Registered Nurse, Koonambil Aged Care, NSW
I’m 61, married with two adult boys and live near Coonamble, a small country town in North Western NSW.
I have been a Registered Nurse (RN) for the past 40 years, and have worked in aged care for the past 15, almost 16 years. I love it. I currently work at a community run, not for profit facility called Koonambil Aged Care, where I’m responsible for all of our resident’s care through our Care Staff.
My day begins with me leaving home at 5am, in the dark mostly, often battling my way through many roos, emus and the occasional wild pig. I travel 60 km to work each day, 30 km on a black dirt road & 30 km on a sealed road.
I love my work otherwise I wouldn’t be prepared to do this, and add to the many dints and kms on my vehicle. I am so proud of what we do at Koonambil, offering older people a local place to live, close to their family and friends, in a supportive environment with the highest possible level of care.
Previously I was teaching First Aid & Medical Terminology through our local TAFE, plus working casually at the local Coonamble Hospital. I was approached by a Board Member of the Koonambil Aged Care Facility and asked if I would consider working for them.
Their RN had resigned and was leaving soon with no replacement in sight to cover the facility, and allow it to continue delivering services to our local residents. After much thought, I said that I would fill in on a casual basis, two days a week for a limited short period of time until they employed someone else.
I told them I didn’t really think this is what I wished to do with my career but, I would help them out. Now 16 years later I’m still here!
My role’s focus is on assessing, monitoring & re-evaluating the care we provide to our residents on a regular basis. I oversee the wound and skin care, the medication delivery, manual handling and staff education and assessment, palliative care and the many varied referrals that need to be done.
For most of my working time in our aged care cacility I have been the only RN, fortunately our CEO is also a RN which has helped on many occasions and has been a great support.
We have developed quite a few new initiatives since I’ve been here, including the creation of our Group & Individual Exercise Programs over ten years ago - years before it became mainstream in aged care facilities.
We developed the programs because we saw a real need to help improve and maintain residents’ mobility and independence. The benefits of exercise for residents is so important, not only for their physical well-being but also for their mental health and self-esteem.
We now have two visiting Physiotherapist who work at Koonambil two days each week, and I love seeing the positive impact the exercise classes have on our residents.
I have also designed and implemented with our local Doctors an assessment of our residents, to ensure that they are able to successfully and safely manage their mobile Gophers on our town’s streets & roads. During harvest we have many large and long road trains, headers, trucks with bins, cattle trucks and fodder trucks using our roads. These pass directly in front of our facility, so safety is a huge issue.
I love going to work. I enjoy the company of our residents, their families and friends. I love putting a smile on my resident’s faces.
I love the challenge of trying to improve our standard of care to each of our residents, and being part of a team that is working to make their work place a much happier and safer home for our residents. This may entail making the smallest change or implementation to a particular person, but to them it can be massive and so greatly appreciated.
I love chatting and learning of their life experiences and getting to know them better. This insight into their lives then helps you to make better decisions for their individual care, choosing what matters and what is needed by that resident.
I love and am very proud of the feeling of our facility, its welcoming atmosphere, its warmth, the openness, light and airy building. It gives us all such a buzz when a visitor comments on the lovely vibe of the home we work in.
I have enjoyed working with a diverse group of employees, and the mentoring and assistance in education that I have been able to provide, which increases their understanding and knowledge of what and why we are doing something. I feel privileged to see them grow as a person and as a professional, and feel very proud when I can see them taking so much pride in their work.
This job has taught me many things, it points out that our lives come & go. Nothing stops for any of us. When our friends or family pass on the whole world just keeps on turning. That is why it is important to get to know our residents; their likes, dislikes, their past experiences, what their expectations are NOW and what their dreams were or what they are now.
When you work in aged care you have a chance to make a difference in the lives of the people you are caring for. It may be in their latter years, but you are a big part of their lives now, and they are more vulnerable now then they have been since their childhood.
You have a chance to make them feel safe, comfortable, valued, to laugh with them, to enjoy their company, to hear their stories and to find out what it is that they want to do. It is their life and their choice of what they want, but we can help them and be a friend on their journey.
Their smiles are worth a million dollars.
Working in this role has improved my level of patience with staff and their attitudes. They each have a unique story, as do our residents. I try to be very conscious of not judging another person. You don’t always know what is happening in their lives.
It has taught be to work better as a team member which, I believe will allow your team to get more done in a consistent manner with greater satisfaction and reward all round.
I have also learnt so much about the constantly changing Aged Care industry, the residents’ rights, expectations and choices. The sector’s problems, its functioning, its accountability, the accreditation system, and its undervaluing of employees, and the difficulty of geographical isolation in reference to staffing, education and securing allied health services in our remote area.
In an ever a changing industry it is hard work, so you have to be energetic, prepared and willing to continually learn and be adaptable.
A successful, sensitive, empathetic and energetic Aged Care Worker needs to be honest, reliable, punctual, responsible, accountable, sensitive, organised and adaptable.
You also need to be able to work well as a team member which will largely contribute to the success of the facility, its residents care and your job satisfaction.
But it’s a very rewarding profession. It’s varied with the people you meet, and you have the chance to make some one’s latter years more fun, comfortable and valued.
I didn’t think Aged Care would be for me, but I gave it a go and I’m still here 16 years later. It is not just a job to me. It is more than that. The residents and families that you have been working with become part of your life and family.
My advice. If you care about others, have empathy, not afraid of hard work and you are willing to learn. Just give it a go! I have thoroughly enjoyed my last 16 years. It’s the people you meet, their stories, their lives and it is just so rewarding personally and professionally.
I’m so glad I had this opportunity and I’m forever grateful of being asked to be part of our facility. Thank you Koonambil Aged Care.