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May 12, 2022

Giving our nurses a voice to lead

Today, on International Nurses Day (IND) we shine a light on our nursing staff and their vital work. Our nurses are a core part of RSL LifeCare’s front line, who provide exceptional medical care and emotional support to residents across our thirty one aged care homes and within the Home Care community. We also have many trained nurses working in RSL LifeCare management positions within support services; using their skills to deliver on everything from strategy and operations to policy and governance.​​​​​​​

This year’s theme for IND is ‘a voice to lead’, as set by the International Council of Nurses. To help bring this theme to life we interviewed three of our support staff, all of whom come from a nursing background to learn more about their professional journeys and to hear their thoughts on what this year’s theme means to them.

“We are a skilled and professional workforce: we are a group of people who need to lead together.” Nicki Young.

 

Nicki Young, Chief Business Improvement Officer

Nicki trained as a nurse at Adelaide’s Queen Elizabeth “Liz” Hospital, Adelaide, where she worked for five years before joining the Navy as a nurse. In her twenty one years in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), Nicky worked as a nurse and managed navy hospitals, health promotion and health capability. Nicky rose to the role of Commanding Officer of a joint health unit for Southern New South Wales and then Central Sydney. Following this, Nicki worked in private health and then at RSL LifeCare, first as Executive General Manager, Veteran Services, and now as Chief Business Improvement Officer.

Nicki would like to see nurses better recognised for the work they do, not only on the front line but within health planning and policy too. While Nicki acknowledges that the public perception of the nursing profession is changing. she added that “Nurses have been underestimated for a long time in terms of what they bring to the health sphere. There is so much health planning and policy that underpins our society, and nurses play a key role in supporting planning and policy that information public health, which the average person doesn’t see. We are a skilled and professional workforce: we are a group of people who need to lead together.” ​​​​​​​

For Nicky, this year’s theme means, “Leadership is about knowing your people and how to get the best out of people. This same approach can be applied to the nursing community.”

It’s about being responsible and accountable for your role and  respectful of our clients and their choices of how they are supported.” Lynette Franco

 

Lynette Franco, General Manager, Home Care

Lynette (Lyn) trained as a nurse after finishing secondary school and was attracted to nursing as a profession because she “always wanted to care for others”. Lyn says that before starting in nursing “I always loved anatomy and the concept that we can cure people through therapies, medicine and surgery.”

Lyn undertook her training at Sutherland Hospital in the Sutherland Shire. Attracted to acute nursing, Lyn moved into operating theatre nursing, and then onto commissioning and managing operating theatres across multiple specialty services. Lyn progressed f into and number of management roles.

For Lyn, she loves that the nursing vocation can be so diverse, with never a dull moment. She has learned as a nurse to see the grey in between the black and white – “Nurses have to be very organised, and problem solve constantly, which are skills that are very helpful in management roles”.

What Lyn loves most is working in the community, which has brought her to home care. Lyn currently spends one day a week in the field, so that she has an opportunity to remain connected and in touch with her clients and their needs.

Lyn believes that as a profession, there is a lot of respect for nurses.’ Her interpretation of ‘A voice to lead”, is: “It’s about being responsible and accountable for your role and being respectful of our clients and their choices of how they are supported.”

“As nurses, we make sure that our patients’ needs are heard and met. we are their advocates.” Helen Vaz

 

Helen Vaz is a Clinical Practice Specialist – Palliative Care, Clinical Governance.

Since the age of eight years old Helen knew she wanted to care for people and become a nurse. After finishing school, Helen trained at St Thomas Hospital Nightingale school of nursing in central London and became a Nightingale Nurse. On emigrating to Australia Helen worked in aged care, palliative care in hospital and community settings before transitioning to quality management at Palliative Care Australia. This involved supporting services to provide quality safe care for their clients with palliative care needs.

Helen says, “I like the human side of nursing and interacting with people.” the start of life and the end of life are such significant points in time, and as a Clinical Practice Specialist in Palliative Care, I’m privileged to be a part of the end of life, supporting the person and their whole family

We asked Helen how she interprets this year’s IND theme ‘A voice to lead”? For Helen “as a nurse, it’s always been my role to understand and make sure that our patients’ needs are heard and met, we are their advocates.”

