Hidden Healthcare: Advocating for the elderly

Hidden Healthcare: Advocating for the elderly Catherine Harrington's childhood drew her toward a career in aged care.
Hidden Healthcare takes a look behind the scenes at some of the people powering regional Victoria's largest hospital.

As a teenager Catherine Harrington spent most weekends making up beds and helping out in the kitchen at the local aged care facility.

She explains how she was exposed to aged care through her grandmother, an employee at the nursing home.

“I lived with my grandparents quite a lot growing so I’ve always been around the older generation, but I really enjoyed the community feel of the place,” she said.

Catherine was naturally drawn to a career in aged care and began her graduate year in 2011 where she undertook two rotations at aged care facilities and one in theatre.

“I enjoyed them all really, but in aged care, looking after residents that have a longer stay, you get to develop relationships with the residents and the family so I liked that continuity of care and that was the biggest factor for me,” she said.

“Getting to know the residents influences your care to make sure it’s individualised and personal, they become like a big family really.”

After completing her graduate year, Catherine spent a number of years on the floor at Bendigo Health’s aged care facilities as a registered nurse.

Working in a non-acute setting requires specific nursing and interpersonal skills, Catherine said.

“You have to trust your clinical judgment. You might have residents suffering from different conditions from Dementia to Parkinson’s, all the chronic conditions that go with old age, but they’re all at different stages of the illness so knowing your patient and understanding their behaviours gives you important cues as to how they might be feeling,” she said.

Catherine, now a Clinical Manager at the Gibson Street Complex, acknowledged there was a perception that aged care nursing was less fast paced than other areas of healthcare, but argued it wasn’t accurate.

“It’s not slow. I would never have called a day nursing on the floor here as slow, it was really busy,” she said.

Preparing residents and families for death is an important role of an aged care nurse.

“I really enjoyed the palliative side of the role. Being able to contribute to a good death by supporting residents and family members during trying times is rewarding,” she said.

Catherine doesn’t just see herself as an aged care nurse turned clinical manager.

“It’s a privilege to be an advocate for the elderly in terms of access to services, outcomes and quality of life,” she said.

More information on Bendigo Health’s aged care services can be found here.