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Career Spotlight - Respite Services Coordinator

By Michael Crump | 07 August 2017

Perrin Whimpress, current CHC Faculty Head

Former job role in Community Services as a Respite Services Coordinator


A Respite Services Coordinator provides coordination of respite care services for clients with various disabilities within an aged care environment. Perrin Whimpress (current Community and Health Services Faculty Head at Upskilled) tells us about his former role working in Community Services in the area of Respite Care.

#1: Tell us a bit about your work history in respite services and community services.

Respite Coordination involves liaison between the service (for example an aged care facility) and the client, their primary care giver and often their family. My role was in rural South Australia, in a town with a population of about 24,000 and regionally about 40,000 people. Typically, the older person had significant health issues related to ageing and required the full-time care of their support person (usually their spouse or child) at home.

Respite provided 24/7 care of their loved one in a residential aged care service, enabling the carer to have a break from the daily care they provided.

I was also the team leader (Clinical Nurse Coordinator) for a community mental health service in the same rural area. This service provided intermediate care. This was a “recovery model” that enabled people to receive intensive home and community support. This was provided on immediate discharge from hospital (either metropolitan or local) or monitoring of clients that lived in the community and where experience episodes of instability of their illness. This also involved mental health triage; an emergency service; as well as an assessment of risk.

These services enabled people to seek advice, to access mental health services and provided urgent care when required.

#2: What does a typical respite services worker do on a day-to-day basis?

Much of the task is administrative - document, document, document! The remainder of the time is spent coordinating access to services, planning admission and discharge, talking with the client and caregivers, and providing assessment and referral to other services.

#3: What are the best parts of this profession?

The ability to make a real difference in people’s lives. It’s as simple (and as complicated) as that! You must go in with the knowledge that what you do can either help or harm your clients. So making the correct choice, with care, is essential.

#4: Why is respite services a great industry to get into?

If you are passionate about people, about making a difference, doing something that really matters - then working in respite care and community services is a great choice.

#5: What skills and attributes do potential respite services workers need to have?

You need to have the knowledge and an understanding of what that means. What you do - or don’t do - has real time outcomes. Understanding of accountability, the law and ethics are paramount.

I recently asked this question of my students: “What are the attributes of a good counsellor?” These are some of their responses, all of which are true;

• empathetic
• non-judgemental
• be a good Listener
• having sound ethics
• being a problem solver
• patient
• genuinely caring about people
• being able to listen completely (which isn't that easy to do)

I think to be absolutely present in all conversations with clients (and being truly authentic and non-judgemental) is highly important.

My favourite theorist and psycho-analyst is Irvin Yalom. One of his well-known mantras is, "It’s the relationship that heals". This is an expression of the need to keep counselling in the here and now - the present - and to check in with the client that you are understanding them, and they are understanding you!

“What heals,” says Yalom, “is ultimately the relationship.” In his work, he seeks an empathic, caring, deep connection with his patients. Therefore, therapists need to form an authentic, genuine relationship with the patient.

A therapist should set an ideal model for their patient; the intimacy and connection are what gets into the patient’s mind. The patient uses that as a reference point for how they relate to other intimate relationships in their life. Although people who work in respite services are not therapists, the connection aspect still applies.

#6: What are your favourite things about working in Community Services and specifically respite services?

As before, the ability to make a real difference in people’s lives is one of my favourite things. It’s as simple at that (and as complicated!) with the knowledge that what you do can help (or harm).

#7: Take us through your career path.

I started off more than 30 years ago as a volunteer in a hospital.  I then worked in nursing assistance before undertaking registered nurse training at a major hospital.

Following this, I undertook many post graduate qualifications, predominantly in mental health. I have worked in every field (apart from paediatrics and midwifery) including six years as a nursing officer in the RAANC. I taught throughout that time, but went into teaching full-time 17 years ago (whilst keeping clinical skills current in various positions).

#8: What does your current role at Upskilled involve?

I am currently the Head of Faculty for Community Services qualifications. This utilises my entire career and experience to draw upon to develop and ensure quality outcomes for student and the industry.

Thanks Perrin, for sharing your career experience with us. 

Ready to start your career in Community Services? 

If you’ve been thinking about working in Community Services and know that you can personally make a difference to people’s lives, head to this page to receive a course guide and a consultation with an Enrolment Consultant.

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