Switch to aged care in her 50s pays off for Josefina
Starting over at the age of 50 was scary for Josefina Ven Den Brink, but her children gave her the strength to step outside her comfort zone to study assistant nursing in the hopes of working in aged care.
Now, she is proof it is never too late to become who you want to be.
Josefina – affectionately called Lyn by her Blue Care colleagues – had been working as a cleaner at the abattoir in Kingaroy, a rural town in south-west Queensland, for seven years when she felt the job was taking a physical toll.
“My age started to creep in, and the equipment was getting heavy,” Josefina says.
Her son and daughter recommended she go to the local TAFE to study Certificate III in assistant nursing so she could get a position in aged care.
Born in the Philippines, Josefina didn’t attend high school because her parents, who were hard-working farmers, couldn’t afford to send her. English is also her second language. She feared these factors would put her at a disadvantage in the classroom.
Her daughter enrolled her anyway.
“She said, ‘Mum I enrolled you’… I said, ‘oh dear’.
“I was terrified to start at the TAFE in Kingaroy but I felt relieved because I wasn’t the only older one. I also wasn’t the only one who hadn’t finished high school either.”
Admitting she found some of the theory a challenge, she vowed not to give up.
Josefina did a two-week placement at Blue Care Kingaroy Canowindra Aged Care Facility at the end of her study. The manager at the time was so impressed by her commitment to caring for others she encouraged her to apply for an assistant nursing position.
Twelve years later, Josefina is still working there. She is a much-loved staff member of the close-knit community.
She says the job brings so much meaning and purpose to her life.
“I’m proud that I make someone’s life a little bit better in the last days of their lives.”
It wasn’t the first time Josefina took the courageous step of starting over in the search for a better life. Four decades ago, she moved to Australia – more than 4,000km from her parents and her home in the Philippines – as she felt there were more opportunities for her children.
Being a single mum, Josefina is grateful not only for the career satisfaction she gets at Blue Care, but also the supportive learning environment and financial security.
Blue Care provides excellent career opportunities for people of all different backgrounds, whether they have been through the traditional education system or not, she says.
She actively encourages others – including a woman she once met in a supermarket – to consider study options to make a move into the aged care sector.
“She saw my uniform, and she was working at a local cafe and her husband at the piggery.
“She said, ‘I would like to work at Blue Care’ and I said, ‘please do’.”
The woman subsequently studied her Certificate III at TAFE, and now works at the same aged care facility as Josefina. Her husband is doing the same course.
“This was three years ago, and she is still with us and she is very happy,” Josefina says.
As an assistant nurse, Josefina ensures the residents are eating well, showers them, sits and talks with them, and provides emotional support to them and their families. She also provides palliative care. Her goal is to offer high-quality healthcare to improve senior people’s mental and physical wellbeing.
“I feel good that I’ve done that.”
She says the residents’ smiles are always a big reward at the end of the day – and the occasional box of chocolates from grateful families is just the icing on the cake.
“They are so thankful for what we do for their mum and dad – and we like chocolate,” she says with a laugh. “It’s nice to be recognised and appreciated.”