In 2018, as a newly registered nurse, I was unmatched for a graduate program. Wondering what nursing could be, I challenged my own perceptions and the ideologies of roles and positions that are expected of a “graduate nurse”. This involved accepting a position in a trailblazing graduate program focussing on caring for the older person.
On reflection, the past two years undertaking a gerontological pathway has been transformational and required strength and resilience. The career path I pursued challenges the stereotype that nurses predominately move towards caring for the older person in the later stages of their nursing career. This is a belief that some people have made obvious to me with comments such as, “surely you want to work somewhere else” and, “you will never be employable elsewhere.”
Working as a graduate nurse in aged care has afforded me opportunities that I wouldn’t have dreamt of otherwise. As a rising star and trailblazer, I am the first in my health service to be a participant in the Australian College of Nursing’s (ACN) Emerging Nurse Leader program and privileged to write a reflective piece for the Aged Care Royal Commission. It has also been an element of my role to mentor peers, graduates and students and to showcase role modelling leadership through a contemporary evidence-based approach to nursing the older person.
As an unmatched graduate, I believed I should be working in a hospital with all the bells and whistles. What if I had accepted the nursing perceptions that I had? What if I had not stepped outside of my comfort zone? Would I be the nurse I am today? Certainly not.
Upon reflection, working in aged care during the year that was 2020 was, at times, extremely mentally, physically and emotionally challenging.
I have been fortunate to be able to provide comfort to those I was caring for in a time that they could not see family members for weeks or months at a time. Through my role as a Registered Nurse in a Residential Aged Care Facility, I have come to understand the importance of time with family and friends along with appreciating the little moments each day.
As an early career registered nurse, I am proud to share my experience within aged care nursing. I hope to inspire other newly registered nurses to develop a passion for nursing the older person.
Kali Baker MACN is a Stage Four ACN Emerging Nurse Leader