Being a nurse in aged care – a demanding but rewarding career

Imagine having 94 grandparents! For aged care nurse Mary, that’s how it feels working with the residents at SummitCare Randwick. This International Nurses Day, Mary shares what she loves about her job.

“It’s incredible, and surprising to many of my friends, just how rewarding working with older people can be. It’s nursing the way it’s supposed to be – caring for every aspect of someone’s wellbeing.

Aged care nursing isn’t necessarily as technical as acute-care nursing in a hospital, but really, the only thing you don’t do that hospital nurses do is cannulate and work a drip pump!

The relationships I build with the residents and their families are remarkable: you see them every day, so you can imagine the bond you develop. I get very attached!

My day starts early, so I join the team debrief with the night shift, who bring us up to speed on the events overnight. This creates a seamless environment, and provides much more home-like experience.

Then, I help gently wake those who need to be up early for an appointment (most are already awake) and help them prepare for the day. The start of my shift is my favourite time of day, seeing everyone and being so warmly greeted. Their cheerful smiles and gratitude remind me why I became a nurse.

The wellbeing of our every individual in our care always comes first, no matter what. Some will choose to eat breakfast in the dining room with their friends, while others prefer room service. It’s up to them on the day. I check in to ensure they have had a good meal and enough to eat.

After breakfast, I encourage everyone to take part in some meaningful activities, such as a quiz to get the brain ticking over or group exercise. If someone chooses to stay in their room, I make sure they’ve got what they need – the TV on, remote nearby, their water, their phone, their book. Really whatever makes their morning or day worthwhile.

As a team, the nurses make sure all details are documented in our online care management system. Communication between us is vital to ensuring every we maintain and enhance each resident’s care and experience. I make my own updates throughout the day.

Lunch time is always a very social time, as families often come in and join us. I sit down with residents and always enjoy a chat, often I sit with a lady called Edith, who chats to me about her wedding day. “Oh, I am so excited to be marrying Ron,” she tells me. “I need to try on my dress and call my sister to make sure she has everything ready… Whatever happens, Ron can’t see me in my dress!”

As far as Edith is concerned, this is the first time she has told me about Ron and her wedding day. For me  - well, I’ve heard this story 100 times! Pretty much every day, in fact. But each time, I show her my excitement, and make her feel like a special bride. I always walk away feeling a little sad. Ron, the love of her life, had died in the war, and Edith never actually got married.

Bingo after lunch is the most popular activity by far! The excitement is high. Not a word is spoken as everyone awaits the announcement of the next number!

Just as I think that it’s been a smooth day, someone in The Avenue (one of the communities) becomes unwell. Staff rush from all directions to help and of course I offer my assistance. We all pull together to help, like you would for a family member. The resident is palliative so monitoring her breathing and pain management is paramount. Family emotions are high, and we are sensitive to their needs too.

I truly consider everyone at SummitCare to be part of my family and want them to receive the best care available. When you get a thank-you from a resident or a relative, you get this warm and fuzzy feeling that you just can’t beat. There is no greater honour.”