Career path: aged care nurse case study

1 August 2014

Rest home nurse manager SUE MILTON sewed the seed for her passion for gerontology during volunteer work as a school girl.

NAME: Sue Milton

TITLE: Nurse Manager, Gulf Views Rest Home, Auckland


RN 1973 Greenlane Hospital postgraduate qualification in gerontology 1984 AUT health management course


Briefly describe your initial five years as an RN?

I worked at Greenlane in a ward dedicated to infectious wounds e.g. postoperative complications and perianal abscesses. There was a mix of medical and surgical cases.


How did those first five years influence your subsequent career?

I had always wanted to go nursing from a very young age and never wavered from that ambition. I learnt a lot in those first five years of registration, especially about accountability as sometimes you would be the only RN on a shift, with the balance of the staff being student nurses. Being the only RN meant you had to think on your feet and be confident in the decisions you made. As we rotated around the hospital during our training, everyone knew each other and the areas of the hospital, and we tended to work in collaboration. I can’t say I became more aware of my strengths or weaknesses. We just got on with things.


What led you into your current field or specialty?

I volunteered at the old Cornwall Hospital (via the Red Cross) on Saturdays making beds and also worked in a rest home during my school holidays until I started nursing. I had amazing experiences and developed a greater understanding about acceptance and tolerance from this age group. I was also enthralled listening to the stories of their lives. I suspect this was where I developed my passion for this specialty.

I gained a gerontology qualification through AUT and also a health management course. I am currently the chair of the Auckland region of NZNO’s Gerontology Section and previously served on the section’s national executive. Part of my role is to assist with the planning of study days and conferences. Recently, I was awarded the Counties Manukau District Health Board 2014 Health of Older People Residential Care Award for recognition for my commitment to the care of the elderly.


What personal characteristics are particularly important for nurses working in your role?

An inherent passion to working with older adults, good listening skills, and a supportive attitude when dealing with both residents and staff. Working in the private sector, there needs to be an ability to accept people as equals and acknowledge every skill level.


Any helpful advice for nurses wanting to follow a career in older people’s health – particularly in becoming a nurse manager?

Work your way up the ranks. Consider time in related disciplines such as orthopaedic, medical, and surgical areas. Gerontology is a specialised field now due to the complex needs of the residents. You need to build and lead a strong team to achieve exemplary outcomes for the older adult.


Describe your current role and responsibilities?

Being a rest home nurse manager is an extremely diverse role with both clinical and business aspects. I am responsible for the overall management of the facility including clinical leadership, budgets, human resources, risk management and certification. In fact, I am the glue that bind these all together.