02 April 2024

Melissa Gajardo’s passion for nursing led her to a career in primary care. The Campbelltown Medical Centre practice nurse is eager to contribute to improving our community’s health by empowering her patients “to make informed decisions about their health and equip them with the knowledge and resources necessary to lead healthier, happier lives”.

How long have you been a practice nurse and how long have you been working in South Western Sydney?

I am new to general practice nursing, having started just four months ago. Last year I did a three-month contract as a nurse in a correctional facility, which was my first taste of primary care. I have been a registered nurse for 12 years, mostly working in acute care in a tertiary hospital. Other than my nursing contracts out of Sydney I have always serviced the good people of South Western Sydney.

When/why did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and specifically in primary care?

I discovered my passion for service care delivery early on. After high school I pursued a Bachelor of Psychology, but quickly realised it wasn’t the right fit. It was my mother, an AIN (Assistant in Nursing) herself, who urged me to consider nursing as a career. Taking her advice, I made the transition, and it’s been a decision I’m truly grateful for.

I specialised in cardiology working in the Coronary Care Unit and the Cardiac Interventional Unit and while I loved my experiences in acute care, my passion for preventative healthcare has grown steadily over the years.

I am eager to make my contribution to addressing risk factors early and do my part in preventing hospital admissions and alleviating an already burdened health system.

Primary healthcare nursing is so multifaceted with so many intriguing opportunities.

From servicing our First Nations people in a remote area of Australia to occupational health, refugee health and early childhood services, the field is rich with possibilities.

Even within my specialty of cardiology, roles in cardiac rehabilitation and managing conditions like rheumatic heart disease in children present compelling avenues for impact.

I am currently enrolled in the immunisation accreditation program and would also like to undertake study to become a Credentialed Diabetic Nurse Educator.

I look forward to using my newly acquired skills in primary care to work in a remote care setting in the future.

Tell us about the role of nurses in primary care

The role of primary healthcare nurses is dynamic and centred around delivering personalised care with a strong emphasis on preventive measures and disease management.

On a typical day as a general practice nurse I work closely with GPs to perform a range of tasks, including wound dressings, medication education and administration, including Immunisations.

I also perform health assessments and have recently begun doing chronic disease management plans.

In my general practice the nurses assist the GPs with cervical screenings, IUD insertions, skin lesion removal and biopsies, as well as conducting diagnostic tests such as ECGs, ABIs and spirometry.

We also are involved with meticulous documentation and record keeping and actively participate in quality and safety by performing cold chain management, ordering appropriate stock and sterilising equipment.

What do you love about nursing/what do you find most fulfilling about your role?

The essence of nursing lies in the connections forged with our patients and community.

In acute care, I’ve been privileged to share pivotal moments in patients’ lives – sometimes it’s the worst day of their lives.

Witnessing their resilience in adversity has been the most rewarding aspect of my role. It’s humbling to see their strength, and it’s instilled in me a profound appreciation for the fragility of health, the preciousness of life and the inevitability of death.

Beyond the patient interactions, the camaraderie among colleagues has been equally fulfilling.

Nursing isn’t just a profession, it’s a community built on shared experiences, respect and trust.

The friendships and networks I’ve cultivated over the years have enriched my journey and I have made friends for life.

Tell me about your ideal work day…

My ideal workday involves walking into the general practice to find everything running smoothly: all routine checks completed, stocked up on supplies and technology functioning well.

I see my patients on time, ensuring I have enough time to give them the attention they need without feeling rushed.

If an unwell patient needs urgent care, I’m ready to triage and provide appropriate management.

Taking a break at a reasonable time. Having positive interactions with patients and colleagues to make the day enjoyable and productive.

Finally, leaving work on time.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time I love spending time with my dog Eleven, she is a spirited Kelpie x Golden Retriever mix.

Despite her occasional quirks, I find joy in our daily walks together.

Quality time with my partner and family is equally enjoyable, whether we’re cozying up for a movie night or engaging in a not so friendly game of Catan.

Travelling is another passion of mine, and I’ve been fortunate to explore various countries.

However, there’s still so much of Australia left for me to discover.

My partner and I recently explored Tasmania over a 14-day trip and it left a lasting impression on us.

More than 40 per cent of Tasmania is protected as national parks and reserves, which offered a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in an unspoilt wilderness.

We enjoyed encounters with native wildlife, from wombats to penguins and even a platypus!

We also learnt about Tasmania’s rich convict history and thoroughly enjoyed the Port Arthur Historic Site.

Do you have any role models and why?

My role model is undoubtedly my mother, Marcelina.

Arriving in Australia in the 1980s with little more than determination, she and my father built a fulfilling life for our family from the ground up.

Her unwavering dedication shines through in every aspect of her life.

As an Assistant in Nursing, she has tirelessly cared for the elderly for over three decades, embodying compassion and professionalism.

Beyond her job, she’s been an exceptional mother, confidant and friend, always offering unwavering support and love.

Her ability to give wholeheartedly to others, coupled with her strong work ethic, serves as an enduring inspiration to me.

How do you help educate your patients about maintaining good health?

I firmly believe in the power of preventative healthcare and the adage prevention is better than cure.

My approach to educating patients about good health begins with fostering open, uninterrupted conversations where patients feel empowered to take charge of their own well-being.

I actively listen to their concerns and symptoms, encouraging them to explore resources and strategies available to them in their daily lives to address these issues.

Many patients often express regret about not prioritising their health earlier, and I strive to reassure them that they are not alone in facing challenges imposed by modern society.

By acknowledging these factors, we can work together to identify areas where they can take action and regain control over their health.

Supportive counselling is really important in these interactions as building a trusting relationship helps to foster open communication and collaboration in achieving health goals.

I emphasise the importance of simple lifestyle changes because even small adjustments can yield significant improvements in their symptoms or overall well-being.

Whether it’s making dietary modifications, incorporating regular exercise, or implementing stress-reduction techniques, I provide guidance and support tailored to each individual’s needs.

Ultimately, my goal is to empower patients to make informed decisions about their health and equip them with the knowledge and resources necessary to lead healthier, happier lives.