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Super Sam reaps nursing rewards

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You’ll typically find registered nurse Sam Rusden doing the rounds at Possum Bourne retirement village on the night shift.

The self-described night owl likes to arrive for her shift 15 minutes early to do a thorough handover from the nurses she’s relieving before heading out to see her residents.

“I’ll get the handover then go and check on the residents to make sure they’ve had their medications, that they’re all washed and in bed, that the windows are all closed, especially in winter, and that all the appropriate safety equipment is down,” says Sam, 27, who has worked at the village for just over a year.

By safety equipment, she is referring to sensor mats being placed on the floor. This ensures that if anyone who normally needs assistance to walk gets up in the night, a bell rings to let her know that they’re up and about.

“We’ll go and help them when we hear the sensor mat go. The mats are a great way to reduce the number of falls, which can be very serious for older people.”

While the night shift is generally quieter than the day shift, which naturally has more medication rounds, doctors rounds, wound dressings and meetings, the unexpected can still happen.

Sam says there is a variety of illnesses that present, and these range from ongoing or progressive, to acute symptoms.

“There are the usual age-related illnesses such as strokes, dementia and cancer, and there may be some residents on palliative care who are on a morphine pump so they’re the first ones I check out to make sure they’re not in pain.”

Sometimes residents will need urgent attention too.

“It could be chest pain or they’re short of breath so I will go and assess them and assist as needed.”

A key part of Sam’s role is communication and building relationships, both with her colleagues and with residents and their families.

“I prefer to check on the staff physically rather than make a phone call so that they know who’s on.

“That way they don’t have to worry about asking for help because I get to know them and their styles of working. I’d much rather they called me than sit there wondering,” she says.

She is just as approachable when it comes to sharing her knowledge too.

“All my night girls ask me things and I have got them all competent with blood pressures and neurological observation.

“It’s a little bit selfish as it helps me, but it’s handy knowing that staff are educated and know what to look for if there was something wrong. I think it’s good that they’re asking and learning.”

While educating others is rewarding, seeing her residents return to good health is even more so, she says.

“It feels really good when you see people getting better, especially those who have fallen, and returning back to their previous mobility.

“Also supporting people in the really tough times, which we see a lot of, when people pass on or as their illness progresses. It’s hard for a lot of people and when they come and say ‘thank you, you really helped us’ that is extremely rewarding.”

Sometimes the behaviour of family members, who are often worried, stressed or anxious, can be challenging for staff but Sam says she doesn’t mind that.

“Sometimes we just have to let them have their say first.

“But whenever there are any changes at all we call the family straightaway, so there usually aren’t any issues. A lot of it is about​ good communication.”

Having worked as a caregiver in an aged care facility for eight years while training to be a nurse, Sam now works hard to create good relationships between the registered nurses and caregivers at Possum Bourne.

One idea she introduced was a memory book for staff to share their thoughts about past residents.

“We do get really attached to our residents and we miss their personalities so this can be a great way to share a special memory or to say our goodbyes.

“I think that’s a really positive thing and encourages us to talk to our fellow staff members. It makes us feel like a real team with everybody supporting one another, which is really nice.”

While she is young, Sam is mature in her outlook, with her future goals including learning more about leadership and tutoring.

“I like working nights because I’m the team leader and I really like having students because they bring new ideas as well.

“Each generation brings new ways and processes of doing things and that helps keep you on top of your game – there’s always learning to be done!”

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