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A legacy of love and service: Rockhampton’s Lesley Schneider retires after nearly three decades in aged care

Lesley at her Farewell Celebration with colleague Denise and her children Liam, Erin and Emma
Lesley (second from the left) at her Farewell Celebration with her children Liam, Erin and Emma, and her colleague Denise.

With a heart full of fond memories and bittersweet emotions, Lesley Schneider, Mercy Community’s Rockhampton Director Aged Care Strategic Projects, has bid farewell to her lifelong calling.

For Lesley, nursing has been more than just a profession, it’s been a privilege to care for the elderly residents and their families, offering them the comfort they need in their golden years.

Lesley’s career in aged care spans an impressive 27 years, during which she looks back with immense gratitude to the Sisters of Mercy for providing opportunities to expand her skills in nursing and management skills, even taking up executive roles. Throughout her career, she has treasured the companionship of dedicated and enthusiastic nursing colleagues and support workers who became her second family.

As Lesley’s last “official” day at work approached, she admitted to the daunting feeling of the impending retirement.

“For a long time, it seemed a way off in the distance and, suddenly, it’s here. I would rather go away quietly, but 27 years is a long time. There’s a lot of people to thank and a lot of water under the bridge,” she said.

Lesley’s association with the Sisters of Mercy goes back much longer than 27 years, dating back to her days as a young student nurse in Rockhampton’s Mater Hospital in 1970.

“My whole working career has been with the Sisters of Mercy in some form. I did my nursing training back in the day when nursing training was exclusively in hospitals. I also worked with the Sisters of Mercy when they ran the St Vincent de Paul nursing service in Rockhampton for 10 years.”

After taking a break from nursing to run a small business, Lesley said she “foolishly” let her nursing registration lapse, but eventually returned to the profession. She started working as a carer from the very first day McAuley opened in 1996, later completing her enrolled nursing training and progressing to managing McAuley Place at a time when she was the only registered nurse manager and was on call 24/7.

“I then moved into management of the three facilities in Rockhampton with Mercy Health and Aged Care in 2010 and managed the three aged care facilities, the independent living units and our allied health and day respite centres.

“The role I held of all those years was as a joint role as executive officer and director of nursing until the harmonisation with Mercy Community in Brisbane from April 2020.

Seeing through Rockhampton’s harmonisation with Mercy Community and the impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic led to Lesley staying at the helm a little longer than she’d planned, but with the first sod turned on the new $42 million Mercy Haven nursing home in July, now is the right time to exit stage left.

“At least we’ve started. It was always the ambition and it’s finally coming to fruition.”

So, what are Lesley’s plans post-retirement?

“I have a great backlog of work to do. I’m certainly going to volunteer as I don’t want to lose my connection with Mercy Community after all these years so I will be around as a volunteer.”

On the home front, Lesley’s retirement will be spent catching up on quality time with her already retired husband, and childminding her grandchildren, as well as indulging in favourite leisure pursuits including travel, fishing, and gardening – “all the things we’ve been promising we’d get back to – now is the time.”

Reflecting on her amazing career, Lesley said the changes she had seen had been incredible.

“It’s a very different world to what it was when I started, but it’s such a rewarding career and I really would recommend aged care to anyone.

“You can only achieve when you have a great team around you, and I’ve worked with some wonderful people over the years who have contributed to the success of Rockhampton and the wider Mercy community. You certainly need that solid team to achieve.”

Last thoughts for readers thinking of following her path?

“I think it’s a real privilege to look after people in their later years. Working in palliative care is very much a great privilege. It’s a very holistic type of nursing to look after families and you get an enormous amount out of it – much more than you give…”

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