Since joining the pastoral care team at Mater Private Hospital Bundaberg in 2010, Fran Firth has been offering a kind word and an understanding ear to patients when they have needed it most.
But after 11 years of spreading smiles and touching hearts, Fran has decided it’s time to enjoy retirement.
“I will certainly miss the people and their stories,” Ms Firth said.
“There is such a friendly atmosphere at the hospital – so many nurses that I hold in high esteem and lovely patients.”
Ms Firth and her husband wanted to escape the fast pace of Sydney about a decade ago and began looking for a small coastal town on the eastern seaboard where they could immerse themselves in the local community.
After visiting several towns on their way up north, they stopped looking after arriving in Bundaberg.
“We loved that it was by the water, had a warm climate and a lovely country town atmosphere,” she said.
“I know I’m a certified local now because, when I first arrived, people complained about the traffic in Bundaberg which I thought was funny, having come from Sydney. But now I agree.”
Ms Firth said her work at the hospital was based on her own mantra to live life full of gratitude and ‘to be kind to people just for the sake of it’.
“Pastoral care is about being available for patients and their families, particularly those in palliative care,” she said.
“It involves listening, spending time and if the patient wants, prayer.
“We do not counsel or advise.
“Sometimes we do practical things such as making phone calls or doing shopping. There have been occasions when we have paid bills, filled out menus, kept people company.”
Lovingly known around the hospital corridors as ‘Fran-have-a-chat’, Ms Firth says she will miss her work but is now looking forward to travelling, playing cards and catching up with her friends.
“Because of the people that work at Mater Private Hospital Bundaberg, I know the community will continue to receive exceptional care,” she said.
“And while I won’t be there every day, I’ll definitely be popping by to continue having chats with the staff and patients.”
Executive Director of Mater Private Hospital Bundaberg, Catherine Hackney, said Ms Firth had been a shining light for staff and patients alike and would be sorely missed.
“We have all learnt so much from Fran, both professionally and personally,” Ms Hackney said.
“She touches everybody she speaks to and has made a difference to the lives of everyone she has worked with and cared for.
“We are all better people for having known Fran.”