Excellence in Age Services: Meet Executive Officer and Director of Nursing, Lesley Schneider

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Lesley Schneider walked into her workplace one morning and immediately knew something was up.

‘You know that look on people’s faces when they’re up to mischief?’ said Lesley. I looked at Rachel and I said, “What on earth have you done?”’(laughs)

Lesley is Executive Officer and Director of Nursing of Mercy Health and Aged Care Central Queensland (MHACCQ).

Lesley Schneider

As it turned out, Rachel Wilkes, Quality and Risk Manager of MHACCQ, had nominated Lesley for the Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) Excellence in Age Services Awards—and Lesley had just been announced as a finalist.

UPDATE: Lesley Schneider was announced as WINNER of the ‘Individual’ category in the Queensland LASA Excellence in Age Service Awards 2021

Highly regarded in the aged care sector, the LASA Excellence in Age Services Awards aim to promote and recognise excellence across the age services industry. The awards celebrate the passion, contribution and achievements of organisations, teams and individuals in the service of older Australians.

MHACCQ and the wider Mercy Community team are proud to have one of our colleagues honoured this year a finalist in the category of ‘Individual’.

‘Lesley has the gift of nurturing people, staff, consumers and families in a way that makes everyone perform better, feel better, and know they are an integral part of something bigger and better than themselves,’ said Rachel.

We were fortunate enough to find a window in Lesley’s calendar recently, and were able to ask her a few questions…

MC: What do you love about working in aged care?

LS: You’ve got to love it to stay as long as I have. It’s very rewarding… I don’t think people realise the holistic care that you give in aged care. And I think—yes, we look after people toward the end of their lives and some people think that’s quite morbid—but when people come to us, we give them the best life we can for however long they’ve got, and then it is our responsibility to ensure that their death or the last stages of their life are as good as they possibly can be. I’m quite passionate about palliative care and I think we do it very, very well.

It’s also a privilege to look after families who are going through the whole the experience.

Even coming into aged care, there’s a lot of grief. People have often lost a partner or just giving up their home and their way of life… so I think it’s that compassion, being able to make that easy as it can be.

Midwives bring people into life, and we look after them at the other end. So, whether we have them for ten years or ten days, it’s about making that the best life it can be. That’s probably what makes me tick.

MC: Can you tell us how you came to work in aged care?

LS: In 1996 we opened our McAuley site, and I came to work there as a carer after having had a family. I had been a registered nurse with the Mater previously and had about a 10-year break rearing family. I’d let my registration lapse, so I came back as a personal carer and I worked for a number of years at McAuley residential aged care.

I then studied my Enrolled Nursing. When added to my previous registration, I was able to do a re-entry program. It was quite difficult you know, with kids and working full time, but I got there. And as soon as I got my registration, I was approached about stepping up to manage McAuley because it was only a single Registered Nurse (RN) facility at that time with 28 beds. I did that for nearly 10 years which was quite taxing because I was the only RN there.

From there, I’ve just evolved into leadership roles. The organisation has given me great opportunities that I probably would never have been offered anywhere else and I’m very grateful for that. I’ve always worked for the Sisters of Mercy in one capacity or another.

Rachel adds ‘Lesley has demonstrated her care for the people in her charge, whether they be residents or her fellow staff members. She has developed an empathetic, team-based management style that emphasises the importance of valuing each other’s contributions and recognising the inherent worth of all within the Mercy Aged Care Family, including the residents and their families. Lesley is one of those ‘bosses of a lifetime’, you only get once in your career. She is a leader of great passion, wisdom and perseverance.’

MC: How did you react to the nomination?

LS: Rachel said ‘The team and I have nominated you for this and you’ve become a national finalist.’ Oh, I couldn’t believe it. I was completely overwhelmed that they thought so much of me but … I’m a very retiring person and I thought ‘I just do my job, I can’t see that I would be worthy of this nomination’ so I was completely overwhelmed. I knew nothing about it. I would have stopped it if I’d known anything about it! But it was lovely of them to think of me.

MC: What does it mean to you to be nominated?

LS: It is very humbling, and I’m very grateful to the team for the fact that they see all those little things that I just take for granted. I’ve pretty much got a lead from behind approach, to my leadership. I try and recognise the skills that people have and get them to grow with those skills.

You know, there are people in my team who are far, far more skilled than I am and young people with much wider knowledge than me, I just sit in this role to get them to get the best out of themselves. So, it’s really humbling and I’m very grateful that they recognise that—that I’m trying to lead them into the best career they can have. [The nomination] made me stop and think about what I do.

And I work with a great team. I don’t think, until people get into the industry, they realise how rewarding it really is. You get back so much more than you give.

We wish Lesley the best of luck in the LASA Excellence in Age Services Awards, to be announced on Aged Care Employee Day, 7 August 2021.

Image by Sabine Van Erp on Pixabay

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