Mar 08, 2017

Turning Dreams into Reality: Bernice’s Innate Desire to Help People in Times of Need

Working in residential aged care and witnessing the issues that are developing with the elderly and frail has inspired me to work towards a deeper understanding of Gerontology and develop ways to serve my residents in more effective, kind and intelligent ways.

I was raised by my grandmother in a middle class community in Ghana. I was one of three sisters in a large extended family all whose first language is Akan which is the common language spoken amongst Ghanaians. I remember that life in Ghana was good and always interesting as we lived in a community like family. The interaction with other families made life full of fun. Unlike other African countries, there was not a lot of poverty, crime or violence in Ghana – it was a safe place to grow up.

My mother and father moved from the country into the city as there were more career opportunities where my mother worked as a clothes trader and father as a country planner within the Government. While my parents moved I chose not to and stayed in the country with my Grandmother and rest of my family as I loved the country life and close community that I lived with. It was later that I joined my parents and moved to the city during high school, which in Ghana were mostly boarding schools, and lived in a compound house with individual rooms which people rented. I liked that too because it was still a community where everyone knew each other and were like one big family.

Living in Ghana it was not hard to get an education, there were lots of opportunities for women in education and the workplace. When I finished high school it was just a normal transition to continue on to the next stage of education which is where I went on and studied a Diploma in Hotel Catering and Institutional Management and a one year Certificate in Education which gave me the opportunity to work as a domestic bursar and teacher in high school. It was during this time that my passion for the elderly was nurtured through my grandmother and my innate desire to help people in times of need developed.

In 2008 at the age of 27, I migrated to Australia from West Africa to turn my dreams into reality and find a meaningful career where my skills and desire to assist and care for the elderly would be valued. My decision to leave Ghana was for a better life and to improve my education and although I did have a lot of opportunities in Ghana for work, I felt that there were even more opportunities in Australia. My passionate nature saw me secure a role as an Assistant in Nursing when I arrived, a role which I found incredibly rewarding. Although I now call Australia home, I often travels back to Ghana to visit my family who are still over there. I miss the camaraderie back in Ghana. Here in Australia when I go home I stay there, no one knows me… not even my neighbours.

Always yearning to do more, I went on to study a Bachelor in Nursing in 2009 at the University of Western Sydney (now Western Sydney University), completing this degree in 2012. From here I transitioned into the aged care industry and joined Hall & Prior as a new graduate registered nurse at Glenwood Aged Care Home in Greenwich. It was the small things like making a resident smile, or making them a bit more comfortable that had such a profound and positive effect on me. It was, and still is, this that inspired me to learn more about nursing and the care of our aged and frail. I really get so much back when I see positive changes in our residents health and wellbeing.

I then moved on to Caroline Chisholm Aged Care Home in Lane Cove where I was promoted to the role of Clinical Nurse Manager and after all of my hard work and determination, I received another promotion this time taking on the Director of Nursing role at Shangri-La Aged Care Home in Hurstville. Whilst still relatively new to the role, I became more enthusiastic than ever to continue to broaden my skills and knowledge and gain experience in contemporary management in the aged care and community sector.

It is this drive that in 2015 I decided to pursue further post graduate education in Gerontology at the Western Sydney University. This education further developed my understanding of my residents through the scientific study of the entire ageing process, old age and the specific problems of the elderly as well as the investigation of societal changes resulting from an ageing population including the study and treatment of physical, mental and emotional changes all of which encompasses sociology, psychology and biology.

Working in residential aged care and witnessing the issues that are developing with the elderly and frail has inspired me to work towards a deeper understanding of Gerontology and develop ways to serve my residents in more effective, kind and intelligent ways. It is so different here. In Ghana they have no aged care system so we had to care for the elderly ourselves in the family home for the remainder of their life, that’s just how things were.

The number of elderly is expected to continue growing as will demand for greater knowledge in the field of aged care, which is what attracted me to this direction of study. On completion of this course, I am aiming to ensure delivery of the best care to our elderly in our homes locale. I believe the mix of Gerontology and residential aged care work hand in hand to deliver innovation at the imperative care delivery level that you find in the residential aged care environment. Whatever I can do to produce top quality aged care, I will do.

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