News & Events

Shaaron retires after half a century

August 31, 2020

From a very young age Shaaron Robilliard always wanted to nurse. She cannot remember now whether it was the idea of nursing or meeting Catherine, a nun who looked after her grandmother, which drove her decision.

What did play a major part, however, was the Residential care where her grandmother lived.

“I loved visiting my grandmother there, it was comfortable and had a wonderful atmosphere. The memory has stayed with me ever since, and is very much how Liscombe House is today,” Shaaron said.

Shaaron began nursing in 1972. Her first job was at Calvary Hospital in Adelaide where she trained among the nuns in the general ward and then in midwifery. It was a very different style of nursing and work practice then. She lived in a dormitory sharing showers with two other nurses. She nursed half a day before going to nursing school, and returning to another shift at the end of the day.

“I remember my first pay packet – it was $52 and I earned every cent of it,” she said.

Her career took off when she left Calvary to work in the 600-bed Julia Farr Centre. Then it was known as the Home for Incurables, providing residential care for people with permanent injuries and diseases that at the time were considered incurable, and people with disabilities from the age of 15.

 

It was an eye-opener for Shaaron, exposing her to a very different style of nursing. She worked there for over seven years before taking up an assistant Director of Nursing role nearby, then into working with people living with HIV/AIDS.

Somewhere along the way, Shaaron hurt herself badly and she took time off to teach adults, worked in a fish and chip shop before returning to nursing. She applied successfully for a unit manager job and took up the position at Liscombe House, where she has been for 20 years, the last nine of which have been as Director of Nursing.

“It has been a whirlwind of a career but each step has made me a better nurse,” Shaaron said. Her close relationship with her two daughters has been a pillar of strength to Shaaron throughout, and she has delighted in watching them grow into two wonderful young women.

She describes her job as massive and, at times relentless. But she is also proud of what she has achieved, not only for ‘her’ team but also for the residents and their families.

Her team embraces everyone, as far as she is concerned. The lifestyle team, the kitchen staff, cleaners, the PCAs, the allied health professionals and the nurses.

“We all have to work together otherwise we would not be able to deliver as well as we do,” she says.

Ever the pragmatist, she says that many of the innovations she has introduced have been aimed at streamlining processes to focus absolutely on residents.

“That is what we are here for: to make sure that they are looked after properly with the best of care we can provide,  to keep them well and occupied and ensure that their quality of life is second to none and to know that they matter,” she said.

Some of the initiatives include putting in a new IT system, a varied and expansive education and training program for her team, connecting in with researchers investigating nutrition, exercise and virtual reality.

These initiatives, as well as her attention to infection control, best practice dementia management, and the increasing role of palliative nursing, have resulted in four successful accreditations for Liscombe House, national awards, and a loyal team.

“I have always called a spade a spade. You can have as many policies and procedures in place as you like but for me, being the Director of Nursing, I walk the talk, know my staff, and keep the door open. Ask me and I will show you,” Shaaron said.

She is especially proud that many of the Personal Care Assistants are now Enrolled Nurses, and two have gone on to become Registered Nurses.

For Shaaron, it is all about giving people confidence, allowing them time to get it right, and watch for the rewards.

Those rewards spill over onto the attention and care that every resident receives, and in turn the relationship building with families.

“It is not always easy achieving a balance between what families and residents want, they are not always the same thing,” Shaaron said.

She has found that listening and being decisive have been appreciated.

“It is a huge compliment to be asked by a family to look after their loved one; and it is a partnership which puts the loved one absolutely in the box seat, as far as I am concerned,” Shaaron said.

There is no doubt that the last six months have been the hardest she has faced in her career, not least because of the red tape, the ever-changing guidelines, and the reality is that COVID-19 is a vexatious virus.

“In the end, Florence Nightingale was right: beat the infection by washing your hands and maintaining your distance. Simple, basic advice that served her well then and continues to serve us well now.”

As they say, you can take a nurse out of nursing but you can never take nursing out of the nurse. We wish you well in your retirement, Shaaron.

Leith Park is a wonderful place for single older women because of the community and the age-friendly accommodation. I don’t think I have ever felt as safe as I have here.

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