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For registered nurse Kayla Cullen, joining the aged care workforce felt like more than a career path – it felt like her calling.

“From a fairly young age, I knew that this was what I was going to do with my life”, she told HealthTimes.

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“I was very close to my grandmother, she was a wonderful lady. She developed dementia in her 80s, and eventually she went into high level care.”

“Our family was really blessed. The home she was in cared for her so well. And I remember going there, I was in my early teens back then, and sitting with her in her room.”

“I’d watch the nurses come in, and they were just so caring and kind. And my grandmother loved them.”

“When she was passing, and I’m getting emotional right now just thinking about it, but I remember the nurses gathering around her and they were crying too.”

“They had picked some daisies from the garden because they knew she loved flowers. And they had placed a little bouquet in her hands.”

“They said, ‘some lovely flowers for a lovely lady’”.

Not long after, Ms Cullen began her own journey towards becoming an aged care nurse. Having worked in both the public and private sectors, she now works as a mobile nurse providing in-home care.

“Aged care may not sound like the most exciting type of nursing. It’s definitely not the nursing you see in the movies!”

“But it’s really meaningful. And it is so much more than a job.”

“What I like most about it is the bonds you form with your patients. You’re not just providing care for a single clinical episode. It’s long term care.”

“You get to know your patients. You learn about their lives. You meet their families.”

“I’ve cared for actresses, professors, doctors, musicians, teachers, dancers and pilots. I remember all of them.”

“And for me, it’s always been a privilege to be able to care for them at the end of their lives.”

Now an experienced nurse with more than 25 years of practice behind her, Ms Cullen has seen her role evolve and is keen to support the next generation of aged care nurses.

“For me, I know I benefited a lot from mentorship. Early in my career, I had some wonderful nurses help me and support me.”

“Those first few months on the job can be super overwhelming. And it’s about being realistic – that’s what I tell new nurses coming through.”

“Be kind to yourself. It’s going to be challenging, and that’s normal and that’s okay. But believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help, because we want you to do well.”

She said unlike when she began her career, there are more support mechanisms in place to support the wellbeing and mental health of young nurses.

“Have we solved the issue of burnout, no, but we are doing more these days to prevent it and I like to focus on the positive.”

“Peer support is so important. Being able to debrief with your colleagues at the end of the shift can really help you feel lighter. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.”

Ms Cullen hopes that recognition of the crucial work of aged care nurses increases, and that more funding and attention is dedicated to the sector.

“We have an aging population, we all know that. And if we’re lucky, most of us will grow old ourselves. Ageing is a natural part of the human experience.”

“So I can never understand why it’s not more of a focus. But I think it’s because aging is wrapped up in death, and we just don’t like talking about death.”

“However, it’s inevitable, and what we can do is improve that stage of our lives. We want everyone to feel cared for, and to have dignity and compassion at the end of their days.”


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Charlotte Mitchell

Charlotte is a published journalist and editor, with 10 years of experience in developing high-quality content for national and international publications.

With an academic background in both science and communications, she specialises in medical and science writing. Charlotte is passionate about creating engaging, evidence-based content that equips the community with important information on issues around healthcare, medicine and research.

Over the years, she has partnered with organisations including the Medical Journal of Australia, Cancer Council NSW, Bupa, the Australasian Medical Publishing Company, Dementia Australia, MDA National, pharmaceutical companies, and state and federal government agencies, to produce high-impact news and clinical content  for different audiences.