The Covid-19 pandemic is what gave Shayne Harper the big push he needed to change careers.
Having worked as an inflight service coordinator with Air New Zealand for five years and before that Qantas for 10 years, he had got comfortable with the lifestyle but his previous vocation kept returning to the front of his mind.
“I live right next door to the village here in Lynfield and had been watching it being built as I drove past every day.
“I often thought maybe I should apply but I just didn’t have time. I could already see myself coming back to caring though.”
Shayne had completed the first year of his nursing degree before being persuaded to give the airlines a try but with planes grounded due to pandemic and a pending redundancy, he finally took the chance to follow up.
“I googled Ryman and saw it had got good reviews and had a great reputation. I thought ‘who wouldn’t want to work for them?’”
He went online to the Ryman careers website and submitted his application for caregiver in the Special Care Unit.
The following week, he got a call from Michelle Barnard, the Assistant to the Manager, who conducted their interview over Zoom due to the Level 4.
“It was a nice way of doing it, it was quite relaxing. Michelle asked the usual questions but I could tell from her warmth that it was going to be a nice place to be.”
He didn’t have long to wait for an answer either: “I found out the next day that I’d got the job. She said ‘can you start at 9am?!’”
Shayne embarked on a steep learning curve as so much had changed since he had worked in care in a hospital setting 15 years ago.
“The thing that struck me the most was the technology,” says Shayne. “Ryman is top of the game with all the mod cons.
“When I was caring it was all done on paper but here we type it straight into the tablet or computer.”
The management style was a big shift for Shayne too, but in a very positive way.
“Back in the day you would have the matron and it was very hierarchical. Now it’s a real team and everyone’s input is equally valued.
“Because I had come from a leadership role it has really been like starting all over again for me but no one has made me feel bad about that.
“There’s been so much for me to learn there has really been no time for me to feel upset about my redundancy because I’m so focused on this. I’m just very, very grateful.”
Shayne hadn’t experienced dementia care before but has been blown away by the approach that Ryman takes, where staff work more like a care companion enabling or guiding residents to be as independent as possible in a more homely environment rather than being focused on getting through a list of tasks.
“It’s nothing like the old style of resthomes. Ryman goes out of its way to ensure they have everything they need, and invests so much to make things just like home.”
Sometimes if residents get a bit confused as to where they are Shayne reassures them.
“I say ‘you’re in a five star hotel or a cruise ship that doesn’t move and instead of waiters and waitresses our people genuinely care and want to look after you.’ They really love that!”
As the village has moved from Level 4 to Level 1, Shayne has enjoyed working without being head to toe in personal protective equipment (PPE) and seeing the interactions between the residents and their relatives.
Now with his eye firmly on finishing his nursing degree, he is relishing every day at his home away from home.
“I actually love it down here in special care. It’s just so homely, sometimes it’s hard to leave!
“Last night when I drove past the village I saw which lights were on and said ‘Ooh, Lilian’s still awake…!
“We’re like a real family here. My meeting just before was about being family and treating our residents like they’re your aunt and uncle.”
He adds: “I couldn’t think of a job that’s more rewarding than this, going home at the end of the day knowing you have made someone happy.”