Values and clinical leadership in the tropics

November 22, 2022

There’s something about being north of the Tropic of Capricorn that has lured Rebecca West to Darwin to continue her nursing career with ARRCS.

The Clinical Leadership and Culture Change Co-ordinator is no stranger to the tropics, though. “My husband and I met in the First Nations community of Mornington Island, or Gunana, in the Gulf of Carpentaria,” Rebecca says. “I was a nurse, and he was a police officer. And we just loved that life, north of the Tropic of Capricorn. There’s something about living near the water.”

And so, after 30 years as a registered nurse, including 10 years during which she was an integrated service manager based in Gympie for Blue Care – which along with ARRCS is part of the UnitingCare family – they decided to go an on adventure. “We relocated to Darwin and that’s why I decided to come to ARRCS, because I feel connected with the UnitingCare family. There’s something very special about it.”

Rebecca doesn’t want to sound corny, but she believes part of what makes Blue Care and ARRCS special are the values of UnitingCare: Compassion; Respect; Justice; Working Together; and Leading through Learning.

“I truly am, for those who know me, a values-driven person,” she says. “So, I need to work in an organisation that not only writes down values but lives them. I felt that when I was at Blue Care through my whole journey; and I feel it here, too.”

The values form a vital part of her work, travelling two weeks in the month to visit teams across ARRCS. “In this world of uncertainty, I’m embracing my workshops with the teams from each service. And we workshop values – what are the UnitingCare values; what do they mean for you? We create this meaning for each team member. What does Justice mean for you? How are we going to show justice to ourselves, to each other, and to the residents? It really brings the values alive.”

Rebecca also provides formal weekly coaching with clinical and registered nurses within ARRCS. “I’m so passionate about the nursing profession and constantly reflecting on how we can support, coach and empower our registered nurses so that they really enjoy and feel a passion for aged care? We’re seeing great outcomes from that, which then transforms their leadership style, which impacts on their team, which impacts on the residents so positively.”

Meeting the residents is what fills Rebecca’s soul. “I’m on the road a lot, which is great because you get to engage with the people who we’re serving and hear their stories. We’re so privileged to be able to work with our First Nations people up here – and they are a big percentage of the clients that we have. How awesome it is to learn about their culture? And they really want to yarn about it and teach us. There’s a real willingness to share, which is just beautiful.”

It adds a richness to working in aged care that she would encourage other nurses to experience.

“I would say that the experience and the opportunity to work in aged care is one of both privilege but also of professional growth,” she says.

“You get the opportunity from a nursing point of view to practise so much more than you would if you were working in a ward in a hospital. Encountering deeper relationships with your consumers and their families than you ever do in a hospital. That’s just generally in aged care.

“Caring for First Nations people in aged care is the same but it provides an added depth in your life with the opportunity to walk alongside people and hear their stories that you wouldn’t have the opportunity to do in most areas of the eastern states.”

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