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The formation of friendships, an incomparible reward for aged care nurses

Photo: Health Times Magazine
While aged care nursing is known for its challenges and lack of resources, working in this field offers many unique rewards, such as the friendships formed between patient and nurse.

“Nursing was always something I wanted to do, it offered the opportunity to work in a dynamic space and improve care and outcomes for often those who are vulnerable,” says Registered Nurse and CEO of Oryx Communities, Michelle De Ronchi.

“I was enticed into aged care by an ex-colleague, from the acute care sector.

“Aged care nursing is so diverse, from hands on complex clinical care, to leading staff, liaising with medical and allied health teams, ensuring an active and engaged lifestyle/activity program and adding real value to the lives of those we support.

“There’s also compliance, human resource management, procurement and the list goes on - never a dull moment in aged care!”
For Ms De Ronchi though, the ‘gold’ is being able to get to know each resident and understand what each of their goals are and help them achieve this.

“The special moments of sharing and just being there for our residents - and their loved ones - are priceless.”

Ms De Ronchi says in many cases, the nurses and staff are the only people residents have contact with, and the family-like relationships become important to both.

“Often the staff and nurses are the only contact they have, sharing common interests, sharing life experiences, having a confidant or a friend; really having the opportunity to get to know the people who are caring for them and to build that trust with them too.

“Being able to build a rapport and friendship is what is so special about working as a nurse. It is a mutual relationship we are able to share and learn a great deal from each other.

For Ms De Ronchi, the friends and extraordinary relationships she has formed have, in some ways, defined her career.

“Several still hold very special memories for me, and all have helped shaped me for who I am and the nurse/leader I have become.”

Of course, with special friendships, comes heartache when residents become ill, or pass away, which is common within the industry.

“Being able to support them through their journey is a privilege and we do all grieve the loss.

“It is critical for organisations and the team to ensure we look out for each other and support them especially when in aged care, we have often known and cared for our residents - and their families - for many years.”

Ms De Ronchi, says it’s important for aged care nurses to support each other by acknowledging the loss, enabling those who were close to be able to say farewell, attend the funeral and celebrate memories.

“Counselling services and Employee Assistance Programs are also very useful, and I encourage staff, families and other residents to access these.”

But there’s more to aged care nursing than treasured friendships, and Ms De Ronchi says the day to day of the job is diverse and varied.

“The routine changes so quickly depending on the day or shift so you need to be flexible and be able to prioritise and reprioritise quickly.

“The day usually starts with a hand over from the previous shift to ensure all the staff are aware of the current care needs of the residents, identify any concerns and issues that need to be addressed,  reviewing the staffing needs for the day, replacing sick staff, allocating staff  to residents.

“Reviewing any unwell residents, overseeing medication administration, liaising with allied health, medical team, pharmacies, supporting families and providing clinical care such as wound care or catheter care.

“Unfortunately, a large part of the RN day includes documentation and administration, such as assessments, care plan development, progress notes, lodging applications for funding, etc.”

Ms De Ronchi’s experience moving from the acute care sector to aged care meant she went from looking after a small number of patients to being responsible for a whole facility and all the staff within it.

“Often in a hospital setting, the lengths of stay can be quite short, so you don’t really get a great opportunity to get to know the patients and families.

“In aged care, this is their home, and we work in it.

“We are all about building relationships with the resident, their family and friends and really getting to know the ‘essence’ of each resident.”

Ms De Ronchi is now the CEO of Oryx Communities, where she hopes to continue to create and deliver unique and exceptional aged care that integrates into the community.

“Unfortunately, the funding of aged care has not kept up with the aspirations of the community and what we know we want to achieve. 

“Australia can do better, aged care funding needs to be increased to adequately fund, value and ensure older Australians get the best possible care in their later years.”

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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.