Kerikeri Village

CARE for your Career

Caring for others can lead to a rich and fulfilling career that offers good job stability and fair pay. But you don’t need to take our word for it. Scroll down to learn what five of our carers love most about working in aged care. Watch their videos and read their stories as they share the challenges and rewards of their jobs, the attributes you might need to take up a similar role, and where that experience could take you.

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Bronwyn Leigh - Healthcare Assistant

“Walking in every day is like my second home…

If I can make their day the best I can then I’ve achieved something, and I find it hugely rewarding.”


Bronwyn Leigh - Healthcare Assistant

Bronwyn Leigh didn't plan a career in Care; it all just happened that way for her. The Northland mum of seven was asked to look after an elderly couple while her children were in school and it didn't take long for her to realise she had found her calling.

"I was really surprised!" she said. "It was never something I thought I would want to do but I found I enjoyed it and was really good at it."

Bronwyn's new path led her to Kerikeri Retirement Village, where she was supported through all the formal training she needed for the Healthcare Assistant role.

"I hadn't studied for many years- I thought it was going to be a challenge for me but I really got into it and realised that after so many years of being out of school I could do this and, in the end, did really well.

"I was proud of myself. I was grateful for the opportunity to climb the ladder, improve my wages and mentally challenge my self. And it showed my kids that it doesn't matter how old you are, you can always get into study again!

"Bronwyn recommends a career in Care. "For me it's simple. My one goal every time I walk through these doors is to see if I can help the people I look after have the best possible day. Then I feel I've achieved something. And that's hugely rewarding."

She has formed a particularly close bond with one of the residents in her care. Judy Doyle came to the Village's Care Facility after suffering a stroke and lying alone in a coma on the floor of her home, then for days in hospital.

The doctors didn't give her good odds but they reckoned without Judy's determination and force of personality.

"She is one of the most determined people I know," Bronwyn said. "She fought and fought to bring herself back from the brink to the point where she is now fiercely independent and insists on doing as much as she can possibly do for herself."

Art and writing are Judy's passions and she has used them hugely effectively as therapy. She has rediscovered her abilities slowly but surely and Bronwyn's been cheering her on, every step of the way.

"Judy is an amazing lady and a great example of why I do this job. She is so full of life, energy and humour.

She's a free spirit who just lights up a room and she's always surrounded by other residents who just seem to gravitate towards her.

"I'm just hugely grateful for the chance to help this amazing human recover as well as she has."

Cavalli Taotahi-Hohaia - Carer Support Assistant

“I enjoy listening to their stories… I get as much out of it as they do…

One of the really important things you need to work in care is to actually care.”

Cavalli Taotahi-Hohaia - Carer Support Assistant

For 17-year old Cavalli Taotahi-Hohaia, caring for others comes naturally.

“Helping people is what I’m all about.”

For Cavalli, that pathway is likely to lead to studying medicine at Uni.

“I think the work I’m doing at the moment, helping the team of carers in the Aged Care facility at The Village, will be a really good start to that. Yep – a really good beginning.”

The Kerikeri High School student doesn’t consider what she does at the Village as ‘tough’ work. She helps out in the late afternoons and early evenings, setting meal trays and delivering trays of food to some of the residents in their rooms, sorting out laundry and other light duties.

When she started she was buddied up with someone experienced who explained, step by step, what her role entailed.

“Basically, I’m here to make life easier for the Health Care Assistants and nursing staff, so they can focus on the hands-on care the residents need.”

She says one of the important things you need to work in care “is to actually care.”

“It’s important to be able to tend to and bond with the residents – they need someone like that.”

Being a good listener is also important.

“I really enjoy listening to their stories and hearing about experiences – they’ve all had such interesting lives and done such cool things. I’ve never done anything like that!”

For Cavalli, her work in care is as much about job satisfaction as it is about the people she looks after.

“I truly get as much out of it as they do.”

Lisa Shepherd – Healthcare Assistant & Activities Coordinator

“It’s challenging but I think the rewards are worth it…

Every day is different… I love it!"

Lisa Shepherd – Healthcare Assistant & Activities Coordinator

Variety is what attracts Kerikeri Retirement Village activities coordinator Lisa Shepherd to what she does.

“Every day is different, I never know what I’m going to walk into,” she says. “In our environment the lives and circumstances of our residents can change overnight – what they were able to do yesterday they may well not be able to do today. And with that comes a need to be adaptable, versatile and imaginative. I love it!”

Lisa started working at Kerikeri Retirement Village as a Healthcare Assistant. She’s now responsible for developing and running a range of activities designed to stimulate the interest of the people who live in our Care Facility.

“That’s one of the great things about a career in Care,” Lisa says. “It can take you down so many interesting pathways, from full-on nursing through to diversional and physiotherapy. Or into respite care and in-home support for some of our independent-living residents. Or even into property and facilities management or aged care administration. It’s certainly not a static career, that’s for sure.”

Lisa’s objective is to build an activities programme that residents enjoy and are most likely to engage with. And, importantly, one that assists with their treatment and care.