Finally, today, we ask you, please take the time to give thanks to the nurses at work and within your community for the amazing work they do.  

  • I enjoy listening to residents’ histories; their stay with us is such a small part of very long lives. As staff, we see them most days and so become part of each others lives. I often discover that many have achieved amazing things and I love listening to their stories.

    I have studied and progressed within aged care from a Certificate 3 level to Enrolled Nurse and this year have commenced studies as a Registered Nurse. My future plan includes remaining within the Aged care Sector. I aspire one day to be Clinical Manager.

    Emily Ravaillion Fred Ward Gardens
  • I was born and raised in the Philippines and took the opportunity given by my Auntie to study in Australia in 2010, after receiving my Nursing Registration back home. I enrolled in the Bachelor of Nursing – Graduate Entry at University of Western Sydney. Whilst studying, I worked for a casually as an AIN in Governor Phillip Manor and another aged care facility. When the opportunity arose I applied for the New Graduate Program at the RSL LifeCare. I have now been working with the RSL Lifecare for 5 years. I’ve been given the opportunity to enhance my skills, knowledge and experience and I have grown to be more passionate and dedicated to my work. I see the opportunity of progressing my career and profession within the RSL Lifecare organization.

    Kamille Jugal Governor Phillip Manor
  • I have to admit that I have adopted them as my extended family and therefore their needs are my priority. Like their families who have entrusted the care of their loved ones to us, I try to anticipate their needs and spend time with them. One of those things is having time to listen to their memories. I have learnt so much from them. Some of these people have raised large families in times of hardship especially during the Second World War. Some have suffered tragedies that I have only read about, these people have lived it.

    Some have moved their families to a totally different country to give their children a better life away from the support of their extended families. We need to honor our elderly and I can’t imagine doing anything else other than what I am doing today.

    Anne Wheeler John Edmondson VC Gardens
  • Watching how the nurses cared for my grandmother in her last years convinced me that I wanted a career within the aged care industry. I have now been a carer for four years and it has been a thoroughly educating and enjoyable experience. I love my job; the impact that I am making to someone’s quality of life makes coming to work each day worthwhile. I have the privilege of taking care of them as well as being part of their every day life, listening to them and enjoying their different personalities and needs.

    Kelly Murray Carer, John Edmondson VC Gardens (Central)
  • After spending most of my working life in various roles in the retail industry then raising a family and taking care of my mother I always had great admiration for the Aged Care Workers I would come in contact with. When the opportunity came for me to have a career change I was very blessed to obtain a position with RSL LifeCare in an aged care facility. I go home at the end of each day and feel so good that I have helped the residents in some way, whether it is personal care, giving them a hug when they need it, making them a cup of tea or just having a chat about their life experiences.

    To me caring for the residents at John Edmondson VC Gardens is the most fulfilling and rewarding job I have ever had and I feel very privileged to be a part of this wonderful facility.

    Norelle Morrow Carer, John Edmondson VC Gardens (Central)
  • It is a privilege to be involved in an organisation that serves the community with such dedication. During ANZAC Day I took part in a very emotional and meaningful service, the memory of which will stay with me forever. I have observed that there is a great commitment by the staff towards care of the residents; it is wonderful and so motivating to be part of such a caring team.

    Maria Saunders Care Manager, Ron Middleton VC Gardens (Central)
  • I have grown up in Austral and it is so great to see my young children enjoy the things I did when I was young. Living and working in the Austral community is a blessing, surrounded my some amazing people.

    I enjoy working for RSL LifeCare and love all of my residents. There is always a new story to tell, along with some great laughs. I love the fact that we can all come together when needed and help and support each other. It is like I have gained another family.

    Holly Madden Village Coordinator, Tobruk Village Austral (Central)
  • I really enjoy working at Chauvel Village Goonellabah. The residents here are such characters. It makes your day to come to work and see what will happen: they can be funny, they can be serious, they are all different, some tell jokes and some tell you too much at times, but each and every one of them have a soft and lovely side; you just want to give them a big hug. Working here I think has made me a better person, calmer, and more thoughtful, thanks to the residents.

