Nick shines bright at Star of the Sea Aged Care Facility

February 13, 2024
February 12, 2024

From a very young age, Nick McGregor knew he wanted to be a nurse. When he first applied to be a nurse at the age of 18, he was rejected, because male nurses were unheard of at that stage. Instead he embarked on a teaching career, before eventually moving to his passion – nursing.

Being a Registered Nurse in the community and aged care space is very different to being a clinical nurse in a hospital setting.

A typical day for Nick involves undertaking the clinician side of nursing, including checking in on the residents, reviewing any incidents that have happened while he wasn’t there, liaising with hospitals for any discharges, possible respite opportunities and any admissions that may require further information.

“It’s not unusual that I would also be unpacking pallets or driving the bus so that residents can head to church or attend their dialysis appointments,” he said.

“I have a clinical lead at present, which means it frees me up from doing all the doctors’ visits and I can concentrate more on the critical care and clinician work.”

The ongoing pandemic has impacted the aged care sector like we have never seen before. Nick was working as the Quality Manager for the Australian Regional & Remote Community Services (ARRCS) team in NT, when the pandemic reached our shores.

“The impact of the pandemic on work and lifestyle has been massive,” Nick said.

“In terms of work, it meant that for close to a year, I spent 6-7 days a week at work, so my lifestyle became work.”

Nick and his team worked incredibly hard for the first year to create and enact plans and protocols that kept everyone safe.

These plans were put in place so that if there were any cases, they were able to keep the Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities safe, alongside the residents, community clients and their families safe, and all the employees.

The plans were wide ranging, and covered every side of the business, involving quite a lot of training around the Territory to ensure everyone was well prepared within the organisation.

After working for the first year of the pandemic, Nick retired from his job, and was ready to take on a new role in Bali. With the borders still closed, this option also disappeared. He soon found himself drawn back to aged care and began work on Thursday Island.

‘The Island’ as Nick calls it, didn’t get its first case of COVID-19 until the end of December 2021, reaching Star of the Seas a month later. With the operational response in place, all staff worked long days in full PPE despite very high temperatures.   Nick shrugs this off as no big deal, saying, “they all just got on with it”.

When it comes to challenges within the sector, Nick believes the biggest challenge is the lack of recognition that nurses within the community and aged care sectors receive. Nurses in the hospital settings have resources and expertise around them, while they still work incredibly hard, and also deserve more recognition; nurses in the aged care sector don’t have as much resources, and still need to concentrate on BAU as well as dealing with the pandemic. Nurse in aged care need to prepare plans, train people and also care for all the residents, all at the same time.

Reflecting on the last two years, Nick’s biggest accomplishment is implementing the COVID-ready plans in the Northern Territory and then implementing them in Thursday Island.

The swiftness in the response and the doctor who came onto the island was very impressed with how well they were prepared and how there was no resident to resident patterns.

Rapid response team were impressed and wrote to the Assistant Secretary of Health ‘Star of the Seas stood out as the epitome of calm leadership and caring professionalism during that time.’

During the outbreaks, one of the roles of the nurses and staff was to ensure that everyone had a chance to speak to their families every day. Residents who were ill with COVID-19 were able to facetime family members so that they could how they were faring through the pandemic.

Looking ahead, Nick hopes to see more nurses in aged care and hopes the sector starts to get the recognition it deserves. Nurse in aged care are quite often seen as being at the end of their career, or at the very start to gain experience.  But an aged care nurse needs a broad skillset.

While they are a nurse at the forefront, they also need to be aware and across the aged care commission standards, aged care acts, fire safety, food safety, work health & safety standards, along with sometimes having to also be a business manager in charge of financial management.

Aged care is a growing industry with an ageing population, and it can offer so much to so many people.

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