Self described as “perpetually cheerful”, Cain is one of the most positive and passionate people about aged care we have come across.
We spoke to Cain for International Nurses Day (May 12) and, in line with this year’s theme ‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health’, we asked her about her role as a leader and whether there has been sufficient investment in aged care nursing.
HelloCare: Can you describe your nursing role?
Vicki Cain: I have worked as a gerontology nurse for many years, which is definitely my calling and passion, so I have been fortunate to know from very early on what I wanted to do. My grandfather was a GP in Ballina (Northern NSW), and growing up I would go on the rounds with him to hospitals, nursing homes and patients’ homes.
I loved being part of people’s journeys and particularly elderly patients, and from that age of four years old I knew this was for me.
HC: What does your role involve?
VC: The role of a Residence Manager is incredibly complex and never dull. I have always been a leader who spends significant time on the floor with residents and the team, and this includes actually doing nursing shifts.
There is an incredible amount of documentation required under the multiple legislation and regulation changes post Royal Commission. However, these do not parlay into improving the experience of residents, relatives and team members.
HC: Has there been sufficient investment in nursing in aged care?
VC: There has never been any real investment in aged care, particularly nurses where we are still perceived as the ‘second cousins’ of acute care nurses. I am confident that this is why we have a very skilled clinical team.
HC: Nurses have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. How did their role change?
VC: It has been a tough last two years with COVID and the impact it has had on the aged care industry is evident with staffing challenges.
What we did experience though, was that our nurses rolled up their sleeves in so many different capacities, including cleaning, maintenance, food services and care. So there have been some positive changes. I would also say COVID has made our staff more connected as a team and with the residents in our community.
HC: Do nurses receive the rewards and respect they deserve?
VC: I definitely let my team know how valued they are and take every opportunity to spoil them, because I can’t influence their pay rate, or even their workloads at times, so I cook for them. I spend hours on a Sunday cooking traditional foods from around the world to share with our team and it does make a difference.
I am also very conscious of telling my team how amazing they are. Even if there is a challenging conversation or issue to address, I make sure they still walk away feeling valued.
HC: What changes would you like to see in aged care nursing in Australia?
VC: Firstly, to have those working on the ground be part of advisory councils, committees, and so on, including residents living in residential care, allied health, pharmacists, registered nurses and lifestyle.
We need to advocate and occasionally agitate for the changes. Having an organisation that respects and encourages change is the way though and I am fortunate to be part of just such an organisation in Arcare.
These are just my thoughts. I will always be an advocate for change in an industry I remain deeply passionate about.
Vicki Cain: An open letter to the Government
How did I get to this place of fear in an industry I love?
Thirty plus years of doing what I know
Thirty plus years of giving all that I am
Thirty plus years of feeling joy in my role.
Only two short years to strip this away,
Only two short years to replace passion with tears
Only two short years of so little left to give.
Only two short years to be on my knees.
How many more colleagues do we see crumble?
Will it be me this year? Or perhaps yourself?
Will anyone step up and listen to our cry?
Will there be any real change, just token rumbles?
I wake with my heart aching, with sarcasm at ready,
What article will tell us how to fix aged care today?
What post will tell me ‘just hang in there’, we got you?
What new committee will the government instil?
Please excuse my jaded thinking, my blind disbelief,
Why can’t I just do what we all know people want?
Why can’t I just provide great human rights care?
Why has it been made a political mess?