BERNARD Gallagher could never have known that a casual job at Mercy Health Bethlehem Home for the Aged would so quickly turn into nearly 20 years of work.
Time flies when you are having fun, he says.
"When I first started in this line of work there were people who had been there for 20 or 30 years. I would look at them and think 'that's a long time'," Mr Gallagher said.
"Then before I knew it I was up there myself."
The industry veteran says it is the clients who keep him coming back.
"There's a lot of characters and there's a lot of rewarding moments because they appreciate what you do," Mr Gallagher said.
Mercy Bethlehem celebrated National Aged Care Employee Day on Friday and the home wanted to highlight Mr Gallagher, who its bosses said had a reputation for going "above and beyond all day, every day".
Mr Gallagher began working in the sector about three decades ago as a division 2 nurse, first at an aged care home based at the Bendigo Hospital's Anne Caudle building and later at Mercy Bethlehem.
"It isn't something I initially set out to do. I was in the building trade when I was a young guy, then construction," he said.
"I came back to Bendigo and there wasn't a great deal of employment at the time. Someone asked me if I had thought about aged care."
Mr Gallagher has worked in multiple roles at Mercy Bethlehem from nurse to team leader.
He has also prided himself on his ability to thrive in work he did in the home's dementia ward.
"It was very rewarding work and I 'spose only a select few people can do it," Mr Gallagher said.
"Some seem to like it better than others. What I liked was that you could give residents some sense of security.
"Their family members cannot be there all the time so you become the person that they look to for their needs and to help them through their worries. It's great to have that trust and ability to communicate with them."
In recent years, Mr Gallagher has moved his focus to maintenance.
"It's going back to my building and trade days. I've always been mechanically-minded. I did a couple of years home maintenance for the local council," he said.
"I've always been the type of person who likes building or fixing things."
Mr Gallagher's prior experiences at Mercy Bethlehem had helped him in his maintenance work.
"You are going into people's personal spaces. Their rooms are their homes," he said.
"They need to trust who is coming and going."
Mercy Bethlehem recently underwent deep cleaning after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
It is one of two Bendigo nursing homes where staff members tested positive. In both cases, no other cases were detected.
Mr Gallagher said it had been a stressful time for residents and their family members, but felt Mercy Bethlehem had been well-prepared for any positive tests, had resources ready to roll and were able to respond as quickly as possible.
"We spent a lot of time with residents, one-to-one, on information activities to try to make it as bearable as possible," he said.
"Most understood the importance of it and felt safe and secure. They have come out of it pretty well and are in quite high spirits."
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