    Colleen Pezzutti Chef, Chauvel Village, Goonellabah (Far North Coast)
  • I am always telling people that I have the best job in the world. There is so much history and life experience in every person we care for in the Village. I truly feel it is a privilege that these wonderful residents chose to share their days, time and stories with me and I am grateful to their families for allowing us to share their parent or grandparents with us. I love spend time with residents doing the activities, we laugh so much and I have learnt that Bingo must be taken very seriously! I love that I get to laugh with residents everyday, to help them and their families through difficult times and also cry with them in times of sadness and loss. I get to spend my days with wonderful people who share their life stories with us. This is why I have the best job in the world.

    Leesa Kwok Manager - Chauvel Village, Goonellabah (Far North Coast)
  • I have been here at Albert Moore Gardens for two years now. I started working as a carer and then started working in the kitchen occasionally. I now work full time in the kitchen.

    The three most important things in my life are my family, my farm, horses and other animals. On several occasions I have brought my animals from the farm in to see the residents. Once I brought my pony in and the residents loved that. On another occasion I brought my rabbits, birds and other animals to the home for a visit. Last year on our family fun day in June my husband and I brought a mini farm with a pony, some goats, and piglets and a little puppy. They were all very popular with the residents who loved to see and to hold the smaller ones.

    Rebecca Burns Kitchen staff, Albert Moore Gardens (Far South Coast)
  • I have worked at Hugh Cunningham Gardens, formally known as Mariner Park for over 10 years. I am a hairdresser by trade and still work as a hairdresser one day a week for the residents. The other four days, I work in Administration and at Reception. Prior to that I worked as a carer for many years and have also worked as the Infection Control Officer at Hugh Cunningham Gardens.

    I’ve also been lucky to be able to travel extensively. I’ve travelled all over Europe, including England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. I’ve also enjoyed some amazing holidays in Asia.

    I love my job as it is very rewarding and I really enjoy my days in hairdressing for the pleasure that it brings to the residents. For my hairdressing days, I have compiled some photos on the digital photo frame of my travels around the world which I play through the day - I call this armchair travel. The residents really love this as they often reminisce because they have either been to some of these countries themselves or have come from there. I feel fortunate to be able to incorporate this into my working week.

    Di Clare Administration, Reception and Hairdresser, Hugh Cunningham Gardens (Far South Coast)
  • Hi, my name is Taylor Farrell and I’m one of the care staff at Roy Wotton Gardens. I was born in Pambula in 1995 and I have always lived in Eden. Before I became a carer I completed an apprenticeship in hairdressing. I then decided to go back to school and become a Registered Nurse. I am now about to start the second year of my Bachelor of Nursing out of the University of Wollongong Bega campus. I am really enjoying the career path I have chosen with nursing and look forward to many more opportunities and experiences in the future.

    Taylor Farrell Care staff, Roy Wotton Gardens (Far South Coast)
  • Before I came to work here I studied at Tocal Agricultural College for two years and then worked as a Jillaroo for 12 months at Forbes and local dairy farms. I then completed my qualifications for Aged Care and started working at Lara over five years ago. I really enjoy my time at work with my colleagues and our residents. It makes my day when I know I’ve put some happiness into their day. I now know that Aged Care is for me and not farm work.

    Chloe McLucus Carer and WHS Representative, Lara Aged Care (Hunter mid-North)
  • My career has seen me working across surgical, theatres, medical & rehabilitation nursing, infection control, injury management and work health and safety for NSWHealth.

    I've been working at Peter Sinclair Gardens for almost four years. I commenced as a Registered Nurse, and have had the luxury of having experienced managers mentor me, and great colleagues working with me as I progressed to aged care management as Care Manager last year.
    Whilst the position has its challenges, I find my role rewarding in so many ways. It is a privilege to care for my residents. I particularly enjoy facility events and dressing up. I enjoy their smiles, their stories and how they make me feel when they are content.
    I chose this company because of the veteran culture. I have family members whom served in past wars, and family members who lost their lives in war. My family and I moved to the area to slow down a little having left busy corporate positions, and to enjoy the lifestyle in this beautiful town. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, spending time on the beach and planning my next holiday as I love to travel, though nothing will top my last holiday to Africa.

