December 4, 2019

Get to know…Dr Kim Jeffs

In this week’s Get to know: Q&A with… we catch up with Dr Kim Jeffs, Geriatrician.

Get to know Kim:

What is your coffee order?

Double shot latte. Never take-away. If I don’t have five minutes to sit, sip and reflect then it isn’t time for coffee.

What does a typical work day look for you?

I’m a geriatrician, so my clinical work involves assessing and treating older people for their often complex health care needs. My work in Residential In-Reach takes me to Residential Aged Care Facilities, where I often see people with behavioural and psychological symptoms related to dementia. I try to make a holistic assessment and offer advice to staff and spend time with families to provide education and discuss future health care options. In CDAMS (Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service), I review people’s cognition, often making the heartbreaking diagnosis of dementia. I also trundle around the hospital on the ARC round, assessing inpatients for their suitability for subacute care and offering assistance with the geriatric syndromes – dementia, delirium, falls, incontinence. I am also working on Northern Health’s strategy for delirium, which involves writing procedures, attending meetings, doing audits and giving presentations.

Tell us about your Northern Health journey?

My first shift at Northern was in 1998 as a Medical Registrar. I started on nights, which was pretty terrifying since I didn’t know where any of the wards were. Back then, there were three medical units with each unit having a Registrar and an Intern. We did all the inpatient care, admissions, surgical referrals and attended outpatients. We routinely had 25 patients and I think the most I ever had under my unit was 55. I’m so glad things are generally better for the junior staff now, though obviously health care is a stressful environment. I rotated to Northern Health several times as an Advanced Trainee in Aged Care, and eventually enrolled in a PhD via the Northern Clinical Research Centre. My PhD, ‘Delirium in a culturally diverse medical inpatient population‘ investigated prevention of delirium. I became a consultant in 2003 and initially worked as a physician in the Short Stay Unit, prior to being the Respecting Patient Choices Clinical Leader for a while. I’ve worked as a Geriatrician at Northern Health ever since.

Can you tell us a bit about your career before starting at Northern?

Most of my working career has been at Northern. My junior medical years were at the Austin, where I’d done the clinical years of my degree with The University of Melbourne. While I was studying, I worked over the summers at Myer in the city and did a vacation studentship at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (growing DNA in enormous E-coli cultures!)

What is your greatest achievement or favourite memory since working here?

My favourite memories involve patients and their families. Like the man on KAW ward at Bundoora Centre who gave the medical team a soccer coaching session in Greek and the wife of a CDAMS patient who gave me bunch of pepper seedlings raised from the seed her family had passed down through generations. I think my greatest achievement is being a part of the training of so many of our junior doctors, many of whom have returned to Northern Health as consultants.

What are some things people don’t know about you?

I write and perform poetry. After my house burned down in the Black Saturday fires, writing became a way of exploring all the complex emotions and grief. I discovered I enjoy the creativity of writing, of being able to conjure an image or a feeling using only words. Last year I was interviewed on 3CR about poetry and a whole range of other topics. Interview can be found here.

What do you like to do after work?

Most evenings are filled with cooking, cleaning, laundry, and taking the kids to their various sporting activities. What I really like to do is to wander about the garden, checking on how things are growing, smelling the flowers, watching the birds and picking something to add to dinner.

Do you have a bucket list item? Something you would love to do?

I look longingly at photos and videos of the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis. I once caught a glimpse of the Aurora Australis from northern Tasmania and I cried. One day I would love to be able to see at least one of them in all of their magnificence. I’d be pretty stoked if I could grow a decent crop of apples too.

How would you describe Northern Health in one sentence?

Continuously evolving.

Who would you nominate next for a staff profile and why?

I’d like to nominate Jenny Christof. I’ve worked with Jenny on and off since 1998, when she was a nurse on the medical wards. Her nursing career has taken some twists and turns, through care coordination, dialysis and now community case management in HARP. I reckon she has some good stories to tell.