TDHS Fiona Hanel Year of the Nurse and Midwife

Maintaining independence, not creating dependence

Caption: TDHS Regional Assessment Service Officer Fiona Hanel (photo taken in February 2020).

Enrolled nurse Fiona Hanel has a complex and delicate role as a Regional Assessment Service Officer, but she defines it in very simply terms.

“It’s not my job to tell people how to live, it’s my job to support them in the way they choose to live. It’s about maintaining their independence, not create their dependence,” she said.

For 15 years at Timboon and District Healthcare Service (TDHS), Ms Hanel has relished the role to work in the community, assessing the healthcare needs of clients.

“I do a holistic assessment in the person’s home, face to face, to discuss their care needs and help them continue to live independently in their home as long as they can,” she said.

“For me, it’s about listening to their story and being non-judgemental because everyone chooses to live the way they live. Most of all it’s about giving the client consumer choice.”

Ms Hanel said the ability for people to make their own choices was important and contributed to their health, wellbeing and longevity in many cases.

“I worked in aged care for many years, but when my role took me into the community and into people’s homes, I very soon realised that we had been giving people very little choice when they moved from their homes and into aged care.

“For example, clients who came off a farm had spent their whole life showering at night but when they went into aged care, we’d make them shower every morning.

“It is a very unsettling thing to give people a new routine and no choice. Things have changed now and aged care works to consumer choice, but that’s the way it was.

“I suppose my approach to assessments comes from this realisation and understanding that we can help people more by supporting their decisions with regard to how they wish to live and what assistance they would like to live that way.”

Ms Hanel said clients were initially assessed for entry level services such as domestic assistance and personal care, respite care, lawn mowing and meals on wheels.

She said she could also refer people for a comprehensive assessment if required, which could lead to clients getting eligibility for a Home Care Package.

“I look after the southern part of Corangamite Shire – from about Bostocks Creek which is between Camperdown and Cobden, all the way to the coast,” she said.

“My training as an enrolled nurse gave me the skills and experience to support community members and help them enjoy living in their homes as long as possible.

“I think the focus on nurses this year, being the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, is really appropriate and coincidentally very timely.

“It has been a hard year for nursing staff and they all deserve any recognition they get – particularly those in aged care who have been so dedicated through the pandemic.”


This story is our ninth monthly instalment to help mark 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.  The whole series can be found here

Nurses make up a significant proportion of our workforce and TDHS would not be able to run without their dedication, skill and compassionate care. We are very excited to be celebrating their valuable contributions throughout the year. We hope you join us in recognising and thanking our nurses.  

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