21st April 2022 Caroline Gourley Director of Nursing, Community Nursing Units, CHO DNCC
With a family steeped in nursing and a passion for caring for older people, Caroline Gourley, Director of Nursing for Community Nursing Units across Community Healthcare Organisation Dublin North City and County has witnessed huge changes over the course of three-decade long career.
In her current role, Caroline oversees the strategic operation of community nursing units in Lusk, Navan Road as well as Seanchara Community Unit and Claremont Residential Services in Glasnevin. Six day services and respite services at Seanchara, St Clare’s in Glasnevin, the Cuan Ros Unit on the Navan Road, Lusk Day Centre, La Verna Day Centre in Baldoyle and Fairview also fall under her remit.
Commenting on her role, Caroline says: “I lead an excellent, highly motivated team, headed by an assistant Director of Nursing and a management structure that look after the everyday running of the services.”
With a family background in psychiatric nursing, it was no surprise that Caroline opted for the profession, heading to England to gain her qualifications. Returning to Ireland in the late eighties when jobs were scarce, Caroline secured a job at Brú Chaoimhín on Cork Street in Dublin’s south inner city which at the time was an older persons residential service. From there she moved to Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot where she spent more than a decade, moving into the area of older persons in 1995.
In 2002, Caroline moved to Belvilla Community Unit for Older Persons on the South Circular Road as a CNM2 where she worked for 14 years. From there it was onto to St Clare’s Nursing home in Glasnevin in 2015 as an Assistant Director of Nursing, before taking on the role of interim director of nursing in 2019 before being formally appointed to the role last year.
With such a career, Caroline has witnessed huge developments in the health service. One of the significant changes, and one which she describes as a very welcome trend, has been recruitment of international staff. “The input of international staff has been an absolute asset to us – it’s been fantastic,” she adds.
Another major change has been the establishment of HIQA which introduced huge governance changes and standards for the care of older people, which Caroline says are nothing less than they deserve.
Reflecting on the impact COVID-19 has had over the past two years, Caroline says that while it has been an extremely challenging period for staff, above all it was hardest on the residents. “The pandemic has been hugely tough on the residents who were often scared and isolated. It is great that we seem to be coming out of it now. I am very proud of my team who worked through this unprecedented times, often going beyond what anyone expected.
“A quote that I often reflect on, which I heard at a lecture, is that 'the greatness of community is best measured by the compassion of its members’. And I think these words say an awful lot about the staff who although being tired and weary, they were always compassionate.”
Away from the working life, Caroline loves to walk her dog ‘Koda’ in a local park in Clondalkin where she lives. And a few days down in Limerick where her family connections are still strong helps Caroline unwind and to get away from the pressures and challenges of work.
Although Caroline may have never seen herself carving out a leadership role, with a firm background as a frontline worker, she is using all her experience built up over the course of her career to ensure quality care for older persons.