Practice Nurse Profile - Mandy Pilottos
31st May 2021
Mandy Pilottos from Camden Central Family Practice has been caring for the Camden community for 16 years as a practice nurse. Mandy is a “lifelong learner” who shares her knowledge with patients with the aim of improving their health outcomes.
How long have you been a practice nurse and how long have you been working in the Camden LGA?
I began my new career as a practice nurse in June 2005 at Camden Central Family Practice, so in total I am coming up to 16 years in the Camden Local Government Area.
When/why did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and specifically in primary care?
My decision to become a nurse was primarily influenced by my grandmother, mother and sister being Registered Nurses. My father was a radiographer, so our mealtime conversations were sometimes frank and uninhibited. When I left school the options seemed limited – nursing or teaching were the only things that interested me.
My paternal grandmother died when I was 16 years of age of a brain tumour. I didn’t cope with her death well. At my preliminary interview at Liverpool Hospital (I was the second last group to go through the hospital system) my answer to why I wanted to be a nurse was: “I wanted to know how to cope with death’’.
I was involved in community nursing a few years prior to becoming a practice nurse.
I worked for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) looking after clients in their home for an agency, and when the agency dissolved I became a sole provider for DVA to complete my commitment to the veterans I cared for until they no longer required care in the community. I entered primary care mainly because a former nursing colleague asked me to come work for her agency –the work hours suited my family commitments and allowed me to have some work/life balance. In 2004 I did a Registered Nurse refresher course because I was feeling a bit discouraged working in a nursing home after working in the community and needed some confidence to try elsewhere. The hospital system at the time was disappointing and I knew I didn’t wish to return there. My husband encouraged me to try practice nursing because the part-time hours at the time suited our family.
Tell us about the role of nurses in primary care …
The role of practice nurses is varied and interesting. I have never learnt as much as what I have in practice nursing – health is forever changing and you have to constantly keep up with the changes.
I see the role as providing a safe environment for our staff and patients, administering First Aid when necessary and keeping patients out of hospital and in their homes. My day-to-day role involves mainly cold chain management of vaccines, cleaning, sterilising instruments, assisting with procedures, wound management, administrative stuff like recalls, maintaining the treatment room, ordering of stock, liaising with GPs, health assessments, medicals, ECGs, audiograms, spirometry in pre-COVID times and care planning. I do lots of care planning and chronic disease management and health promotion and screening. As a practice nurse we work as a team with the GPs, hopefully lowering their workload marginally, and assisting in the efficient running of the practice and improving clinical outcomes for a patient. I see us as a valuable resource in keeping the economic burden out of the hospitals and maintaining a healthy community.
What do you love about nursing/what do you find most fulfilling about your role?
I love the relationships I have formed over the years with the patients and their families. I love knowing that a long-term patient is not well as soon as they walk in the door – the “knowing” you have after many years of a relationship. I love seeing a wound reach complete healing and being able to assess what improvements have happened or need to happen with their wound care. I love educating patients in making better health choices and giving them options.
What is your biggest challenge as a PN and how do you overcome this?
Time management is my biggest challenge. Keeping things running smoothly so the patients are keeping to their appointment times, especially when you are catering to maximum of four GPs to one nurse most of the time. It’s the domino effect – one person running behind impacts another. It’s the walk-ins on the day that come in for a “BP check” but they actually have chest pain and have to be sorted, or the appointment bookings have not been appropriately allocated, a lot of times because the patient hasn’t disclosed they need more time.
Tell me about your ideal workday ...
My ideal workday – that statement makes me laugh – everything runs smoothly and to plan, has a variety of tasks and I leave work on time.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My spare time is very much about relationships. Spending time with family and friends I love. My passion is pastoral care, in particular supporting women. I am involved in my local Anglican church and am involved in leadership with running a Thursday women’s church. I also run a separation and divorce ministry which I have been involved in since 2001. I support single mums in particular.
Do you have any role models and why?
My role models are women that have endured hardship and adversity and grown, but I am guessing you mean role models in nursing.
For practice nursing, my role model would have had to be RN Sue Donohoe. When I started practice nursing I knew nothing about practice nursing at all. I just seemed to do First Aid, immunisation and general management of treatment room and recalls. The Macarthur Division of General Practice had Sue in charge of practice nurse education. We had lots of regular in-service for nurses. I learnt so much about what I should be doing from Sue and the other nurses who attended the in-services. I am very thankful for the opportunities that were provided for scholarships to become an authorised immuniser – fully funded – and to be involved in other pilot programs for health under the direction of our local universities. Another role model was a fellow nurse who I have worked with for 15 years, RN Sonya Mackay, who was very good in the administrative side of practice nursing as well as being a loving and caring nurse.
How do you help educate your patients about maintaining good health?
I help patients be educated about maintaining good health firstly by educating myself. Ensuring I am “a lifelong learner’’. I try to take every opportunity available to provide some health coaching/health promotion. I have found that this is possible by using their care plan as a talking point for discussing aspects of their health using the SNAP assessment and encouraging them to follow up with their CST, breast and bowel screening.
I also encourage patients to utilise their 10997 RN support item numbers to discuss their health further or help them be accountable for their health goals.
Opportunistic times when the patient is seeing you and waiting for the GP are also great times to discuss some lifestyle issues or health goals.