With 15 years experience in senior & executive roles, I can read a Profit & Loss better than I can read an ECG. I’ve been perioperative educator and manager, run an emergency department and been a nursing director. I have post-graduate qualifications in nursing, coaching and management. I continue to practice nursing clinically. I understand hospitals and healthcare. I know how nurses think and feel and what worries nurses.
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How my experience will help you deliver on building great nursing morale
- Where did you go to university?
- What qualifications do you have?
- What other special training that has prepared you ?
- Where have you nursed before?
- Could you give some personal background ?
- What are your hobbies?
- Where did you grow up?
- List your favourites
- Where have you traveled?
- Who was your favourite Nurse Manager and why?
- What’s your most embarrassing moment as a Nurse Manager?
- What’s the newest, freshest approach you are bringing to your job?
- What’s the next skill or knowledge set you want to add to your repertoire to make you a better Nurse Manager?
- What’s your life plan? What do you plan to have accomplished in five, 10, 20 and 50 years ‐ ‐ personally and/or professionally?
- Best compliment you’ve ever received?
Well, I have quite a few qualifications and there are from quite a few universities. My undergraduate degree comes from Queensland University of Technology. Educating nurses are university was still fairly new when I started my degree at university. In fact, the last intake of hospital training for nurses happened the year I completed year 12. Despite that, QUT has been delivering training to nurses since 1978 – in fact, it’s the oldest school of nursing in Queensland. They’re now internationally recognised as delivering quality graduates with a focus on practice. It was a great university and I certainly had plenty of fun. Lecturers were approachable. Tut’s were sills based. Clinical practice was challenging. Not too much sneaking off to the pub to miss lectures.
Other than my undergraduate degree, I have a Post Graduate Certificate in Perioperative Nursing from Central Queensland University and a Post Graduate in Nursing (Child Health) from the University of Queensland. Most of my clinical nursing has been in the Operating Theatre – my first home and true love. My further study in perioperative nursing helped me consolidate my skills and progress my nursing career. When I came to manage a mixed adult & children’s emergency centre, which was quite an aberration compared to the rest of my nursing knowledge, I felt I needed to whip up some formal knowledge. So, I headed to UQ and completed my certification in child health. It was a huge help in getting me thinking outside the world of pure anatomy that perioperative nursing sits in and back into pathophysiology. I have formal coaching qualifications with accreditation as a Accredited Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.
I am a certified facilitator of the Whole Brain Thinking model using the reliable and validated HBDI survey instrument. It forms the basis of my programs and is incredibly revealing about your thinking preferences and allows you to build insight into other’s thinking preference. In my experience, leveraging those insights are the keys to rebuilding nursing morale.
Along the way, I have had a great deal of exposure to many opportunities for professional development. As a novice Nurse Manager, my Director made available to me some Negotiation Training that was facilitated by a litigation lawyer, Michael Klug. Just quietly, I had a view of myself that I was quite good in a negotiation situation. On reflection, my manager knew something that I didn’t and she sent me for that training as I was quite the opposite. At the end of the three days, I came to know that I was a disaster. Total pushover. In one particular negotiation role play, I felt reasonably ok about how it had gone. It came to our turn to give feedback to the group and my partner’s opening line was “I don’t know what she was thinking, but I got this, this, this as well as that in our negotiation!” Hopeless! It has taken me years to grow in this area. My most important lesson from these three days: You always concede more than you mean to in a negotiation. I’ve thought of that often.
I often tell people that I’m fast running out of hospitals in Queensland to work in! My first job as an RN was the Graduate Programme at the Wesley Hospital. It was a program where we had the luxury of being exposed to a multitude of clinical areas. I fast discovered that I was a good surgical nurse. A horrible medical nurse. A surprised Intensive Care nurse (I somehow thought it would be constantly exciting). A much better perioperative nurse. Once I pulled on those scrubs and found the inner sanctum of the operating theatre, I never wanted to leave. I truly, truly loved it. I left the Wesley Hospital to explore the excitement of the public, tertiary referral hospital, The Gold Coast Hospital. I remember that a senior RN at the Wesley had said to me that a junior nurse like myself should experience public hospitals as the comraderie is like nowhere else you ever experience. Perplexed about what she meant at the time, I soon discovered that it was true. That job was the most fun I have ever had and found friends that I have today. It hinged on brilliant nursing morale. Not to mention the clinical experience that a large trauma hospital can offer: gun shot wounds, multi-trauma, motor vehicle accidents, farming accidents, obstetric emergencies, ruptured AAA’s. The full spectrum.
I left GCH to take up a Clinical Nurse Educator role at Robina Hospital and shortly after that, took up my first leadership role as Periperative Nurse Educator at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital. A large, ten theatre operating theatre complex that did almost every surgical specialty except for obstetrics: it was daunting. I was 26 years old at that time. I made the more leadership mistakes in the first 6 months than the remaining 15 years since. I look back with some anxiety and trepidation, but it formulates my journey into a leader. For a number of mistakes made, I couldn’t execute on delivering a brilliant nursing morale. It is the reason that I wanted to deliver programs to make others’ journeys easier. After 3 years in that role, I took on the role of Nurse Unit Manager of that department.
But babies took over my life for a while and I left that great hospital to start as the After Hours Nurse Manager at Greenslopes Private Hospital. I took my “lessons learned” about what not to do in leadership and applied it in this role. It was here that I really started to gain my confidence about who I was as a leader.
