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The vital role of nurses in home care

Amongst its many recommendations, one thing the Aged Care Royal Commission made clear is the important role nurses play in caring for our country’s most vulnerable.

According to the final report, having enough skilled staff – in particular, registered and enrolled nurses – has a direct impact on the quality of care people receive.

From my own experience, this is especially true when it comes to home care. In this growing industry, nurses aren’t just needed for their clinical training (as crucial as those skills are). Rarely discussed is how nurses, given their unique skillset and experience, often make excellent leaders of multidisciplinary teams delivering patient-centred care.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing this firsthand over the last two years. At the beginning of 2019, after working as an RN for 12 years, I decided to try my hand at something new: purchasing and running my own home care business with HomeCaring.

So far, it has been a rewarding journey. I landed my first client after setting up a fold-out table at my local shopping centre and chatting with passers-by about home care. There have also been some daunting times – I knew little about the financial and marketing aspects of growing a business when I started, and was thankful for the support I received from head office. After six months I turned a profit, and today I have a steady base of over 80 clients – a testament to the need for high quality home care in the community.

One thing this business has taught me is how adaptable and advantageous nursing skills are, especially when partnered with the motivation to build something special in your local community.

Being a registered nurse and former unit manager primed me for my management and leadership role. When I’m talking to clients during the intake process, I intuitively understand the clinical side of things, giving people more confidence to put their care under my management. When I’m leading teams of care workers, I can quickly identify care needs and risks so my employees are fully aware of their duties while on the job (a valuable skill to have during a pandemic).

Currently there are over 59,000 people waiting for a Home Care Package, while the number of NDIS participants is expected to increase to over 500,000 over the next two years. As we move towards consumer-driven services that can be flexibly integrated into people’s lives, there is a great opportunity for nurses to be at the forefront of service delivery. With our skills and aptitude, we are well-placed to lead and coordinate the teams that provide these services.

Thankfully there are rewards along the way. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of growing a business, being my own boss, and determining my own work/life balance.

The best reward, though, is helping clients experience long-term improvements. I have seen people go from house-bound, malnourished and in decline to thriving, independent and moving freely around the community. We can also be highly responsive to people’s needs –  recently a client rang because she urgently needed medication to prepare for an important procedure. When I delivered it, her relief was as palpable as the smile on her face. Currently, my business has opened its first supported independent living home. We are expecting to fill the house within the next few weeks, and are in the process of setting up a second accommodation.

As the Aged Care Royal Commission paves a path for reform, there’s much work ahead of us to ensure all Australians receive the high quality care that they deserve. Home care is a great way to be a part of this effort, while experiencing the joy of making a difference in people’s lives.

Claire Zhang is the Director HomeCaring Campbelltown.

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