Veronica Croome, ACT’s Chief Nurse, retires after 43 years. She talks about her life and career
Introduction: ACT Chief Nurse Retires
Ross Greenwood: Welcome back to Work. Life. Money. As you know here on the program, we like to speak to people not only about celebrating careers, but also then the way in which they move themselves forward into that transition into their retirement years. I’ll tell you what, we have got an absolute beauty because can I tell you that over the period of time that Veronica Croome has been a nurse, she has delivered babies. She has been a nurse for such a long time.
At one stage stage, she even left, tried to get out and ran a deli in Sydney for a period. Well, in the end, she went back to nursing to the ACT to Canberra and became the chief nurse. After 43 years, that career is brilliant, if you think about that. Veronica Croome has decided to stop. She’s a young women. I can’t understand this. Let’s get her on the line and explain all this. Veronica, congratulations on the career, but why are you stopping?
Interview: Veronica Croome, ACT Chief Nurse
Veronica Croome: Ross, I think you reach a certain stage in your life where as you’ve just described nursing is a very demanding profession. I think at the age that I’ve reached, it’s probably time for someone else to step into my shoes and take nursing forward in the direction that it needs to go. I think about how long I might leave in retirement and the fact that there’s so much more I want to do in my personal life, that it is time to put work on the back burner and think about enjoying my life in retirement.
Ross Greenwood: I’ve got to think, Veronica, that that’s a pretty rounded way to think about a career because there are other things that you’ve got to do. You did try and do that. I explained the deli back in the 1980s. What happened there? What were you thinking at that time?
Veronica Croome: Well, at that time, Ross, I’d been in nursing for quite some time. A friend and I decided that we wouldn’t mind having a break from nursing. The good thing about being nurses is that the general public believes that you’re honest and trustworthy individuals, that you have the best interests of people at heart, all the regulations around food and science that we thought, “Why not go into the delicatessen business?”
I’ll tell you what, I gave from my father a certain amount of money to go and sit in the Eastwood Hotel which was opposite the delicatessen. He did a little bit of a poll about the number of people who walk past, just so that we could gauge the extent to which the delicatessen had potential. He kept telling me he needed more and more money and more and more time to sit in the Eastwood pub to watch the deli, and I woke up to him after a while.
Ross Greenwood: [laughs]
Veronica Croome: It is something good to do. It’s a people-related industry in the same way that helps the people-related industry. We gave it a go, and we lasted four years. I would never a change a thing about it, but what it did tell me, after four years, was that I missed nursing. I was chomping at the bit really after four years to go back to the profession that I chose back in the early ’70s.
Ross Greenwood: To anybody who has been in ill health and required a hospital, the nursing staff are always those that make the difference. The fact is that the care that the nurses give but also the skills these days that they require are in many cases, I think, underrated by many of the families and also those people who are ill at the time. In regards to being a good nurse, what do you think the qualities are?
Veronica Croome: That’s a good question Ross because I think, certainly since I’ve started my training back in the early ’70s, the requirements to be a good nurse have changed to some extent. When I trained, it was very much about the art of caring, and there was not a reliance, as there is now, on evidence to reflect on what it is that you do. Very much now, nursing is about that balance between the art of caring and the science of health and technology. I think nowadays nurses have to be very savvy in relation to the technology that drives the health system, as well as, of course, having those really caring qualities that put the patients at the heart of everything that we do.
Ross Greenwood: Do you have any real preference, in terms of your experience, as to whether say, for example, contract nurses, those who work through the agencies and so forth, as compared with those who are full time? Obviously, different people have different requirements in terms of their own working relationship. But do you have any preference as to which is the better model for nursing long-term?
Veronica Croome: There’s a real place for agency nurses, but it’s generally around plugging holes in the system when we find it difficult on a shift-to-shift basis to find enough nurses to provide the care. But without a doubt, being part of a team, being employed and being able to forge those relationships within a team are the most important aspects of nursing. I think being permanently employed there, be it part-time or full time, working as part of a team for an organization is what I would consider a much more fulfilling way of providing care. [crosstalk]
Ross Greenwood: I was going to ask you about young people coming into the profession today. Clearly, the skills they’re required to have to even become a nurse these days is rising the whole time because of the very technical nature of it. Is it a situation where nurses in many ways also are really the answer long-term to many of the costs that people understand are building up inside our healthcare systems?
Veronica Croome: Yes. I think there are more and more jobs available for nurses now that show that nurses can lead healthcare; that we have nurses at the highest end of the clinical scale working as nurse practitioners alongside their medical colleagues leading care and being a really important part of that multi-disciplinary care team. We’ve got walk-in centers. We’ve got out-patient clinics. We’ve got highly skilled nurses working in community settings where they are actually driving the healthcare system. I think that’s really important.
If you look purely at a cost perspective, that model of care is very cost effective in relation to the rising cost associated with the provision of healthcare throughout Australia. I think more and more, if we can put nurses in those nurse-led care teams, then I think that’s a really good thing.
Ross Greenwood: To a young person who might be leaving school, leaving university or contemplating their tertiary education thinking maybe nursing, maybe not. What would you say to them? What would they get out of that career?
Veronica Croome: Certainly from my perspective, after 43 years, I don’t regret one single thing in my nursing career. It’s taken me to all sorts of places around the world. It’s given me an opportunity to associate with all sorts of people. I’ve looked after people from all over the world. I’ve looked after diplomats and famous people and not so famous people. It’s just a fantastic career where you really have the opportunity to mix with the best and experience all of those cultures that are so prevalent in our society. Having nursing as a skill, as a profession to be able to travel overseas and practice in all parts of the world is just a phenomenal experience. It’s a real privilege, I think, to be a nurse.
Ross Greenwood: With that passion, I’ve got to say Veronica, why on earth are you retiring? I know you got other things to do, but you’ve got the passion still. There is no doubt. I’ve got to tell you, I really appreciate your time here. It really is a profession that many people perhaps underestimate and I think perhaps until they’re really in a position of being ill. But the ACT chief nurse after 43 years, she’s still a very young woman, I’ve got to tell you people. She’s way too young to be retiring, I think. Veronica Croome, we appreciate your time on the program today.
Veronica Croome: Thanks so much, Ross.