ACHIEVE IN ACTION: RUSSELL MASON RN
Dedicated people with a variety of skills enable Achieve Australia to deliver on the rights of people with disability to achieve meaningful and valued lives. Achieve in Action is an occasional series which explores the skills and contributions of these individuals.
Russell Mason is a Registered Nurse who has spent the past nine years providing healthcare for people supported by Achieve Australia, and acting as a resource on medical matters for front line support workers working in community homes and accessible apartments.
Russell began his career as an Enrolled Nurse following training at Prince of Wales and Prince Henry Hospitals in Sydney. He later undertook a conversion course followed by a Bachelor of Nursing Degree at Australian Catholic University to become a Registered Nurse.
“While studying at university I participated in placements at the Grosvenor Centre residential institution for adults and children with intellectual disability. My career in disability then began at Sunshine (formerly known as the Sunshine Home) which provides a variety of accommodation and support options for people with disability. What I learned early in my career has directly informed my approach to supporting people in Achieve Australia today,” said Russell.
Russell is part of a team including two full-time and one casual Registered Nurse. Although the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) does not generally fund nursing services, Achieve provides them as part of its My Wellbeing group of supports.
Other My Wellbeing clinical services include psychology and behaviour support.
Health care planning is the main focus of the Achieve nursing team. This includes reviewing the Comprehensive Health Assessment Program (CHAP) – a full medical assessment of each of more than 160 people supported in Achieve community homes, every year.
A Health Care Plan is then developed and kept updated for each person, including all medical information gathered over the previous year between health assessments. Registered Nurses work closely with front line managers and support workers – who have intimate knowledge of each person they support – to create and regularly update Health Care Plans.
Medical assessments include physical examinations, routine blood tests, eye exams and hearing tests every few years, bone density checks, and dental examinations, among others. Where required, the General Practitioners who work closely with Achieve will refer people to specialists for cardiac care, mammograms, colonoscopies, and other examinations and procedures.
Staff education is also key. Nurses ensure that front line workers are equipped with the knowledge required to attend to the daily medical needs of the people they support – such as assisting people to administer their daily medications.
Procedures requiring more specialised skills and knowledge – such as drawing blood and changing catheters – are performed in homes by Registered Nurses rather than disability support workers.
Nurses also provide support when hospitalisation is required. As soon as they are informed of an admission, they take on the role of advocate for the person supported by Achieve.
They are a conduit between the hospital and Achieve Australia, ensuring all documentation has been transferred and relaying first-hand reports from doctors and hospital nurses back to Achieve staff. Achieve’s nurses also assist in coordinating the patient’s discharge and smooth transition back to home once the treatment is completed.
“It’s a very satisfying job,” said Russell. “We can make a real contribution to maintaining and enhancing a person’s health at all stages of their life. As nurses we work with our colleagues to ensure that each individual we support has the opportunity to live well and get the most out of life.”