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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Tansing a wonderful example of those we celebrate on International Nurses Day

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On International Nurses Day, Aged Care News is highlighting one of the best and brightest in the industry.

Recently recognised as an unsung hero by the Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) Recognition Program 2022, Julie Tansing has more than 50 years of experience as a registered nurse.

Starting as a trainee at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Tansing worked in hospitals, the community and in doctor’s clinics for the early part of her career, after which she pivoted to aged care nursing with Resthaven — a South Australian aged care provider — in 2003.

A valued Resthaven employee for the last 19 years, Tansing has worked to share her wisdom and expertise with the next generation of nurses, as she has taken on roles as a trainer, workforce development program manager, and mentor of graduate nurses through Resthaven’s Transition to Professional Practice Program.

People are just so appreciative for the care that you give… it’s just so satisfying to know that you are giving them something — even just emotionally — back. It doesn’t need to be particularly physical, just that you are there for them as a person: that is the most important thing.

Resthaven registered nurse of 19 years, Julie Tansing

She tells Aged Care News that she is humbled and, if she’s honest, more than a little embarrassed, to have been nominated.

“There’s so many people out there that could, especially through COVID, have been nominated.

“I just feel very humbled, a bit overwhelmed and very, very honoured.”

Tansing says she is proud to work in aged care, a care specialty that is uniquely rewarding.

“People are just so appreciative for the care that you give… it’s just so satisfying to know that you are giving them something — even just emotionally — back.

“It doesn’t need to be particularly physical, just that you are there for them as a person: that is the most important thing.”

She says that the role of aged care nurse has rapidly evolved over her career, with the complexities of the job today making it a true speciality, and a hard earned one at that.

“The complexity of the clients that we see in aged care now, even compared to 10 years ago, is quite different.

“If you come into age care, you need to realise that you are going into a specialty where you are looking at every aspect of this person.

“You need to know them; you need to build up trust with them; you need to understand that they’ve got life experiences and you have to actually respect those experiences and treat them for the person they are.”

Julie Tansing, front row, second from right, has been training the next generation of nurses for almost 20 years. She’s pictured here with a group of Resthaven nursing graduates in 2019.

For the next generation of young nurses, Tansing has a few key points of practical advice.

“Don’t try to do everything at once. Take on board any feedback you get, ask lots of questions, write lots of notes, and do lots of reflection on everything that you learn,” she says.

“Go back and say, ‘well, this incident happened — what went well? What didn’t go well? What did I learn from that experience? And what can I learn to put into my practice that would be better for next time?’

The complexity of the clients that we see in aged care now, even compared to 10 years ago, is quite different. If you come into age care, you need to realise that you are going into a specialty where you are looking at every aspect of this person.

Julie Tansing

“It’s often a case of you don’t know what you don’t know … so you’ve actually got to learn what you don’t know to be able to go forward.”

A passion for enabling quality Parkinson’s care

Tansing has developed expertise in, and a desire to advocate for, Parkinson’s Disease (PD), having become a carer for a family member with the neurodegenerative disorder.  

“Resthaven have been a very supportive organisation, particularly around my current situation…

“Right from the start, they said, ‘look, if you’re learning about this, we really want you to be able to help us if you can’.”

As a result, she has developed training programs to increase quality of care for persons with PD, an area that has much room for improvement in care facilities across the country.

“I’m providing a lot of education on it. I’m speaking to clients, doing support groups, just generally supporting people.

“But it’s really been a journey where I think the fact that I’m experiencing a lot of those feelings that the carers and the people have, I understand, because it’s here at home, as well.”

“I needed to learn about it from my own practical situation, and as I went on, I realised how little I knew, but also how interesting it was. It’s such a complex condition.

“And, boy, it’s a growing condition and COVID could make that worse.”

Tansing points to a recent research paper from the Florey Institute, which warns that COVID may prompt the chronic inflammation which underpins the development of PD.

“And they did studies when the Spanish flu occurred after the First World War, and the increase in Parkinson and neurological conditions was quite incredible.

I’m providing a lot of education on it [Parkinson’s]. I’m speaking to clients, doing support groups, just generally supporting people. But it’s really been a journey where I think the fact that I’m experiencing a lot of those feelings that the carers and the people have, I understand, because it’s here at home, as well.

Julie Tansing

“They are saying that we’ve got to be aware, that it could happen again — and we already know that it’s the fastest growing brain disease in the world.”

“It’s so individualistic, everyone presents so differently. Researchers are now saying it’s really a syndrome with different streams.

“There’s sort of a mantra that I always say when I’m talking about Parkinson’s: you’ve got to treat everyone in a holistic, individualist way.

“Hopefully by incorporating allied health, and they need to take their medications on time, every time.

“They also need social engagement — that’s a very important part to give them good quality of life.

“And, finally, exercise is critical to help with all of that;  there is an aspect of neuro-protection that comes with exercise.”

Breaking down the stigma associated with the condition is important in order to realise these goals, as Tansing has noticed that persons experiencing the disease tend to shy away from social engagement out of embarrassment and shame.

“Children in particular are a little bit unsure about someone with a tremor and who’s behaving a little differently.

“That can be quite disturbing, and it is quite distressing for the person [with Parkinson’s].”

“They just need to be given some understanding, to have it explained in a simple way: ‘this person has got something that’s making them do that; they’re not very well; we have to be kind and we have to be slow and not rush them and just listen to them carefully’.”

For the embattled residential aged care industry, challenges remain. All care staff are well meaning, but issues pertaining to workforce capacity and funding continue.

“Once they get to residential aged care, it’s very, very difficult, and that’s because of the costing and funding, but we do have a lot of support groups in the community.

“To be perfectly honest, it’s one of the areas where Australia is very much behind … and this is one of the reasons that I got from the staff and senior management at Resthaven.”

Just recently, I had 39 staff members from across the organisation, from managers, to physios, to nurses to carers to lifestyle people, able to come and attend a session [on Parkinson’s] and get something out of it.

Julie Tansing

Providing training to regional areas is a further challenge, which Tansing says has been aided by the use of digital communication strategies, such as Microsoft Teams video conferencing.

“The reason why I find it so good is, particularly now with staff shortages and the busyness of it, … we can actually cover all of our sites at the same time.

“Just recently, I had 39 staff members from across the organisation, from managers, to physios, to nurses to carers to lifestyle people able to come and attend a session and get something out of it.”

Tansing, juggling her role as a nurse educator and unpaid carer, now works two days a week, which she says are very full days.

In their nomination of Tansing for the ACSA award, Resthaven management say that they are proud to share her mission to improve quality of care for all patients, especially those with PD.

“She really is an unsung hero in Parkinson’s Disease.”  

More about Resthaven

Resthaven was founded in May 1935, and now supports thousands of older people with a range of services, including in-home care, retirement living, and residential aged care across metropolitan Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills, Murraylands, Riverland, Barossa, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Limestone Coast.

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