“This requires me to have a really good understanding of what makes each of our 64 Care Facility residents tick, and what exactly they need by way of diversional therapy. And with everyone being so different the job certainly is an interesting and challenging one.”

To get the best result, Lisa likes to take some time to get to know each resident’s life story. Where possible she’ll work with their families and friends to put together a meaningful leisure plan.

“We get to learn an incredible amount about each person this way. Quite frequently I learn information that can form an important part of an individual’s medical treatment and care, and sometimes the nurses and healthcare assistants feed information to me that adds to what I know about that person. It all goes into the mix so that, between us, we can provide an appropriate, well-rounded and holistic treatment plan.”

At the end of the day, Lisa says, it’s all about giving each resident the best possible quality of life.

So would she recommend Care as a career?

“Absolutely – but you’d need to have the right sort of temperament. Loads of empathy, compassion and patience.

“You need to want to be there. And on those days when you’re dealing with troubles of your own (and we all have those days), you need to be able to leave those concerns at the door. Because the people you’re caring for need you at your happiest, brightest and shiniest.”

Shirley Liggett - Healthcare Assistant

“To me it’s not a job, it’s a calling… To see them smiling and happy makes me happy… We all become a very big family."

Shirley Liggett - Healthcare Assistant

Growing up in Fiji, Shirley Liggett was responsible at an early age for looking after her grandparents. She watched the way her parents cared for them and, when the time came for her to take over, she did so with a passion.

It instilled in her a deep commitment to caring for the elderly. Something that stayed with her while she carved out a career in other areas after leaving home.

None of the work she did gave her the sense of fulfilment she was looking for, though.

“I felt I needed to put some energy, love and compassion into the community and, long story short, here I am,” she said.

Shirl is absolutely positively definite when it comes to her reasons for choosing Care as her career.

“It gives me joy. It gives me a spark. It gives me purpose. These people are so utterly vulnerable and when I go home after my shifts I feel rewarded and at peace that I’ve made a difference in their lives.”

Shirl says she sees in the eyes of the people she looks after the impact of her work. Especially those with dementia who can communicate in no other way. They’re just glad that there’s someone with them who understands; someone who respects them for the lives they’ve lived and who understands what they need now to make their day-to-day easier than it might otherwise be.

Care Facility resident Florrie Scott says Shirl is “everything to me.”

“She was the one who met me when I first came to live here and she has brightened my day every day since,” Florrie said.

Shirl takes huge pleasure in making Florrie pretty and comfortable. She massages Florrie’s hands and brushes her hair – pampering that Florrie obviously relishes, flashing Shirl her trademark beaming smile.

For her part, Florrie appreciates the fact that Shirl is “always happy. Joyful. Caring.”

“And thorough! Shirl reminds me of my mother – she’s so thorough!”

Watching these two together, in the comfy familiarity of Florrie’s room, it’s apparent that their relationship extends far beyond that of patient and carer. It’s a grandmother/granddaughter kind of thing.

And it’s obvious that these two people, from very different worlds and backgrounds, are where they’re supposed to be.

Summer Gower - Healthcare Assistant

“When you go home you just feel good that you’ve helped somebody…

It’s actually a really good steppingstone if you want to do nursing".

Summer Gower - Healthcare Assistant

Care Facility resident Philip Whiting understands the power of solitude. The self-described ‘loner’ loves the fact that he has the freedom to pick and choose his company – and nothing makes him feel more that the day is going to be a good one than seeing Summer Gower heading down the corridor towards him.

“She’s not hard to miss,” he says drily. And he’s right – Summer’s trademark crimson locks can be seen from very far away.

“I suppose hair like that’s alright. After all, I’m not the one who has to wear it!”

This kind of good-natured mickey-taking is at the core of the special relationship that Philip and Summer enjoy. Along with the ability to speak with each other frankly and say what’s on their mind.

Trust is key to this.

“I let Philip into my life in a way I don’t do with many people,” Summer said. “He’s caring, witty and intelligent and he’ll often have a view on things that I don’t get from anyone else.”

For his part, Philip enjoys being able to “tell it straight” with Summer. “I really miss being able to share my true thoughts with someone. Summer lets me do that and sometimes she even agrees with me.”

At this Summer smiles knowingly and winks at us. It’s hard to know if this is just part of their double-act.

Summer leaped into aged care immediately after leaving school.

“I’d recommend it. Apart from anything else it’s a great stepping stone if you want to go into nursing because a lot of what we do is what someone will do in hospital.”

She loves her work so much that she introduced her mother to caring, too. Now the two work in the same wards with some of the same people. But she’s under no illusions – caring can have its downs as well as its ups.

“Losing someone who you’ve looked after for a long time can be really, really hard and emotionally draining.

“Also, seeing people - who you know, from the stories they tell and the photos their families show you, used to be so full of vigour and energy – go downhill to the point where they can barely communicate ... that’s tough, you know?”

So with that in mind, why would anyone consider Care as a career? For Summer the answer lies in Philip. The highs outweigh the lows.

“Just knowing I’m making a real, positive difference to his life is a wonderful feeling,” she says. “The friendship, the connection, the bond – it’s all just a real buzz.”