Madeleine Thompson dreamed of becoming a nurse when she was still in primary school. Now she’s living the dream, having recently secured a permanent role as an Assistant in Nursing at St Joseph’s Nursing Home in the northern NSW town of Lismore.
“I’m really enjoying it,” Madeleine says. “I’m on nights three or four shifts a week which has taken a bit of adjustment, eight hours each shift and finishing at 7.30am.”
To get to where she is now hasn’t been an easy road for Madeleine, now 20. She was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism/Aspergers while in primary school, and struggled with understanding social cues and maintaining friendships throughout her school years.
“I had to move schools due to bullying,” Madeleine says. “My diagnosis is a lot less common in females than males and it just marked me out as different to anyone else in my peer group.
“My autism is very mild but the ADHD did affect my ability to focus on schoolwork, plus the classroom environment could be a bit difficult due to my heightened sensitivity to noises and other distractions – things like tapping pens, clicking heels or certain smells.”
Madeleine joined the National Disability Insurance Scheme when it rolled out across the Northern Rivers region in 2017 and has been supported by NDIS Local Area Coordinator partner in the community Social Futures since then.
“I spent most of my high school years at a school where they gave me a lot of educational support, but the therapeutic supports I receive through my NDIS plan have been really good for my social skills,” she says.
“Since leaving school at the end of 2018 I’ve put a plan manager in place and now make my own decisions about the supports I receive, with support from my Local Area Coordinator, Trudy, as required.”
After finishing school, she enrolled in a six-month TAFE course to gain her Health Services Assistant in Aged and Acute Care Certificate while working part-time. Her course included a week’s work placement at St Vincent’s Hospital in Lismore and another week at St Joseph’s, before graduating in December 2019.
“The aged care manager at St Joseph’s asked me at the end of my work placement whether I would consider applying for a job there,” she says. “At the time I was more interested in pursuing the clinical side, but I decided to apply anyway.
“I missed the application deadline but they said they’d look at all the resumés again in January this year. In mid-February I got a call to attend an interview, which I passed, provided my references, attended the induction day – and now here I am!
“All the residents in my wing have dementia and they’re mostly asleep during the night. There’s 45 residents in total with me and another person on hand if they need any assistance with personal care, settling them or helping them with anything.”
Madeleine says social relationships remain her biggest struggle.
“I’ve got a social worker, a psychologist and a psychiatrist funded under my plan and the psychologist in particular has been really good at helping me with strategies to get through the social stuff,” she says. “If I need a bit of extra help, she’s there for me.
“Having said that I’ve had no issues at all in my workplace, they’re all really supportive and lovely people and I one hundred per cent enjoy working there. They’re all very caring.”
Outside work, Madeleine has now found her own place to live and enjoys listening to music and riding her horse – “those two things are really good for self-therapy”.
“I adopted a horse about a year ago, he’s called Clancy,” she says, adding that one day she wants to own more horses on her own farm, “but you have to be rich for that!”
In the meantime, she’s focused on her nursing career.
“I’ve loved the journey so far and it will set me up for what I want to do later on,” she says. “I’m aiming to work in my current role for a year, then study registered nursing at Southern Cross Uni in Lismore while continuing to work part time.
“I’ve always loved little kids, but never wanted to be a primary school teacher or a child care worker – midwifery was always the big aim, so I could work with babies.”
“Working in remote areas would be pretty cool too.”
Source: Social Futures