Main Content

Meet your Branch Councillors: Ruth Bloom

Meet your Branch Councillors: Ruth Bloom

ANMF (Vic Branch) Councillors Ruth Bloom and Roxane Ingleton. Image: supplied

Being a nurse is the core of Ruth Bloom’s identity: her mother was a nurse; most around her when she was growing up were nurses; she met her paramedic husband at work. ‘I love being a nurse,’ she says. ‘It defines who I am. I can’t shake it. And I think once you’re a nurse you’re always a nurse.’

An enrolled nurse at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Ruth has officially been nursing for a couple of decades now. But while still at school she was accompanying her mother to work in aged care, helping out in the kitchen and learning about the environment and requirements.

Straight after year 12, Ruth began working at the Janefield Training Centre in Bundoora. She also commenced her Advanced Certificate in Community and Residential Services at Northern College of TAFE.

Janefield, which closed in 1996, provided ‘old-fashioned institutional care’ for people with special needs, Ruth says. Barely more than a child at the time, Ruth learnt about challenging behaviours and complex needs of those with multiple intellectual and physical and disabilities. It was here, however, that her understanding of the complex health system began to declare itself, and her eyes opened to the need for change and improvement in the lives of others.

‘They were trying times,’ she says. ‘Not only for staff, but for the people we provided care for.’

Being an enrolled nurse

After consolidating her skills at TAFE, Ruth applied for and got into RMIT where she started her undergraduate nursing degree. ‘But I didn’t finish,’ she says. ‘I wanted to, but I was young and silly and life got in the way.’

Despite her youthful decision-making, Ruth has not let regret get in her way: she has continued to move forward and invest in her education and professional development – she has her medication endorsement together with a master’s degree in health services management, and she is doing further research. She is also incredibly passionate about standing up for and promoting the benefits of the enrolled nursing workforce.

‘I’ve often said: let me be the driver of positive change for our workforce. Let’s use me as an example of what an enrolled nurse can do, having gone and done further study and remaining passionate and committed to their career and the clinical space.’

Enrolled nurses are ‘intelligent, resourceful clinicians’, she adds. ‘I say to our junior staff: don’t ever underestimate the value of your enrolled nurse; we often catch the little things or see things that others might miss. I am probably a little bit forceful about how I try and get that message across sometimes,’ she adds with a laugh.

For Ruth, this passion to provide the best possible working relationships between ‘nursing colleagues is the driver for the conversation’.

Enrolled nursing advocacy on Council

With fellow councillor Mel Carron, Ruth is proud to represent enrolled nurses, and Melbourne Health, on ANMF (Vic Branch) Council.

Ruth Bloom, centre, with fellow Branch Councillors Catherine Williams, left, and Mel Carron, right.

Ruth Bloom, centre, with fellow Branch Councillors Catherine Williams, left, and Mel Carron, right.

‘I find it to be an absolute honour and a privilege to be a part of Council,’ she says. ‘It’s important to have a diverse group on council, and my key goal is to continue to be a positive advocate for enrolled nurses. I think it’s important to have a good cross section of clinicians who work in different areas be on Council, as it provides a broad lens of what’s actually going on out in the health network, across all sectors’.

Ruth has been an ANMF (Vic Branch) Job Rep for a couple of decades and a Branch Councillor since 2017. She appreciates the opportunity to have an even greater role within the union (and is mindful of the responsibilities each distinct position holds) but worries that members ‘often aren’t aware of what Council does, or how it works’. By way of explanation, she says it involves quite a lot of reading, reviewing reports from within the Branch, asking questions. ‘Then we make decisions based on our reading, the reports, our discussions, and input from ANMF staff and elected officials.’

Likewise, she wonders if members do not always understand just how much work ANMF does for them. ‘Members possibly miss what work goes on behind the scenes, including the large volumes of daily member queries and contacts that require action as well as the ongoing bread-and-butter work of negotiating EBAs and advocating for the professions.

‘I know I did not fully understand [how much work the Branch did],’ she says. ‘I was unaware of the breadth of work until I became a Branch Councillor. But the enormous body of work that is done behind the scenes, the knowledge of past EBAs, historical changes and the walking encyclopaedias that are Paul Gilbert, Maddy Harradence and Lisa Fitzpatrick – it just blows my mind. And even as Councillors, we only see a snippet of that work.’

Structural change work

Much of it is slow-burn, structural change work that takes months, years or decades. Look at the recent changes in aged care: federal and state government decisions 20 plus years ago were the cause of so much of the industry’s problems, and ANMF has been campaigning and working to fix those problems for almost three decades.

‘This has taken years,’ Ruth notes. ‘There has been no “quick fix” and the body of work that has gone in to make this will improve the outcomes for the people that we look after and care for. We must never forget that is the core of our work: to provide safe and effective evidence-based care, together with education and support to those in crisis and to empower better health literacy and outcomes. It’s essential to maintain a focus on the underlying value of the work itself – the impact it has on the lives of others and of society.’

This focus on person-centred care is, ultimately, what drives her. ‘I will always say: never make it about us. It’s always about the person that we’re providing services and care for. It has to be about the person: it is their health crisis, not ours, and we want the best outcome for that person. They are the expert in their own life and experiences, and we need to consider this and ensure discussion and understanding when working with them during their healthcare journey.’

ANMF (Vic Branch) Councillor Ruth Bloom, centre, with fellow Councillors Catherine Williams and Damien Hurrell. Photo: supplied

ANMF (Vic Branch) Councillor Ruth Bloom, centre, with fellow Councillors Catherine Williams and Damien Hurrell. Photo: supplied