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Haiyan – Aged Care Worker

A black and white photo shows two young women. Both are wearing face masks that cover their lower faces. They are embracing side on and sharing a moment of shared joy.

Image by Philip Bohle

Haiyan is a leader in the aged care sector. She came to Australia as a migrant and found purpose, personal growth, and a deep understanding of life and death through her work.

Haiyan respects the humanity of elderly people and nurtures them through her care and purposeful work in the aged care sector.


The Power of a Curious Question


Haiyan’s journey into a fulfilling career in aged care began when she was living with friends interstate. She quickly became a part of their family and helped to care for their mother, treating her like she would her own grandmother.

“Sometimes my friend asked me for help to take grandma somewhere. Then she told me that I think you’ve got very good skills working with older people. How about you think about working in aged care?”

There is strong demand for aged care workers in Australia, and the Government supports migrants to get visas so they can work in this sector.  Haiyan undertook training, a Certificate III in Individual Support, found a relevant job in home care and as part of her training, undertook placement in an aged care facility. This is where Haiyan now works with a supportive, unified team.

“Because it’s my first time working in aged care, I was quite nervous. The staff, they’re just very, very helpful and supportive. From my colleagues, I can feel the unity and also from the management.”


Relationships that Matter


It’s not only the staff who are supportive. Haiyan has also developed meaningful connections with residents. Each person has a story to tell and getting to know the residents life journies means Haiyan hears and is moved by the richness of their life stories. Residents have encouraged Haiyan as she progressed from the role of Extended Care Assistant (ECA) to ECA Team Leader, giving her feedback along the way on how to best provide support to them and how to be sensitive to their needs. 

For example, on a day shift, Haiyan might need to slow down, remain patient and calm and focus on what she can do to help each person. Haiyan knows that every person in the aged care facility, no matter their level of mobility or cognition, is worthy of quality time, and she does the job with a great level of care and respect. Haiyan tries to treat each resident as she would her own grandparents.

“I know we are busy. Most of the time, we don’t have much time to stay one-on-one , but I try to, whenever I get a chance. I try to stay with one particular resident who may be emotional or who needs some emotional support.”

The connections Haiyan has developed with residents have also made her reflect upon her own life and future. “We all want to be taken care of and have our needs met with kindness” she said. Haiyan is providing this care for residents and teaching her team to also provide the highest level of understanding and care.

“These people in the facility, actually had their beautiful life before. I think it keeps reminding me to work with my heart and to do my best to help them.”


Image by Philip Bohle

Opportunities for Skills Growth


Working with purpose in the aged care sector, Haiyan has developed impressive skills in communication, leadership, empathy, and self-awareness. This sector has helped her go from a shy student to a dynamic team leader and Haiyan can’t imagine working anywhere else as she feels comfortable and confident in her interactions with both residents and staff.

“With these residents, I just feel like I got some magic power that I just feel so easy to talk to them.”

But it is not always easy work and Haiyan does not shy away from the challenge, or the reward.

“We do have to shower people. We do have to help toileting people. That’s the reality. Physically, I think it is hard work. The other reality is, it’s very heartwarming working in this sector. It’s very rewarding.”

Haiyan can see both perspectives and this is part of what makes human service work so satisfying. You get to see the best of people and to also be present in their struggles. Haiyan has also developed the knowledge of how disease impacts behavior and teaches staff to work with this level of understanding. She can break down barriers so that staff and residents can relate to each other in healthy ways and with empathy always front of mind.

In China, Haiyan studied a Bachelor of Arts, and her first qualification in Australia was as a translator. She is now undertaking training to become an enrolled nurse and has completed on-the-job training sessions, which were provided free in the workplace.

“I think working in aged care is a very good pathway. You can learn a lot of skills in nursing, if you want to go further in your career.”

For Haiyan, the aged care sector has highlighted her people and leadership skills, and how to work well with elderly residents. Her experience has enabled her to recognise that all people, even those coming to the end of their lives can thrive, which brings purpose to her work.


Our sincere thanks to Haiyan for her contribution to Work with Purpose. To find out more about working in aged care access an information guide here.

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