Growing up in Zimbabwe, Grace Mlingo was taught a traditional philosophy by her parents. Ubuntu/Unhu – “munhu munhu nekuda kwevanhu”, meaning “a person is a person through other people”.
It’s about how a human being achieves humanity through their relations with other human beings.
This philosophy is one she still holds close today, and one she’d like to see realised in the aged care sector.
Grace is the clinical manager at Opal Aged Care, a 199-bed aged care facility. She works among an amazing team of Registered Nurses and care workers. She lives and breathes her job. It keeps her on her toes, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“What my time as nurse continues to teach me is that there is still hope in mankind. What I see daily is nurses and carers that go above and beyond in order to bring comfort and love to the people they look after,” Mlingo told Women’s Agenda recently.
Bringing comfort and love to those in aged care is Grace’s highest priority as a clinical manager. It’s why she starts every day with a walk around the facility, greeting all the residents.
“This is never as quick as I mean it to be as I often stop and talk to residents… some conversations longer than others!” she says.
Although it takes time, Grace knows it’s an important and valued part of many of the elderly residents’ day. She wants them to know she will always stop and give them her time and attention.
“That act in itself shows them that I value each of them, and that simple acknowledgement goes a long way in providing the holistic care to our residents.”
Grace’s path into nursing was not an obvious one. After studying a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications in Zimbabwe, she worked as teacher before moving to England and then to Australia.
When she arrived, nursing was supposed to be a means to end. She now has a young child to provide for.
In the years that followed, her career in aged care came to be much more than she’d bargained for. The need to be vehicle for change, propelled Grace to seek out opportunities to promote a high quality of care.
“I know this isn’t the last stop in my career. The opportunities are endless if you are willing to put in the work”.
Right now, Grace is hoping the Royal Commission into Aged Care will bring about tangible and feasible change in the industry.
“I hope to see an industry that includes awareness and education, particularly around valuing older people and the prevention of elder abuse,” she says. “None of this is going to happen overnight and not without a lot of hard work.”
While the Royal Commission was vital, Grace also points out the process unfortunately highlighted the extreme end of the industry. She’d like others to know that there is, and always has been, amazing work done by many people in the aged care sector.
“We have an uphill climb of gaining the trust of the people once again, and we will do this, because this industry is filled with amazing people who go above and beyond in order to provide our elderly the care they deserve,” she says.
And her advice for nursing students who see aged care as a last resort career option?
“Do it. It will challenge you in ways you never even considered, and you will be better for it. You will never regret it.”