Rachael Summers, Hunter New England Health

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In her current role with Hunter New England Health, Rachael Summers provides care for clients from as far north as the Queensland border to as far south as Uralla.

No two days are the same in Rachael’s job – a fact she enjoys immensely! Rachael must also enjoy the challenge of study, as not only did she obtain her qualifications as a Nurse Practitioner in Aged and Chronic care last year, she’s now got her sights set on completing her PhD!

Hi Rachael. What’s your relationship with the New England area, and how long have you called it home?

I moved to Armidale in 2012 after a few years working in Queensland, and I moved to Australia in 2008 from Wales in the UK. I feel very at home here in Armidale! It’s a lovely city. Whenever I travel away, I cannot wait to return.

Please give us a brief overview of your career in the health industry to date …

I started my journey in 1993 as an Assistant in Nursing, then qualified as a Registered Nurse in 1996. Since then, I have specialised in many areas, including Neurosurgery, Cardiothoracic Intensive Care, Telehealth, Oncology, Renal Dialysis. To date, my career has seen me work from junior level right through to senior management. I have also guest lectured at UNE and recently spoken at two national Gerontology conferences within Australia.

You’ve recently completed a course of study and you’re now a qualified Nurse Practitioner. When/where did you complete this study – and how long did it take?

I qualified as a Nurse Practitioner in Aged and Chronic Care last year after four years studying with Deakin University in Melbourne. I must be addicted to study now, as I have just commenced a PhD with Edith Cowan University in Perth!

Juggling work and study is a challenge! Why did you decide to follow this study pathway?

It certainly is a challenge to keep work and study going together. My family, including my husband and four children, have also been incredibly supportive. Further education in life is so very important, and it’s never too late to learn!

Besides being a great career move, I also hoped that I’d become a good role model for my children too and show them the value that a good education can bring.

What’s your current role with Hunter New England Health … and can you tell us a bit about what’s involved with this job on a day-to-day basis?

My role is a Tablelands sector role, so I cover the area from the Queensland border, down as far as Uralla. I see mainly older people living in the community who have challenging health issues. Sometimes, these problems take people into hospital frequently, and their health can be a bit of a puzzle. My role is to work out why the problems happen and see what’s missing.

The types of problems I see a lot are frequent falls, memory issues, social issues, general health queries, family worries, frailty, age related decline and difficulty accessing care.

I also help people with Advance Care Planning and with Chronic Disease Management plans. I take referrals directly from the public, GPs, hospital staff, clients’ families and/or carers, and there is generally no cost involved for this service.

I can see people in their own homes, via telehealth, in the community or in hospital and have the ability to refer on to clinicians as necessary.

I also run a monthly Psychogeriatric clinic with the visiting Psychogeriatrician, Dr Millie Ho, at Armidale Community Health. As a Nurse Practitioner, I also have the ability to prescribe medications as appropriate, which is useful for those who have difficulty accessing their own GP due to physical isolation or health problems. I work very closely with the person’s GP in order to make this process work well, and good communication is key.

Generally, no two days are the same! One day I can be out in someone’s paddock completing a health assessment 200 km away; the next day I might be in Armidale Hospital with a patient on Medical Ward!

What do you most love about your job?

My favourite part about my role is definitely the diversity and all the wonderful people I get to meet. Everyone’s situation is different, their needs are unique, so I learn something new every day. It is the best feeling to know you have helped someone and made their life a little bit easier today.

Each and every career also comes with its challenges. What’s the hardest part about what you do?

The worst part about my role is that I am forever being reminded of the fragility of life and that good health is precious. I guess I wouldn’t be human, unless I felt a little sadness when people I’d got to know well entered into the final stages of their life. I try to think positively about the fact that I am helping things be a little easier during hard times. It makes what I do very rewarding.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working (or studying)?

I have several pastimes which I enjoy, and these mainly include cookery, reading, vegetable gardening and sewing. It helps me to relax a lot, and of course my family benefit from all the hearty meals that I cook!

Thanks Rachael.
Interview: Jo Robinson.

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