Aged care residents at the Blayney Multipurpose Service (MPS) experienced some periods of intense isolation during the past two years.
"I don't think people fully realise how the COVID lockdowns have affected the older residents and people in nursing homes," said MPS Registered Nurse Christine Bright.
"It's been really tough. They've obviously missed out on lots of holidays and Christmases and birthdays, and a lot of the time they think it can be their last birthday or their last Christmas."
Compounding that was the difficulties many elderly residents have with using the technology that so many of us relied on to connect with loved ones during lockdown.
That's where Ms Bright and her fellow nurses stepped in to help.
Setting up Skype conferences or virtual conferences became a regular part of their work at the MPS.
"Even just things like: "Here's my mobile phone, let's call your family's mobile and you can have FaceTime," Ms Bright said.
"It's really common now for us to do these things just to try and keep everyone engaged with each other.
"Things like taking photos and sending them through to their families. Just a simple thing like that - it's life changing for some of the these people."
Ms Bright's commitment to keeping patients connected was recognised last week, when she was named by Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) Nurse of the Year.
WNSWLHD Executive Director of Quality, Clinical Safety and Nursing Adrian Fahy said Ms Bright had "played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic, particularly in keeping patients and residents engaged with their families throughout lockdowns," and that she was "an integral part of the part of the community not just at the MPS but in the entire Blayney Shire."
"She shows amazing dedication to ensuring her patients and residents receive first-class care," he said.
In addition to her work with keeping families connected, Ms Bright was praised for her "crucial role in the roll-out of quality improvement projects at Blayney MPS" and her dedication to "personal and professional development."
He said she was highly-respected by her colleagues, but also by the patients and residents at the facility, "who consistently mention her as deserving of recognition for the care she provides."
Ms Bright, who has worked at Blayney MPS for the past eight years, said she was humbled to receive the award, and paid tribute to the other nurses: "I'm just one person in our team," she said.
The 38-year-old also made a special mention of Hospital Service Manager Kathy Hillier, who she said supported her through her training.
Ms Bright, a former wool classer, dairy hand and horticulturalist, also thanked Bathurst GP Dr Anne Gilroy, who inspired her career change in her 30s.
"I was working for Dr Gilroy as a cleaner and she said to me one day: "Gee I think you'd make a good nurse," and that was the start of it.
"I left school in Year 10 and she was the one that encouraged me to go back to school and try and get and education behind me.
"I would never have gone back top school unless someone believed in me."
Ms Bright says she absolutely loves what she does.
"The part I love most is when you go home and you realise you made a difference in someone's life that day.
"That's' when you realise: "I'm in the right job."
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