The World Health Organisation (“WHO”) has designated 2021 as the International Year of the Health and Care Worker to recognise the dedication and sacrifice made by the millions of health and care workers at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Ruby Lomongo, a Registered Nurse at Bethesda Aged Care Centre in Rockhampton, Queensland, recognising health and care workers in this way is a symbol of the power of nursing; it demonstrates the critical role of nurses in global healthcare. “Nurses are in unique positions to make a difference every day locally, nationally and globally for patients, the profession and to society,” she says. “Everyone has the opportunity to do something that strengthens nurses and supports the frontline workers.”

When Ruby was growing up in the Philippines, she was inspired by her aunt who worked as a Registered Nurse in the United States. With her salary, Ruby’s aunt paid for both Ruby and her sister to complete their nursing studies. For Ruby, this involved finishing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in the Philippines which was a four year course. She went on to complete a two month nursing program in New Zealand for which she received a New Zealand nursing registration. “I became a nurse because of my generous aunt, and in return I also finance my nephew who is also now a Registered Nurse,” she says of the tendency for Filipino family members to finance the younger generation’s education.

Ruby decided to work in Aged Care when she was overseas, a decision which she has built upon in her work at Bethesda. “I love being able to care for the elderly,” she explains. “It’s like being able to look after my own parents or grandparents.” She says the most rewarding thing about being a nurse is being able to take care of the elderly and alleviate their pain or make their final years in life more comfortable. This aligns to what she feels inspires her about working for The Salvation Army Aged Care. “It inspires me to be working in an organisation that is able to help lots of people in need because serving humanity is the essence of nursing,” she says.

There are challenges to her work, however, which she cites as the need to look after her own wellbeing, especially during the course of the pandemic. “As a nurse, the pandemic creates personal and social awareness to make sure that, aside from my moral obligation and duty of care to my patients and the community, I also have to look after myself as much as possible to keep my health intact.”

Ruby was nominated by a Care Service Employee colleague at Bethesda as someone who best represents those who inspired the WHO’s designation of 2021 as the International Year of the Health and Care Worker. Correspondingly, Ruby says that this year, she is most looking forward to, “recognising, respecting and investing in nurses to grow into transformative leadership roles.” According to her, “when nurses take on more responsibilities and leadership roles, they tend to feel appreciated and motivated.”