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Despite its reputation, aged care nursing is a rewarding career choice.

Despite its reputation, aged care nursing is a rew
Photo: Despite its reputation, aged care nursing is a rewarding career choice.
Thanks to difficult working conditions, and the ongoing push for regulatory change, working in aged care has developed a relatively poor reputation.

But for registered nurse and Clinical Development Manager of Just Better Care, Bethany Franklin, the aged care industry is both rewarding and fulfilling. And she says so on good authority, having worked in a variety of environments throughout her 21 year nursing career. 

"I feel privileged to provide support to people as they age," says Ms Franklin.

"Older people deserve to be respected and receive support services that help them to live full lives and in particular supports that assist them to remain in their own home’s and their community for as long as possible.

"It is very rewarding when older people take the step to trust you and your team members to come into their homes and support them to be as independent as possible, and help them to maintain their health and wellbeing. 
"I enjoy learning and understanding the person’s story and getting to know the individual on a professional level, as well as their history and how they wish to lead their lives."

Ms Franklin says the driving force behind her decision to become a nurse was to help others.

"This included those who may not have family members, not able to communicate for themselves, or those who are deemed vulnerable."

For the elderly, the Impact on their lives can be profound. Which In turn, can have a similar Impact on nurses.

"I may only have a limited time with some people I support, however I learn a lot from each person which I use to focus my nursing practices, as each person is different and so too is their requirements from a clinical perspective.

"It’s also nice to be able to ask the person questions about things they like and enjoy.

"You see their faces light up with memories that they enjoy, sharing if they are able to. 

"Some of them are real characters and have dealt with a lot throughout their lives. 

"It’s these small things that can make a big difference to someone and help improve their experience with nursing support.

"Especially when the person feels a loss of self-control and dignity, may be scared, or they don’t understand what is happening to them and why they are possibly losing their independence which they cherish so much."

While Ms Franklin says she's conscious of maintaining a professional relationship with the people she supports, nurses can't help but get to know them, their families, their likes and dislikes.

Of course, when friendships are formed, the risk of inevitable grief Increases, as the majority of those who require aged care services are at the final stages of their life. 

"Losing a person you have supported, no matter how long you have been providing nursing support, is never easy. 

"Over time, I have identified different ways to deal with this which for me includes debriefing with my colleagues, reflect on the support provided to the person.

"I also take long walks so I can reflect as each situation and person I have supported brings different circumstances.  

"A few families have sent me letters or cards to say thank you for the support and nursing care I provided to their loved ones, which Is a good reminder as to why I am a nurse, and that what I do does make a difference to the person and/or their family."

Psychotherapist, Dr Karen Phillip says It's Important for aged care nurses to look after their mental health, to enable them to enjoy the rewards of creating bonds with residents In a healthy manner.

“Working in aged care is tough. I see many nurses who struggle when there is loss of a lovely resident,” says Dr Phillip.

“Often nurses can develop a close and connected friendship with their residents.

“Nurses may confide and discuss their own personal issues with residents whom often love to hear any personal stories and offer experience and help to the nurse.

“Many curses struggle enormously when one of the residents pass. Of course they understand logically their time has come it does not negate the caring and loss nurses feel.”

Dr Phillip says it is essential nurses care for their mental health.

“Nurses should have regular debriefs and discussions about losses they have experienced, however, most do not.

“It is highly recommended that at least each month nurses have a group debrief where grief and loss is felt and discussed thereby helping to alleviate the burden for these amazing caring nurses.”

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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications (www.stellacomms.com) and a children's author.