While it’s commonplace to refer to getting a job at Ryman as becoming part of the Ryman family, it’s quite literal for Dewshi Fernando.
The new Unit Coordinator’s sister Upekha works at Murray Halberg, her brother-in-law Kalpa is employed at Edmund Hillary and she has cousins who work at Ryman villages in Australia!
And while the recommendations for Ryman from her family made it an easy choice to apply for a role, Dewshi says her ambitions for nursing were set from an early age.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” she says. “The idea of helping people had a special place in my heart even during my younger days.”
A star student throughout her schooling in her home country of Sri Lanka, Dewshi received a double promotion and skipped a grade. Later, at university, she was awarded an international scholarship for academic excellence.
She set her sights on New Zealand, and on arriving in 2017 she embarked on a health management course followed by a nursing degree.
It was while studying that she started hearing stories about how great Ryman villages were to work in, particularly after a presentation by Regional Operations Manager Arthur Keane.
“With regards to older people it seemed to me that they had more needs and I feel like I need to be there in that area, where I could be of more help for those with higher needs,” she says.
Fresh from graduating university, Dewshi started working at Grace Joel as a Registered Nurse in the hospital unit in late 2020.
“Then I saw this position for Unit Coordinator for Serviced Apartments at Murray Halberg and I thought it might be a good opportunity to experience, learn and apply myself.”
It is this mature and dedicated attitude plus her warm personality and intelligence that belies the fact that Dewshi is a young graduate.
Since starting in this new role in September, she has already proven her insight by focusing on the particular challenges faced by Serviced Apartment residents.
“Some residents move from within the village but many come straight from their home to a serviced apartment which is a big move for them in their lives and there is often some time to adjust needed,” she says.
“We go and make sure they’re okay and have conversations and be friendly and help them to engage with others in the village and ensure their apartment is nice and homely looking.
“And we also help their families too, and give them reassurance. Sometimes they just need to hear that mum and dad are doing okay.”
The lockdown of course added to these challenges with Dewshi unable to meet many of the residents’ families until restrictions were finally lifted in December.
“Some of our residents were quite upset because they hadn’t been able to see their families for so long so when they could finally see the faces of their sons and daughters it was so nice to see.”
While the needs of her residents continually change, Dewshi is confident she can rise to the challenge.
“It’s important for me to get to know my residents and communicate with them often so I can understand how best to help them.
“By helping another person it gives me satisfaction that I did something for them and I get a nice feeling that my work is already rewarded which is really lovely to experience.
“That is the motivation for me.”
And what does Upekha think of her little sister’s achievements?
“She is saying she is proud of me, so that makes me happy too!”