#38: Interview with Sue Dawson, Chaplain

Season #3

Show notes: Episode 38

Interview with Sue Dawson, Chaplain

In this episode I chat with a very special guest, Sue Dawson, who is a chaplain working in a retirement village and residential care facility, and a facilitator of the Wellness Adventure program.

After starting her career as a registered nurse, Sue worked as a midwife, before moving into a ministry role as a pastor. Learning was always a passion and this led her to complete a Clinical Pastoral Education course, which opened the door for her to move into a career as a chaplain. After considering a few different pathways, including sports and hospital chaplaincy, she settled on aged care. Sue loves working with older people and has never looked back!

Today, Sue works with staff, residents and families within a retirement home and aged care facility. In contrast to a minister who works solely within their congregation, as a chaplain, Sue helps people from all walks of life within her retirement village and residential care facility with their spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Sue is uniquely positioned to help those transitioning from the retirement village into aged care, as well as support their partners who remain in the village, providing a sense of continuity in this time of change. Her early career also gives her an insight into the clinical side, which is beneficial when working with and supporting the RNs within the residential aged care facility.

While she thoroughly enjoys the positives of her role, in the last few years the COVID pandemic has proved challenging in many ways. Navigating lockdowns and forced closures has been difficult, and when family members are unable to visit, residents feel isolated and lonely. On top of this, wearing masks all the time is challenging for those with hearing or cognitive difficulties, as they lose essential elements of communication with others.

Despite the challenges of the times, Sue has been successfully running our Wellness Adventure program in both the residential care facility and retirement village where she is chaplain, and has had an amazing response.

Getting small groups of residents together to share their stories and talk about wellness has been wonderful for all who attend, building a real sense of connection with others. For residential care participants, it is a special event, with invitations sent, tea, coffee and cake served and participant sheets beautifully presented in a folder. Sue finds the ice breakers are a great way to get everyone talking, creating a sense of belonging and connection between residents that is really special to see.

In residential care COVID caused a few interruptions, but overall the program has continued on throughout.

As a facilitator, Sue loves that the Wellness Adventure program is well-written and resourced, making it easy to plan, deliver and adapt as required. She also loves how much participants learn about each other, and themselves, through sharing. In one retirement village group, some residents who were feeling quite anxious about things received fantastic support from the group, and learned the about importance of reaching out for help. One resident in particular was very depressed at the time, but after connecting with his GP and a psychologist, he is now thriving.

Sue and I both agree that the wonderful thing about facilitating the Wellness Adventure program to a group is that you can have a lot more impact than you can through one to one sessions due to time constraints.

We finished the interview with some general questions about the best and worst parts of aging,  spending a day with someone you admire, and the key elements of living a fulfilled and happy life.

Sue’s answers are insightful and beautiful, so tune in to find out.


In this episode you will learn:

  • The role of a chaplain in aged care and retirement villages
  • How the impact of COVID is felt within aged care
  • The key benefits of our Wellness Adventure program
  • The importance of building connections between older people
  • Sue’s tips on living a fulfilled and happy life.



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