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Early experiences: Discovering a career in aged care

It’s natural to find comfort in the familiar and fear change. Yet, to nurture our hearts and minds, it’s vital we take a chance and waltz with lady luck to see where she leads us.

We spoke to three SwanCare employees for their insights and advice on starting a career in aged care. Our team cast their minds back to when they first took a leap into the unknown and applied for a position in aged care. Hint: they haven’t looked back since...

Meet SwanCare Operations Manager, Sharleen Mann, Registered Nurse Von Isser Erico Patalen and Food Service Attendant studying commerce, John Huber.

Sharleen, Isser and John made their way to SwanCare via very different paths. Longing to be closer to her mother, Sharleen moved from Broome to Perth in January 2019, deciding it was the right time to return to the not-for-profit sector. John, on the other hand, joined our hospitality night-shift team last year so he could work throughout his studies, and have the opportunity to improve his communication skills. Finally, Isser worked in hospitals in the Philippines and then in Australian healthcare agencies, before a fellow nurse encouraged him to apply to SwanCare five years ago - and the rest, as they say, is history.

Early experiences in aged care


What is your top advice for someone considering a career change into aged care?


1. Question your preconceptions (and allow yourself to imagine)


It takes a village

Sharleen Sharleen, Operations Manager: “It’s easy to forget that the aged care environment has many roles - not only nurses and assistants in nursing. Hospitality, cleaners, lifestyle coordinators, maintenance and business administration all fit together for SwanCare to function its optimum capability. Every single role is pivotal to residents having a beautiful life with us.”


We love to laugh

John John, Food Service Attendant: There’ll be some tough times, but everyone supports one another. Empathy, understanding and humour are very important. We create comedy to make residents feel at home.”
Sharleen Sharleen, Operations Manager: "People think of aged care as a sad environment but it’s  generally a very happy place. Yes, there are sad times - when our residents pass away or they are unwell, but it’s a really joyful environment.”


You will be challenged 


Isser, Registered Nurse: “There’s a misconception among some graduate nurses that they’ll lose skill or be stagnant in aged care, compared to being in a hospital. I thought this too, but once I was here, I realised that being a nurse in aged care is really challenging. As a resident’s needs increase, their healthcare becomes complex and you have the opportunity to upskill.”



2. Do your research



Sharleen, Operations Manager: "The media coverage surrounding the Royal Commission doesn’t paint aged care as a nice environment to live or work. Although there are facilities around Australia who have devastatingly failed our elderly, there are so many providers who genuinely do their best to create a beautiful home for residents.”

“It’s a matter of comparing organisations to ensure you find one who meets the Australian accreditation standards, and checking the compliance history using the compliance information tool. It’s also a good idea to consult annual reports and the organisation’s videos to gain a sense of the mission of the organisation.


3. Always be willing to learn and stay curious



Sharleen, Operations Manager: "The aged care industry is undergoing unprecedented changes. We’re shifting towards a more person-centered care approach, which places our residents’ preferences at the heart of everything we do. Although there are inevitably challenges associated with change, there has never been a more exciting time to enter aged care. These changes require every single team member to be open to learning.”


Isser, Registered Nurse: "Our graduate nurses can learn day by day rather than going into an intensive care unit. Aged care is also an incredible environment to improve your communication skills. When I was in an operating theatre in the Philippines, I was so shy - I was too scared to answer phone calls! But here, we work directly with residents and their families and my communication abilities have vastly improved.”

John John, Food Service Attendant: "Don’t be afraid to ask questions! No one expects you to hit the ground running. At SwanCare, we have a buddy system and run a range of professional development courses; there’s time to get familiar with processes and plenty of opportunities to upskill.”


4. ...But trust your transferable skills!



​​Sharleen, Operations Manager: “Being new, I’ve been able to offer a fresh set of eyes - I’m questioning processes, suggesting ideas and applying transferable knowledge. SwanCare has been very receptive. It’s only through challenging the status quo that any organisation can evolve. It doesn’t matter what environment you’re from, you have a wealth of knowledge and transferable skills.”



5. Breathe



Sharleen, Operations Manager: There’s a level of anxiety before you start any new role. It would almost be strange if you didn’t feel that! But fear can hold us back from amazing opportunities. I’m a happy little vegemite here. I’m among a community of people who don’t just care deeply about our residents - but for one another.”


Isser, Registered Nurse: "Although it can be stressful and challenging at times - at the end of day, I’m really happy and fulfilled. Some of my nursing friends have invited me to other facilities, but I’m not interested. I’m happy with my manager and colleagues.”

John John, Food Service Attendant: "I was nervous before applying to aged care - particularly considering the size of SwanCare! Yet, I’ve found the environment to be incredibly welcoming and working in aged care to be rewarding. My team is driven by a common goal: to provide the best service for our residents, and have a laugh along the way.”


SwanCare is one of Western Australia’s leading providers of quality retirement living and aged care.


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In 2018, all SwanCare care facilities underwent unannounced re-accreditation. All were successfully awarded full compliance of all 44 standards, and a re-accreditation until July 2021.

Our latest employee data reported a 94.6% satisfaction rating - and we hope to see these same figures for years to come. SwanCare won Silver in the 2019 HRD Employer of Choice Awards and was recognised as a top performer in the Training and Professional Development, Access to Technology, and Health and Wellbeing categories.




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