A day in the life of a ... residential aged care nurse

1 January 2014

Jesse Lee Gamutan's working day begins with a frail patient falling and a crying caregiver.  Find out how the day progresses and about her nursing career path from the Philippines' Professional Regulations Commission to a Warkworth residential aged care facility.

NAME: Jesse Lee D Gamutan  JOB TITLE: Registered nurse LOCATION: Summerset at the Falls (Retirement Village and Hospital), Warkworth

5.00AM: WAKE

I am rostered to start at 6.45am. First things first, I iron my uniform and my boys’ (Raymond is 7 and Joel is 5) school shorts, make their lunches and get their bags ready. They are up at 5:45am and have breakfast with their Dad. I don’t leave the house until 6.45.

6.47AM: Arrive at work

The night shift RN tells me she can never get over my being late when I only live two minutes drive away. We proceed with the handover, where I find out I’m one caregiver short. I check the roster and am happy to see I have reliable workers on with me.

Then someone activates an emergency call bell in a care room. We all rush to check and find the patient on the floor under her bed. She had a fall while trying to get out of bed for breakfast. She is such a tiny, fragile-looking lady that I thought she may be hurt badly. I do my usual investigation and find she has landed on the floor very slowly. Upon assessment, she appears fine, no complaints of pain or discomfort, and when we assist her up, her mobility is satisfactory. I place her on the recliner chair, reassure her, and elevate her legs.

It is then back to the handover. One caregiver is upset and tells me her dog had to be put down last night. I know that feeling and give her a big hug ... She cries a bit more and then is back to her usual cheerful self and tells me she’s ready for handover. That makes me happy!

7.30AM: NEXT…

I check the RN diary for appointments or special reminders – nothing much for today except for the GP’s regular Monday rounds that afternoon. I check the wound chart and make a list of all the dressings that require changing etc. I then get the drug trolley out of the drug room and call one of the caregivers to check the DD (dangerous drugs) with me. We do our rounds, and when we get to the last patient, charted with M-Eslon (morphine), we are surprised to see her so alert and happy. She started on M-Eslon on the Friday and says she hasn’t felt this good for quite some time – she is pain-free and had a good, undisturbed sleep. That’s really good!

Why aged care? Random people, family, and friends always ask me that – even during job interviews. So I ask them back ‘why not aged care?’ My patients used to be like all of us, they are like any of us. They have lived their lives and we can learn a lot from them.

I finished my Bachelor of Science in Nursing in Cebu, Philippines in 1997. Nursing was more my mum’s choice than mine; it was either nursing or I didn’t go to university at all … I am very thankful to my mum. She’s a retired RN and she has good connections, as I landed a job at the Professional Regulation Commission (a Phillipines government agency). My boss was the chief nurse of the hospital where my mum worked as an orthopaedic nurse for over 30 years.

When most of my friends from uni left for the States or the Middle East, I decided it was time to work abroad, too, and followed my sister, who was already nursing in New Zealand. After getting my registration in 2002, I first worked at a rest home/hospital in Manukau, which was hard, at first, as it was definitely a different setting then the hospital I was used to. But aged care slowly grew on me. I have developed skills I did not think I would. And there is nothing more to ask for when you see a frail patient smile at you and say ‘thank you’, even if it’s a struggle for them to utter those words.

Since 2002, I have nursed everywhere in Auckland and ended up living in Warkworth. When I heard that Summerset in Warkworth were hiring RNs, I applied and was one of the pioneering staff when it opened in March 2013.


What lunch time? By the time I finish showing some people around, and doing ‘obs’, and dressings in between, it was time for me to give out lunch meds. Most of my patients were happily seated in the dining area waiting for their meals and meds.


The GP shows up without notice. I was expecting him to arrive fashionably late … say 3ish? I have to rush since I hadn’t prepared the trolley and the list! We get there in the end, but the round is a bit of a rush – always is on Mondays.


When we finish the round, I have to organise the pharmacy orders, referrals, etc. I hand it all over to the afternoon RN and do my documentation and then a proper handover. I find out only one afternoon caregiver has showed up. The morning caregivers feel sorry for us and so offer to stay on until we find someone to take over.


I manage to knock off and pick my kids up from after-school care. At home, I make the kids some snacks and check out what I can cook for dinner. Help the kids with their reading and maths and watch TV until their dad arrives. I am so exhausted after dinner …

8.00PM: NAP

Fall asleep in the lounge after my shower.


Wake up and head to our bedroom.