For Deborah Cheetham Retirement Village Unit Coordinator Ashleigh Kavanagh, the pandemic had a silver lining that continues to benefit her life and the lives of countless others to this very day.
When COVID-19 grounded planes the then travel agent was encouraged to consider other career ambitions.
“As a travel agent I was stood down at the beginning of COVID,” Ashleigh said.
“It was a silver lining [the pandemic], because I'd always thought about nursing, but I loved being a travel agent and I was pretty comfortable with that, so it just kind of forced me to be like, okay, it's time to do nursing.”
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In December 2020, when the first residents moved into Deborah Cheetham, Ashleigh began a role as a village porter.
“It was exciting to be here from the start, I had heard a little bit about Ryman, and it looked like a really fun place to work, I really liked their values as well,” she said.
As a porter Ashleigh was often the first point of contact for residents, helping new community members with everything from setting up their villas to responding to call bells during overnight shifts.
Ashleigh stands in front of the newly completed village centre.
The experience was a new and welcome challenge for Ashleigh, who had never worked in aged care before.
“It's been amazing to have gone on a journey with the residents, especially the ones who have been here from the start,” she said.
“You get really close to them and build great relationships.”
Ashleigh attributes much of her positive experience to the strong team at the village.
“We have the best team, there’s a really good feeling in the building, and even the residents say that to us as well – that the staff here are just amazing,” she said.
The camaraderie within the team has not only made the challenging days more manageable but has also contributed to the overall success of the village.
Reflecting on her journey with Ryman, Ashleigh acknowledges the support she receives from village manager Charisse Spence.
“Charisse has been really supportive with my nursing and where I'm heading in my career journey,” she said.
“I wanted some more experience as an Enrolled Nurse, so when the (village) centre opened in July I started there, working in the serviced apartment area as well as the care centre just to get experience.”
Ashleigh's journey continued with the opportunity to step into the Unit Coordinator role.
“I felt like I was ready,” she said.
A look at Deborah Cheetham from the sky in July 2023.
The transition to a leadership role brought its own set of challenges, but Ashleigh embraced them with determination.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and leadership during my journey with Ryman,” she said.
“I feel comfortable in it now, and I feel like I’m doing a good job leading the team and working with them as well.
“I’m more confident in myself.”
For Ashleigh, seizing opportunities has been a key factor in her success and she urges others entering the industry to do the same.
“Just take opportunities as they come,” she said.
“When an opportunity came up for different roles, I took it, and it's been the best thing that I've done.”
Ashleigh has her sights set on completing a Bachelor of Nursing while continuing her work at Deborah Cheetham Retirement Village, marking the next step in her remarkable journey of growth.