Staff Spotlight: Joleyne Parker on Why Working in Aged Care is so Satisfying
When Joleyne Parker was younger, she trained as an Enrolled Nurse in Adelaide before moving to Darwin and then Papua New Guinea. Soon after she moved to Canberra, she met someone who worked at Burrangiri Aged Care Respite Centre, which had been open for about three years at the time. “I went to work there in 1992,” Joleyne says. “The job sort of fell in my lap.”
In September this year, Joleyne celebrates 30 years of service at Burrangiri. “But I’m quite proud of working at Burrangiri for this long. I'm growing roots in the place, I think,” she says with a laugh. There were only Registered Nurses and Carers who worked at Burrangiri initially and Certificate III and IIII were not requirements for employment. “Even though, after working as a nurse and carer for many years; having to put pen to paper and do assignments, was really stressful.” she says of completing her Certificate III, as a mature-age student.
Most people say that when they first walk through the door at the Centre, it’s a very welcoming place. “That’s what I love about it; that it’s a 15-bed facility, and coming from an acute nursing background, it has a bit of everything,” Joleyne explains. “We get frail aged people, and now I’m looking after people younger than me; people in their 50s after having knee surgery and hip surgeries, heart surgery; just recovering because they can’t go home on their own.” The Centre also supports palliative care.
“I think it’s one of the most satisfying jobs to have,” she states. “You are thanked for tying someone’s shoelaces; simple tasks that people can’t do themselves. I’ll say to them, ‘it will be me one day and hopefully someone will be kind to me.’ I also say to new staff that you need to treat residents as you would treat your parents; you may be here one day when you are 80 or 90 and should treat these people as you would want to be treated; staff need to have a lot of empathy and compassion. No one wants to be old.”
Joleyne says that The Salvation Army has such a good name for the work that they have done over the years in the community and with Indigenous communities, as well as overseas when they have stepped in to help. “It is lovely when you have residents coming in and they are happy to be at Burrangiri because, especially older people, they know so much about The Salvation Army, and the good work that they do,” she explains. “Also, because it’s a Christian organisation, it stands in good stead. It's lovely having a Chaplain in the building; we still say Grace at every meal.”
Joleyne says that she has always loved elderly people, even when she was younger, but that she was surprised that she ended up working in aged care. “When I was a young nurse, working in Aged Care was seen to be the end of the line for the nurses. But I changed my mind when I realised what hard work it is and I had such admiration for the Registered Nurses and carers that weren't doing it for the money, but for the love of it, because they had a passion for it.”
In her time off, Joleyne enjoys reading forensic and crime novels, playing Scrabble and doing Tai Chi. “I also love being out in the garden; I have a beautiful garden. I catch up with many of the staff who have retired. Maybe, when I retire, I'll do a bit of walking. My excuse for not going walking now is because I feel I do enough at work!” She has a lot of good memories working at the Centre – dressing up as Farmer Brown on farm days and working in a nightie on Pyjama Day and on Nurses Day, making hats, and she is known to break out into song in the dining room. “It’s good to have a sense of humour working in Aged Care, to brighten up the resident’s day. Generally, in life, you have to be able to laugh.”