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While most people in their fifties are busy planning their retirement, for Janet Schipke it was the perfect time to reinvent her career. After 12 years working as an environmental scientist, she decided to make the change to a career in aged care.

While Janet found her work in ecological conservation very rewarding, the industry didn't provide the stable, long-term employment she was looking for. So she started to look for a career that had strong job outcomes, where she could continue to make an impact in a different way. 

"I figured with the aged care sector being such a growth area, and with Australia's aging population, that it was an area that I could make a difference in — provide some advocacy for them and really make a difference to their wellbeing and how they were living their lives," Janet said. 

Once Janet had made the decision to switch careers she moved with lightening speed. 

"It happened very quickly actually. TAFE Queensland was absolutely excellent with getting me started. Within three or four days I'd found the course with the help of TAFE Queensland's guidance officers. I was enrolled and I think I started within a week," she said. 

When deciding where to study, Janet knew that she needed quality training that would give her real job outcomes. 

"I'd heard from people within the industry that TAFE Queensland puts out better students — the courses are longer and the training is more comprehensive and skill-based."

"I went with TAFE Queensland for that reason and I must say, now that I'm working in aged care, I can actually see that that's true. Their graduates are more well-rounded, they're more confident, they've got more relevant skills, and they just hit the ground running," Janet said. 

While others may have been apprehensive about returning to study later in life, Janet took it all in her stride.

"I loved going back to study — TAFE Queensland made it so easy. It really was a really valuable learning experience which I absolutely loved," she said.

"Our TAFE teacher was really incredible, she has 20 years industry experience as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN). She was there for us basically 24/7 — we could always ring her up or go in to see her. She was just so contactable and approachable and that made a really big difference."

 

And despite being the oldest person in her class, Janet loved the diversity of her student cohort. Studying with like-minded people meant she created strong bonds with her fellow students. 

"We formed a really tight little team actually, we got to know each other really well. Since we all had that same purpose, the team cohesion and the way we supported each other was really good," said Janet.

In addition to developing strong friendships during her studies, Janet also developed a range of real-world skills. 

"The practical skills that we learned were very much around person-centered care for the elderly. How to hoist the elderly from beds to chairs, the correct ways of feeding people, of grooming, hair care, finger nail care, and denture care." 

And when it came to putting her newly developed skills into practice, Janet was just as impressed with the training facilities on offer at TAFE Queensland. 

 

"We were able to develop our skills in a simulated nursing ward. We had everything that would make it look like a nursing age care facility. There was beds, there was patients, there was hoists and all kinds of equipment. Practical learning is just vital when going into such a hands-on industry," she said. 

Towards the end of her studies, Janet got the chance to put her training to the test, completing 120 hours of industry placement.

"That experience was really critical because we were able to go into a nursing home facility and actually team up with other professionals and get some practical, hands-on experience. For me, it was even better because I then got employment in the place that I did my placement in," she said. 

Now, Janet's working as a fully-qualified Assistant in Nursing with Japara aged care in Gympie, helping to provide quality care with compassion and empathy.

"We are the coalface of the nursing home facilities. We provide that daily hands-on care to the elderly —from the time they wake up till the time they go to bed, and even after that," she said. 

And while her new career certainly has its challenges, Janet also finds it incredibly rewarding.  

"The thing that I love most about working in the aged care industry is being able to make a difference. You go to work every day and you know the work you do in that shift is going to make a difference to the lives, the well-being and the happiness of the aged care residents," she said. 

For anyone who's thinking about making a career change later in life, it's no surprise that Janet's advice is to go for it. 

"To anybody that's thinking of taking that step and switching careers in their forties, fifties or whenever, I'd really encourage them to do it.

"Contact TAFE Queensland because their training, the knowledge and the skills and the support that you get is amazing and I just know that they would love it."

 

Find out how you can kick start your career in aged care. 

MORE ABOUT AGED CARE

 
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