    I enjoy the challenges that working in aged care brings, as we strive for excellence in the provision of resident centred care. I work with a great team, with extensive corporate team support, and I look forward to many more years in the company.

    Jenny Walton Care Manager, Peter Sinclair Gardens (Hunter Mid North)
  • I joined RSL LifeCare in 2013 at Remembrance Village, and so enjoyed working in our facility that I even asked my wife, Michelle, to work with us. I still remember both of us were deeply attracted by those fascinating photos around the building when we first started working here, and the atmosphere is so different comparing with any other aged care facilities we worked for.

    I lived in Sydney for 5 years and completed my Bachelor of Nursing Course at the Australian Catholic University prior to moving to Wagga Wagga, and worked in another local nursing home for three years. I started as an RN with RSL LifeCare, and then trained to be a Peer Support & Assessor. I was also Care Manager here for two years which was an honor, but have since returned to the floor as a Registered Nurse as I found I missed the everyday “hands on” interaction with our residents.

    Rocky Cao Registered Nurse Remembrance Village (Riverina)
  • I came into the caring role for purely selfish reasons. I could feel good about myself and it also filled the hole of the empty nest! Then, it wasn’t any longer about me. Rather it became about having a positive effect on those whose lives I have been honoured to contribute towards. I became one of those lucky people who actually loves’ their job.

    Having recently relocated, I jumped at the chance of being able to work at Teloca, and enter the Aged Care Sector. The staff at Teloca were very welcoming, answered my thousands of questions very patiently and shared their knowledge willingly. Carers and support workers are just that, amazing caring individuals, who love nothing better than providing exceptional care to those they support.

    The Aged Care sector also comes with a myriad of different challenges. Dementia, behaviours, poor skin integrity, depression, Alzheimer’s, pain management etc. That is what keeps the mind working, the job challenging and each day different to the one before.

    Julie Wilcox Carer, Teloca House (Riverina)
  • I have had a few different jobs over the years including real estate, slaughter floor in the abattoirs and bartending. I finally found my place in Aged Care 25 years ago. I have an honest compassion and respect for the elderly and I feel honoured that I can come to work each day and leave knowing I have made a difference in someone’s life. My lovely partner in life also works at Teloca so not only do I get told what to do at home, I get told what to do at work as well, and believe me she enjoys it.

    Mat Deen Care Worker, Teloca House (Riverina)
  • I moved to Australia from New Zealand 38 years ago and became an official Australian Citizen in 2016. I have now been living in Condobolin for 12 years with 7 of those 12 years working at the facility. I love working here because in such a small community the residents that we nurse are either from within our small town or from towns around the area. This gives me and other staff a strong connection with the residents as they have been valued members of the community we live in, and we know many of them well. To look after the elderly is an honour as our residents depend greatly on us. We really need to listen to the residents and provide them with love and friendships that they deserve. This facility is not just their home but everyone in it becomes a close friend which could also be considered as one big family. After completing my Certificate 3 and 4 in aged care I then chose to further my understanding specifically in dementia and mental illness which has really given me a great understanding of the Dementia Specific Unit. Instead of finding dementia intimidating, I find it interesting and challenging which is what I really love.

    Evelyn Clifford William Beech Gardens (Riverina)
  • I was born into a large family in the Philippines but moved to Queensland, Australia with my husband in 2014 with the hope to settle down and start a better future. I worked in a retirement home rotating from kitchen to care staff. My husband was then offered a job sponsorship which allowed us to stay in Australia so we moved to Condobolin where I began working in the kitchen but am now working as a Care Service Employee. Both of my parents passed which is a big part of why my dream was to work with the elderly as I really enjoy their company. I am currently pregnant and looking forward to starting a family with my husband. I love working in all areas at the facility but especially in the Dementia Unit as it is very rewarding. I enjoy singing songs to the residents and along with them as well and it is always a very relaxed environment. I love being in Australia and look forward to many more years living here.

    Jacqueline Torre Carer, William Beech Gardens (Riverina)

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