On the frontline

Des and Kate Every (Ivan Kemp) 245909_02

Our frontline healthcare workers have been the unsung heroes of the pandemic, often working long hours and faced with the ever increasing threat of COVID-19. Ocean Grove husband and wife, nurses Des and Kate Every, share their stories with Justin Flynn.

What do you do?

Des: We’re both RNs – registered nurses. I work in the operating theatres at St John of God Healthcare in Geelong. I’m trained as an anaesthetic and recovery nurse but my current role is largely administrative.

Kate: I mix it up a bit. I work in the Andrew Love Cancer Centre (ALCC) at Barwon Health as an oncology nurse which involves administering chemotherapy and I’m also a secondary school nurse with at Colac Secondary College.

Did you meet at work?

Des: We didn’t meet at work, but we met in our first year of university at Australian Catholic University in Ballarat.

What does a ‘normal’ shift look like?

Kate: I am not sure we have a ‘normal’ at the moment. I have been working in the day ward at the Andrew Love Centre for 18 years and love it. I completed a graduate diploma in cancer nursing. I am very passionate about caring for individuals faced with cancer and helping them manage the side effects as they undergo treatment.

I am a very small part of a great team in the day ward that provides treatment to cancer patients. We administer many different types of treatments from immunotherapy to chemotherapy and blood transfusions. Some patients can spend the whole day in our unit and others may only be in for a short time. So, we get to know them very well and they get to know us.

The treatment varies according to the particular type of cancer being treated. Some days are chaotic and challenging, but the most rewarding part of my job is supporting and helping patients and their families through a very stressful time in their lives and trying to make it that little bit easier. We try to create a positive environment. COVID has certainly made it difficult for our cancer patients that haven’t been able to have their families alongside them during their treatment.

Also, in my other role as a secondary school nurse I am lucky to work with a dedicated wellbeing team at Colac Secondary College. This role is health promotion based and I am really enjoying working in the education system and supporting young people.

Des: Theatre is normally pretty unpredictable so there is no real normal. We have 10 theatres running most days so together with a big team of nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists and theatre technicians getting all patients through theatre as safely and efficiently as possible is the main goal each day and dealing with any challenges that presents.

Have you noticed any change to peoples’ mindsets during COVID ?

Kate: Des and I have been lucky we have been able to remain working throughout and in the beginning we enjoyed some ‘downtime’ with our family. But it’s getting harder with each lockdown. Our house always has someone popping in so definitely missing those connections at the moment. It’s been hard on the kids as they are missing school, sport and their friends.

But unfortunately, COVID has made life complicated and difficult for many especially for people dealing with an illness or in vulnerable situations. We feel for local business owners.

Everyone is working together to get tested when they need to and getting vaccinated.

Have you helped treat anyone with COVID?

Des: Our work practices have definitely changed dramatically due to COVID but we have both been fortunate that patients in our areas have not been COVID positive.

How has your mental health been during COVID?

Kate: We could never imagine we would be home schooling and only leaving the house for exercise and work.

Lockdown has become way too familiar. Definitely not catching up with friends and family, not playing sport all drove us stir crazy, especially with teenagers, but we all got into a routine of the ‘new normal’.

Normal became Saturday night Zoom calls, lots of dog walks, exercise challenges, Netflix and PS4 and technology overload.

At times it has become very challenging to keep up the motivation. The reality is we may be dealing with lockdowns for some time.

A lot of pressure has been on healthcare professionals, do you find support from each other?

Kate: We always have been a pretty good team. Our days are busy like most of our friends, and sometimes a bit crazy especially with shift work in the mix but we make it work.

I am really proud of our kids as we rely on them to get themselves organised in the mornings for school, most days it works. They definitely do a great job.

Des: We often don’t talk about work at home but the support is there if needed.

Tell me a bit about your kids. Do you hope they go into nursing? Are they interested?

Kate: We have three teenage boys – Charlie Jack and George. They go to St Ignatius College in Drysdale. They love their sport and the beach and hanging with their friends.

I would be happy if they choose nursing as a career, as we have found it very rewarding but not sure we will have any nurses in our crew.

What do you do away from work?

Kate: Love our weekends off, a lot of it is buzzing around between kids’ sport which we enjoy being involved in. So that the rest of the weekend usually involves catching up with friends for a drink and seeing family, try and get in a run or a beach walk with the dog. When we can, we love our camping weekends away. Hopefully we will be enjoying some of our cancelled holidays soon.

Des: A lot of our weekends are going between footy games, cricket games, drop offs and pickups around the place, but we really enjoy being involved in our local sporting clubs.

We are pretty involved with the Collendina Cricket Club over the summer months. I’ve been playing there since 1999 and all the kids have played junior cricket there and hopefully continue to do so. I was also lucky enough to play some senior cricket with Charlie and Jack last season. During the winter months it’s football with all three boys playing for Ocean Grove after spending about 10 years at the Cobras which was great.

What are the biggest challenges facing the healthcare industry?

Des: The increasing demand and pressure on all health services across the board is challenging particularly in fast-growing areas like Geelong and surrounds.

How long have you lived in Ocean Grove?

Kate: It’s hard to believe we have been here for 23 years.

What do you like about Ocean Grove?

Des: We love the community feel of Ocean Grove. We are so lucky as we have great friends and neighbours. Everyone is always looking out for each other.

What advice would you give to any young person interested in studying nursing?

Kate: It’s a great career choice as it offers so many opportunities and pathways, friendships, travel, work flexibility and it’s very rewarding.

University is difficult at the moment as the majority of it is done online but hang it there because we need more nurses.

Des: Nursing offers a wide range of options to pursue. As a graduate I quickly found working on the wards wasn’t for me.

I spent some years as a psychiatric nurse which I enjoyed but eventually anaesthetics and recovery was where I ended up. Even in the same department over 21 years, I’ve had four very different jobs.