When Nisha Mathew decided to try her luck and apply for a Unit Coordinator role at Ryman Healthcare’s Edmund Hillary Retirement Village, she had no idea that her first day in the job would be more challenging than any previous start to a job she’d experienced.
That’s because Nisha’s first day on the Hospital 1 floor – 18 August – turned out to be the day the country returned to Level 4 lockdown!
“Everything was a challenge!” she says, adding that the sheer uncertainty of the whole situation made things stressful.
“Families would ask what was happening, but we couldn’t plan for anything and we didn’t know when they could visit again.
“If a resident needed an appointment at hospital, even an elective one, they would have to wait to see what was going on and not having that clarity was hard.”
With more than a decade working in aged care, most recently as Clinical Coordinator for a home-based nursing services company, Nisha had been looking for a new leadership challenge and, on the recommendations of friends who worked for Ryman, had deliberately sought the company out.
While it wasn’t quite the challenge she was expecting, she channelled all of her experience and knowledge to overcome the obstacles that lockdown threw up and do her best for her residents, crediting the team for their competence and support too.
“It underlined to me that our residents are sometimes totally dependent on us to advocate for them and that is something that I feel passionate about because they are no longer in a position to stand up for themselves.”
Many residents found the ever-increasing length of lockdown particularly stressful.
“After one month I could see people getting frustrated that they couldn’t see their family members, it just seemed never-ending.
“Some residents used to get daily visits and even though we could help them with Zoom calls they were feeling sad and stressed without seeing their family members.
“It was really important for us to help to keep our residents engaged, and take them out for walks and activities to keep things positive.”
With a big part of Nisha’s job being communicating with family members about their loved ones’ care, the challenge of not being able to talk to them face to face proved difficult too, especially as she had never met them before the lockdown.
“Everything was via email or phone calls. When they could finally come back in they were saying ‘Oh, you’re the one we spoke to, it’s so nice to meet you at last!’
“And after four months it was wonderful to see all the reunions taking place, the residents were so happy, their smiles and brightness were evident.”
Having now experienced a more normal sense of village life, plus having visited a range of different care providers over the years, Nisha says she feels confident that Ryman is fulfilling its philosophy of providing care that must be ‘good enough for mum and dad’.
“Everything Ryman does, from the services it provides, to the communication, is really amazing.
“They care for the staff the way they care for the residents. In the lockdown they provided staff with lunches and all the extra things they did to be really encouraging and supportive, it was really going over and above expectations, and to me it is really commendable how Ryman care for people. They are definitely doing what they say.”
The proof comes in the form of the many positive feedbacks from families, she says.
“They say things like ‘you are looking after my mum so well, thank you so much’, and hearing that and seeing the happiness on the faces of the residents and their families, you know you are doing something that means something, and that gives added satisfaction to what I’m doing.”
She adds: “I’m really happy to be working here and to be a part of Ryman Healthcare and so happy they have chosen me so I want to give my best!”