Another 3 years on though, shift work started to take it’s toll on a young family with school age children now and I took the position as Assistant Director of Clinical Service at Holy Spirit Northside Hospital. Responsible for their Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Department, Endoscopy Unit, Cardiac Catheter Lab, Critical Care Unit, CSSD and their 8-theatre Operating Complex plus a portfolio of the Human Resources & Clinical Human Resources – another daunting role.
Private hospitals are an ever-changing animal and after three years, the goal posts changed and I took a redundancy from that role. I took the time to truly consider what I wanted in my professional life. An seemingly random opportunity emerged for running a privately owned emergency department. It was a new concept for me – not working for either the government or a large corporation. This was working for a couple of doctors who owned a very successful practice. While in some ways apprehensive, I couldn’t help but be bewitched by their passion for providing a health service that could truly make decisions in the best interests of their patients without compromise, I jumped at the chance. It was high-risk, but it was an incredible ride. I was also able to truly test everything that I had learned about being a nurse leader and executing on nursing morale. I believe these 6 years were great testing grounds for what I teach now.
Sure. I married the boyfriend I met when I was 16 years old: I forgive you for seeing that as corny as it sounds. We married when I was 24 years old. We’ve had two gorgeous children: a girl and then a boy. We studied at university together in Brisbane, but before and after we lived on the Gold Coast. It wasn’t until I secured my role as Perioperative Nurse Educator at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital that we moved to Brisbane, and have been here ever since. We’ve collected a cavoodle along the way – who loves attention more than what is humanly reasonable to expect.
Travel is my true hobby. It’s truly divine. But rather an expensive one, I’m afraid. In the meantime, photography is one of more true loves. I’m a sucker for a truly beautiful image. Reading: who doesn’t love a great book? Movies: I only realised today that my children will look back on their childhood and going to the movies will be one of their most frequent memories.
My parents owned a diary farm near a tiny little town in country Victoria called Simpson. My four siblings were between 12 & 20 years older than me and had left for boarding school or left school altogether by the time I arrived in Simpson. Dad faired poorly in the cold as he got a bit older, so when I was 5 years old, we moved to sunny Queensland. So for the majority of my childhood, the Gold Coast is where I grew up. Much to my siblings disgust, I missed out on the glory of boarding school.
Book: In The Eye Of The Sun, by Ahdaf Soueif
Movie: The Intouchables
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Favourite Band: Angus & Julia Stone
Not as many places as I would have liked by now!
We have been strong advocates of Home Exchange and that has allowed us the great privilege of spending extended periods in epic places, including 6 weeks in the Swiss Alps and a month in Paris. Other than that, we have seen London, Northern Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Fiji, Rome, Barcelona, Casablanca, Canary Islands and a great deal of our own wondrous country, namely the Eastern side from Brisbane to Melbourne.
One of my very first Nurse Managers had such a significant affect on who I wanted to be as a Nurse Manager that I often find myself even today wondering how she would have handled a given situation. It was the first time that I had considered that you don’t need to be an Uber Clinician to be a great manager. As it happened, she was. But it wasn’t her ability to scrub for any case that was pushed through those theatre flaps that made her great. She knew things about her people. Not who they were married to, but what they were good at. What they could handle. Where they needed to be needled and pushed and prodded so that they grew. Nursing morale at its greatest, as a result.
I recall overhearing a conversation between her and one of her peers. She was discussing that she was considering tweaking the staffing allocations as she knew that a particular staff member was having a difficult time at home and that it was reaching a crescendo for her. Putting her into a high pressure operating theatre just wasn’t the right move. Her colleague scoffed and said “I barely know who you’re talking about let alone their problems. What does it matter?! They’re here to do a job, not get mollycoddled by you.”
One manager lead. The other managed. The difference in their teams and their team’s dynamics were worlds apart.
Definitely when I thought I had sent my husband the email whinging about a meeting that I didn’t want to go to but had actually sent it to the meeting convenor, who also happened to be my boss. One of my greatest lessons: double check the To: and Cc: box before one hits Send.
We in the healthcare world aren’t great at taking up technology. I’m currently taking a leaf out of Google’s book and seeing what they do to manage teams. We have some unique challenges, not the least of which is a body of staff who work around the clock. Some work part-time, so as a result of shiftwork, it may be weeks before I touch base with some of my team members. I’ve always been a strong advocate for communicating electronically with my team, whether by text or email, but I’m now taking that one step further by exploring the wondrous world of Webinar! If anyone reads this outside our industry, I imagine that announcement of discovering the concept of Webinar is ludicrous. Funny how we can use the most intricate of breaking-new-ground technology in neurosurgery but come to anything outside that, well, not so much. Most of us are still rostering with pencil & paper, for goodness sake. But, Webinar it my newest toy.
Continuing to develop coaching can only help in my role as Nurse Manager. Developing that into my team’s skill set will help our patients as well as each other.
While my actual lifeplan didn’t follow the carefully considered lifeplan of the once-16-year-old, I’m actually pretty delighted with how my life has panned out so far, both personally and professionally. Despite always being a girl with a plan, I actually didn’t really plan it. I grew along the way and took opportunities where they cropped up. When I was a student nurse, I had a very clear vision for what I was going to do when I finished nursing – Intensive Care. Imagine my disappointment when I got there and it was nothing – nothing – like I imagined. I simply didn’t like it. So, with my firm plan in tatters, I floated for a while. Then found theatre accidentally. Turned out I loved it. The rest was history.
So, for my next five, 10, 20 (unlikely to be 50!) years, I’m going to keep doing what I love and see what I can see.
When my role was made redundant, a colleague called me and said “I’ve heard you’ve been made redundant? I’m bloody delighted” and I was employed by him very shortly after that. That came about from building great relationships, despite never having any ulterior motive in mind. That was a good day.
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