No place like home
The doorbell rings and GV Health Registered Nurse Nicci Jefferies is cheerfully greeted by Hospital in the Home patient Jackie Want.
Ms Want, who has Crohn’s Disease, has been a client of the service for about 15 years, in which time Ms Jefferies has been one of her many visiting nurses.
Ms Want and Ms Jefferies have built up an easy friendship. They settle in for a catch up before getting down to the business of attending to Ms Want’s treatment.
“Jackie is like family to us,” says Ms Jefferies. “We see her every day to give her IV fluids – we look after her and she looks after us.”
“I’ve been seeing them since some before they had kids,” says Ms Want. “Now they’ve got teenagers. They’ve seen my kids grow up, get married and have kids too.”
Hospital in the Home is a GV Health program which enables care to be provided at home for patients who would otherwise require a hospital admission.
“It’s marvellous,” says Ms Want. “It gives you life – I’ve made so many friends. We swap recipes and patterns - all sorts of things. We have a great time.”
Ms Jefferies started at GV Health as a graduate nurse in the early 1990s.
“This is the best job in the world,” she says. “It’s different every day – it’s special to be able to come into peoples’ homes, help keep them out of the hospital or nursing homes with their families.”
The Hospital in the Home service has allowed Ms Want to maintain her independence and keep up with her busy schedule. An avid seamstress and knitter, Ms Want is also a member of the CWA and is active in a local tai chi group.
The program has also allowed her to organise treatment when travelling to Wodonga to visit her young grandchildren.
“Jackie always greets us at the door and invites us in,” says Ms Jefferies. “We’re a one stop shop – we look at nutrition, to ensure patients get optimum care. We monitor medication intake, coordinate treatments and follow ups, and help to linking patients with services.”
No two days working in Home Nursing Services are the same.
A nurse can see up to 15 patients a day, with a visit lasting anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. There are up to ten nurses on the road at any given time.
Born and bred in Shepparton, GV Health Home Nursing Services Manager Brett Walters has been with GV Health for two decades. Formerly manager of the Emergency Department and Surgical Ward, Mr Walters took on his present role in May this year.
“Hospital in the Home is really about giving life back to people,” he says. “The program is for people who might otherwise have needed to stay in hospital, but who have been assessed as being better off cared for in the home.”
Mr Walters says District Nurses in the Goulburn Valley region make around 25,000 visits a year to around 2,000 patients.
Presently, that’s 2,200 visits a month that help keep patients at home and being treated in a supportive environment.
“District nurses care for Hospital in the Home clients,” says Mr Walters. “They provide support with wound care, diabetes & stomal support, medication management, health assessments and also continence support.”
A district nurse’s day starts with a handover and review of patient lists. Nurses arrange their medical supplies and then head out on their daily rounds. There is also a late shift service.
Nurses use a system called Unitii to manage their lists on the road. This tablet based tool helps nurses navigate between patient visits, and offers the ability to get treatment advice from home base whilst with a patient.
Across town at Tarcoola Village, registered nurse Deb Sizer is visiting with George and Margaret Pimlott. Ms Sizer, who was been a district nurse since 2015, says that the beauty of her role is its diversity.
“The day can vary so much,” she says. “We’re mainly on the road doing a combination of jobs and functions – you encounter such a range of people and situations.”
Avid gardeners, The Pimlotts settled in Shepparton at the Tarcoola Retirement Village in early 2017.
George, 92, was hospitalised several times earlier this year, and was relying on the care of his wife Margaret until he was referred to the Hospital in the Home program.
“When you get to my age, you start to get a bit complicated, medically speaking,” laughs Mr Pimlott. “I really do appreciate the nurses – I can’t speak too highly of them. It’s made a huge difference to us, especially Margaret – she was very stressed out as my carer. It does us both a world of good.”
“I’d be up three or four times in a night,” says Mrs Pimlott. “Even though it’s not heavy work, it’s constant.”
The Pimlotts are accustomed to an active existence. Mrs Pimlott was born in Deniliquin, and the couple have led busy lives as antique dealers, travelling back and forth through Shepparton for over sixty years for family visits. Their son, until recently, had a farm in Euroa.
“We’ve moved around a lot,” says Mr Pimlott. “Hawthorn, Blackburn, Mornington Peninsula – they say a rolling stone gathers no moss, and I certainly didn’t want to be covered in moss!”
The Pimlotts and Ms Sizer share a laugh as George’s care is attended to.
“You make time and get things done,” says Ms Sizer. “When you’re doing personal things for patients it’s really an ideal time for them to do open up and chat.”
“The ailments I have seemed to be going on and on,” says Mr Pimlott, who was renovating the kitchen when he fell ill. “I’m feeling very confident about the future – I may be able to finish off those alterations soon.”
“You know what they say – ‘only the good die young’!” Mrs Pimlott laughs.
“The risk of survival is very good,” Mr Pimlott says, saying he’s anticipating his letter from the Queen when he celebrates his centenary.
“This is such a great job,” says Ms Sizer. “It’s such a pleasure to work in peoples’ homes and work in the community.”
Ms Sizer, who previously worked on the medical ward at GV Health, says that she appreciates the ability to help keep people in their homes, and the relationships that are developed doing so.
Next on Ms Sizer’s list is former truckie Bill Hart, who, as it happens, is a direct relation of renowned Broken Hill artist Kevin ‘Pro’ Hart.
Mr Hart has a long, colourful life full of stories he shares as Ms Sizer treats his stomach wound. Covering all the news on the grapevine since they last caught up, it’s clear that a fundamental component of the Hospital in the Home service is the friendships that are made.
Ms Sizer confirms that listening and engaging is a big part of the job.
Mr Hart, who drove trucks across Australia for nearly forty years, has been receiving care in his home for several months, and clearly appreciates the connections he has made with his carers.
“I’ve made some good mates out of it,” he says.
Back at Jackie Want’s home, friend and hairdresser Lynda has dropped by for a chat while Nicci Jefferies reviews her patient’s paperwork. It’s clear that the camaraderie and the companionship are almost as important as the treatment.
Laughter is shared as Ms Jefferies confirms Ms Want is good to go about another busy day.
“As a bonus, the nurses have even taught me about the internet and mobile phones, but I haven’t learned Youtube yet. There’s no time – one of these days I’ll learn!” Ms Want says as she accompanies Ms Jefferies to her car, waving goodbye for the time being.