A Masonic Homes nurses has done her organisation proud having picked up the coveted Excellence Award in aged care at this year’s Northern Territory Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards ceremony.

The Darwin-based care coordinator, Mele Ulakai, was rewarded for her dedication to aged care following an award nomination by a resident’s daughter at Tiwi Gardens Lodge.

The most satisfying part of caring for the dementia sufferer, Ms Ulakai said, was that she managed to make him smile.

“He required a lot of TLC,” she said. “I provided that for him along with the clinical care. It actually worked out really well for both the resident and his daughter.”

Prior to Ms Ulakai’s current position, she was the lodge’s care manager. Feeling a desperate need to take a more hands-on approach to care, Ms Ulakai soon returned to her old coordinator role.

“Aged care nursing is hard yakka, but there is no other job on Earth I would rather be doing…I like doing the hands on work and looking after the residents. Aged care is where my passion is. I enjoy making a resident’s life comfortable and talking to their relatives on a daily basis.”

Ms Ulakai has more than eight years worth of aged care experience and currently oversees the wellbeing of 41 residents at the 135-bed lodge, including a mix of dementia, high care and palliative care beds.

Tiwi Gardens Lodge manager, Jan Marlborough, said the Territory Government had picked a worthy winner for its award.

“Mele is very caring and very resident focused, and she will always go that extra mile for the residents and their families,” Ms Marlborough said.

“In fact, as far as we are aware, this is the first time that a nurse has been nominated for this award by a relative of a resident, rather than by a resident or by their employer. If one of her residents ever needs something, she’s always right there for them.

“This is one of the most important things about being an aged care nurse: you have to have a balance between being a manager and being an advocate for the residents. Mele has the balance between the management role and the care role exactly right.”

A second Tiwi Gardens care coordinator, Catriona Mitchell, was also nominated for the same award.

Northern Territory regional manager, Malcolm Johnstone, said: “The acknowledgment of our staff and their expertise in these awards provides great support for those who have chosen a rewarding career in aged care.”

The awards, held annually, recognise the skills and contributions of the 2,000 plus nurses and midwifes employed throughout the Territory in areas ranging from maternity to aged and disability care, hospitals and community health. 

Winning Masonic Homes nurse, Mele Ulakai

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