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Charisse's community of care

Written by Margot Taylor
on October 13, 2021

A duty of care has always underpinned Charisse Spence’s working life.

Deborah Cheetham Retirement Village’s manager has more than 25 years’ experience in the healthcare sector, from working as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital Geelong, managing regional operations at the Western Victoria Primary Health Network and establishing an Enrolled Nursing Course.

Charisse has also been at the forefront of medical research, leading the Barwon Health Cardiac Research Unit for about 10 years.


“Within the health sector we are seeing an aging population,” she says.

“It is therefore more important than ever that those who wish to remain in their own home have access to the care they need.

“Feeling safe and supported in our community is key to making this happen.”

That is why, she says, her new role building and supporting the village’s team, engaging with residents, and establishing the community at Deborah Cheetham Retirement Village, is “a great opportunity".

“The village manager role is diverse and far reaching,” she says.

“Already I’ve had plenty of opportunities to draw on my clinical experience and embed it in my day to day role.

"It's a great opportunity to create a supportive and caring environment,” she says.

In 2017 Charisse established the Diploma of Nursing (Enrolled Nursing) course at VFA Learning, an experience which informed her expectation of best nursing practice.

“Working closely with aged care providers when establishing the course, provided me with excellent insights into the challenges experienced by the sector,” she says.

“This helped to embed the necessary support and skills within the curriculum to facilitate a smooth transition when students enter the workforce.

“The course is doing very well with students exceeding expectations, which is something I am incredibly proud of.

“I remain on the advisory committee for the course and look forward to further developing these key relationships and connections when our care centre opens.”

The rare mix of skills and experience required to lead a Ryman village are similar to those required of nurses.

“Being a nurse, you learn to become resourceful and think on your feet,” she says.

“Similarly, you never know what you are going to get in the village manager role, it’s interesting, it’s diverse, it has allowed me to draw on my leadership, managerial and clinical skills and embed this in the village operations.”

Since starting in July Charisse has been busy recruiting the best in the business to form the village’s team.

“To build a brand-new team is a very rare opportunity which enables me to have a real impact on the lives of our residents,” she says.

“It’s important to me that we build a culture that epitomises Ryman’s values, and those of our namesake, Deborah Cheetham.”

Having lived in Geelong since she moved from Colac to attend Deakin University after finishing school, Charisse’s new role is giving her a fresh perspective on the community she loves.

“Working with Ryman and getting to grow within our Ryman community and broader Ocean Grove community is a great motivator to come to work each day,” she says.

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