Gai McPherson has spent a lifetime caring for others

Retiring type: Gai McPherson has spent almost 53 years as a registered nurse. And now she's retiring.

Retiring type: Gai McPherson has spent almost 53 years as a registered nurse. And now she's retiring.

A registered nurse who has spent almost 53 years caring for others plans to travel and enjoy some family time in her retirement.

Back in the day: Gai McPherson in her earlier days.

Back in the day: Gai McPherson in her earlier days.

Gai McPherson will officially retire on November 30 from her current role as Dementia/Delirium Clinical Nurse Consultant overseeing the Port Macquarie-Hastings and Macleay regions.

With a lifetime of experience, a wad of qualifications and a skill set based in good old fashioned nursing, Gai says she also plans to remain involved with some key community groups.

These include the Hastings Dementia Friendly Community Steering Committee, while undertaking advocacy work with Hastings Elder Abuse Prevention Network, Alzheimer Association, dementia care groups and as a director of Bundaleer.

“I feel a bit guilty leaving work with all these skills and experience. So I plan to stay involved with some of the groups I have been involved in professionally,” she admitted.

“I love my job. Nursing gives you so many opportunities to support and to help people when they are at their most vulnerable.

“Giving quality of life is what it’s all about. It’s quality over quantity particularly for people with debilitating illnesses.”

While thankful for her career, Gai says the life of a nurse can be quite a confronting and stressful experience at times.

“There is plenty of hard yakka involved,” she said. 

Gai began as an assistant in nursing in 1964 in the maternity unit at Armidale hospital before commencing her general training at Ryde District Soldiers Memorial Hospital which she completed in 1969 before moving to psychiatric training in Gladesville, followed by midwifery training and a number of years at Hornsby Hospital as a midwife.

With the arrival of children Andrew and Lisa, she moved into aged care for around 15 years before moving to Kempsey where she worked for a short time in aged care before taking up a role with Manning Base Hospital. In 2000 she returned to Kempsey to work in mental health.

An 18 month stint working as a drought support worker preceded her taking up a role with Port Macquarie Community Health in dementia care.

“During that time I have seen enormous change mostly around patient care and health practices,” Gai said.

“Back when I started people remained in bed for longer periods of time while nurses learnt on the job. To some degree we lost a lot of the basics of nursing; the care of the patient; nursing’s more technical these days.

“I’m pleased that patient-centered care is now back in vogue. Where nurses get to know the person and their carer and involving them in their plan of care.

“These are big advances in the overall treatment plan for the patient, the carer and the family.

“We now encourage people to ask questions. I think that’s a big factor in the recovery of the patient because they feel listened to and valued.”

With her career winding down, Gai says the high points include just doing her job. “It’s my passion. I really care about people with dementia, and that’s probably been strengthened from personal experience,” she says.

“It really intensified when my husband had to retire very early, I had two young children to raise. It was a difficult time.

“But I’m glad that people have recognised some of my passion. They know I’m a strong advocate and will speak out no matter the consequences if I believe things are wrong or need to change.”

Gai McPherson’s farewell is on November 30.

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