renewed,” says Saukkonen.

Saukkonen was pleased to have the opportunity to partake in a 3-month work trial that consisted of office work in the Centre´s healthcare team.  Her sick leave and rehabilitation from the surgery had lasted altogether 11 months, and she was sick of just being home – or at a doctor´s or physiotherapist´s office.

Everyday life was difficult because she could not use her right hand. Luckily, she could receive joy from her family, and her friends helped Saukkonen with errands, such as grocery shopping.

Even though her sick leave was a difficult period in her life, Saukkonen was not stressed about finding work. “I had a strong feeling something would turn up. I was not afraid of anything.”

After a 3-month work trial, Saukkonen was employed by the same Reception Centre. Her work as a secretary will continue at least until the end of the year.

“Many of my acquaintances are in the same situation but have been unable to find work. I am very happy and pleased with my situation.  Everything happened smoothly and quickly.”

Saukkonen still dreams about studying Social Services, but comments that one never knows what life will bring. It is, however, clear why she is drawn to the field.

“Social Services is a diverse field that also makes it possible to work with children.  I want to work with people arriving in a foreign country. I know what that is like,” explains Saukkonen. She is an Ingrian Finn who came to Finland with her parents as a child. According to Saukkonen, the most important thing is that those who move to Finland receive encouragement. “They should be encouraged to live, to study and to talk. Conversing is a way to learn the language.”

Help in everyday paperwork is also necessary at the start. “Not everyone will dare to ask for help. There have to be people who help sort out and handle matters,” Saukkonen states.

“My entire life, I have been visiting The Social Insurance Institution offices, police stations and banks with acquaintances who had recently moved to Finland when they were just starting their lives here. Maybe at some point I can do those types of things for a living,” laughs Saukkonen.

Kalle Pulkkanen-image
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Kalle Pulkkanen
Service Director, Occupational Health Services
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