Our McKenzie People: Chanelle, Facility Manager
Chanelle Wilkins is the Facility Manager at The Ashley in Reservoir. She was asked to share her story with Explore Careers on her 20 year journey working in the health and aged care sectors.
I’ve worked in the Health Care sector, mainly aged care, for over 20 years. My first job after raising my family was as a carer at an aged care provider. I enjoyed working with the elderly, and the company I worked with at the time provided excellent opportunities to further my education and knowledge.
I took the opportunity to enrol in a Nursing course while working as a carer, and once I completed it, I was promoted to an Assistant Manager role. While still working in the aged care home, I began studying for my Bachelor of Nursing to become a Clinical Care Manager. My employer acquired new homes, and I was then asked to help set them up with the existing business policies, procedures and technology.
Once I completed my studies and became a Registered Nurse (RN), I took a role at the Northern Hospital in the surgical ward, but it wasn’t really for me. I found I missed building relationships with my residents. So I decided to return to work in aged care and joined McKenzie Aged Care Group as a Registered Nurse at The Ashley in Reservoir.
I instantly liked the feel of McKenzie and the home setting. I worked as an RN for some time before being promoted to Clinical Care Manager. It was a very scary move at the time, but I had a supportive team, and it was so rewarding to step up into a new challenge.
I was soon offered the role of Facility Manager (FM), but it wasn’t quite what I wanted – I was always used to being a clinician and working on the floor, so I turned it down a couple of times. When I was offered it again just before COVID-19 hit, I accepted it – so my first introduction to the role was during a full-scale pandemic! It was exhausting and incredibly challenging, but I had a highly supportive team surrounding me – we all put the hours in together and learned a lot through the experience. Personally, it allowed me to develop a core skillset I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
There’s a lot about working as an FM that I really enjoy, but it can also be an emotionally demanding role. I want to be available and supportive for my team, but I’ve learned I can’t take on all their problems and have had to set boundaries along the way – something that isn’t always easy to do! I’ve been very fortunate to work with such good teams in great workplace cultures – I’m really proud of my current team.
Twenty years working in healthcare probably sounds like a long time, but it’s given me many opportunities to grow and develop personally and professionally. There’s so much you can explore with a career in aged care – the possibilities are endless, and even though it can be challenging at times, there are moments of joy to be found every day.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing positive resident outcomes. There are often a lot of bad news stories about aged care, and it’s really sad to hear and read about them – but it absolutely doesn’t happen in my home. I choose team members based on their caring attributes.
Even if they don’t have the specialist skills or as much experience as other candidates, I can teach them everything if they have a strong, caring nature. I can’t teach a fundamental caring and compassionate approach – that comes from the person.
What are the biggest challenges in role and industry?
Unfortunately for the industry, it’s the stigma attached to aged care. I feel it prevents many people from wanting to work in the industry.
We need to improve the reputation of what it’s really like working in the sector and the opportunities available to attract and retain the right people. My biggest struggle was during COVID – it was the only time I’ve felt completely helpless and didn’t know what to do. At times, due to staff being struck down with the virus, those of us left who were able to work, had to put in long shifts to ensure the level of care of residents was not affected. It’s not a feeling I’ll ever forget, and I don’t want to experience that again.
On the plus side, it has made the team much stronger, more resilient, and more flexible. We could get through anything after that! I definitely focus as much on the positivity that comes with our work and keep negative influences at the door.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to get into Aged Care?
Do it! It’s so rewarding! It is hard work; there is no tiptoeing around that. Every role is hard work, and it can be emotionally draining – the residents become your grandparents whom you want to provide the best care for and ensure they’re happy.
But there is so much opportunity for growth, and where you start out is different from where you end up. I would absolutely recommend young nurses especially try it. It’s very different from a hospital setting where there are many nurses and doctors around. In aged care, you become an integral part of a close team who need your knowledge, all working together to support these wonderful people who need you. It’s a great thing to experience.
*Original article first published on Explore Careers 10 November 2022