Claire Roskruge took the road less travelled into aged care nursing.

“Looking for something to fill my days after a long bout of illness, I landed on the steps of Christchurch Academy and was put into an aged care course to ‘fill spaces’,” she recalls.

Her instructor saw something in Claire that she had yet to discover and persuaded her to pursue nursing.

“It was during my new graduate year on Ward 23 that I discovered my love for working with older adults within the acute hospital environment and began to understand the unique challenges faced by both the patients and staff involved in their care.”

Claire now works as a Community Gerontology Nurse Specialist for the Canterbury District Health Board’s Older Person’s Health Specialist Service.

It’s a busy and varied job.

“I am constantly faced with a diverse array of pathologies, much of which is just the tip of an iceberg of comorbidities. This is particularly true amongst the older patients who frequent our ward, who are also faced with a multitude of social, spiritual and economic barriers to recovery.”

As such, the nursing team has a close relationship with social workers, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and the medical teams to ensure that all aspects of their older clients’ health are approached in a holistic manner.

Claire says it can be a challenge for aged care nurses to keep their heads above water at times, especially in the face of a rapidly ageing population.

“Medical wards are renowned for being busy hives of activity and many of our nurses are struggling to keep up with the increasing demands placed on them. All too often we feel conflicted as we attempt to be ‘present’ with our patients whilst completing those ever-mounting tasks that are essential to their care,” she says.

After her new graduate year, she contemplated steering away from medical nursing, until her interest was piqued when she stumbled across an email about the Gerontology Acceleration Programme. She applied and was accepted. The programme allowed her to work in a residential care facility and rehabilitation ward, whilst also completing a postgraduate paper in gerontology.

“This has given me a greater understanding and empathy for the challenges faced by our older community and society as a whole, and has spurred my desire to educate and lead nurses within the acute environment.”

The Gerontology Acceleration Programme helped to renew Claire’s enthusiasm and passion for her work and appreciation for life in general.

“I love being part of something that will hopefully result in a systematic and cultural change that one day will not only impact on my own patients’ care but will also contribute to a better future for following generations.”

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