Chief Executive Officer
The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN)
The Australian College of Mental Health Nurses (ACMHN) is the peak professional mental health nursing organisation and the recognised credentialing body for mental health nurses in Australia. It seeks to represent the profession at all levels of government and across all health service sectors. In addition, the ACMHN sets standards for practice, supports mental health nursing research and provides a forum for collegial support, networking and ongoing professional development for its members. Importantly, the ACMHN also works to promote public confidence in and professional recognition of mental health nursing.
A great leader whom I find inspirational is… I always find the question of who is a great leader a difficult one to answer, as there are so many
people and they are not always people in the public eye. Of course, there have been great leaders through history, but in more recent times I have been inspired by the passion and commitment to a more peaceful world, by Kofi Atta Annan (Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006). Closer to home I am inspired by the passion, commitment and the eloquent use of language people like Julian Burnside and Michael Kirby employ, and their ongoing challenge to us to consider the human rights of all people. In another arena and thinking globally while acting locally, we can’t go past Ian Kiernan, who saw a need and did something about it. There are of course hundreds of people across Australia every day that are seeing a need and acting on it, whether that be the environment, human rights, children, or people with a mental illness, they are all truly amazing. Looking more at mental health, the ACMHN established the Mental Health Nurse of the Year Award which acknowledges those nominated by their peers for their leadership to the profession, if you are interested the list of previous winners is available at www.acmhn.org.
The type of book I most enjoy reading is… My favourite genre of book is the crime thriller, and I’m an Agatha Christie fan from way back. I thought the Millennium series (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) was great and spell-binding reading; just recently I read The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, which I thought was very well written and kept you trying to figure out what was really going on to the very end. I think I enjoy the escapism in these books; it is so different to the day-to-day life I lead that you are transported to another place for a while, which is good for your mental health.
In my busy week, I always try to make time to… SWIM. I like to swim every day. I try to go before work each day, which isn’t as easy as it sounds, of course, and doesn’t always happen. I call swimming ‘liquid meditation’ - no distractions, no noise, no chatter, it is time to think of nothing and practice mindfulness. However, saying that, I often find the solution I was looking for will finally come to me, while going up and down and looking at that all-familiar black line at the bottom of the pool.
If I retired from paid employment… I think I would work as a volunteer in some capacity. I am not really sure how or in what field, however. Volunteers are the backbone of so many organisations and community endeavours. I know that over the years there has been so much achieved within our organisation through the involvement and commitment of members volunteering their time, which I, for one, am very grateful. Even when I retire, I would still like to support the profession somehow, so I suppose I will just need to wait and see.
A decision I have made in my career that I look back on and feel may have been a mistake is … I began my mental health nursing career when services and systems were very different; they were the days just before deinstitutionalisation. We worked in large hospitals and, in many cases, the care of patients was very good. But there were other instances where the care was not so good. As a young nurse in a large institution with a strong hierarchal system it was not always easy to question or complain about what you thought could be done better or what you thought might be out and out wrong. I did make the decision once to complain about the treatment of a patient which alienated me for some time with other staff - I seemed to get a lot of night duty.
From the above decision… I learnt from the above example that it is important, no matter where you work, to establish a culture of honesty and transparency. People need to feel safe to question and discuss behaviours and practices. We all, as individuals, should expect to be treated with respect and honesty. This has only fuelled my passion for supporting those more vulnerable in our community, those that cannot speak up for themselves.
As a leader, any CEO must be equipped with a set of appropriate competencies. I would say the one most important ability a leader should have is… Gee whiz, not sure there is just one! But if I had to pick one, it might be passion. Being passionate is really important. It sits hand-in-glove with commitment. There is something you want to achieve and contribute to, and you will do all you can to see that vision through. It’s what keeps you going through the rough times when you feel everywhere you turn there is a barrier. Leadership is complicated, and while you have a passion you have to be able to share it with others and bring others along with you. Of course, Florence Nightingale comes to mind: a woman with a passion and dogged determination, turning down a marriage proposal because marriage might distract her from her cause. I am certainly not professing many of us would be that committed, but passion and a vision and the commitment to reach your goals are key factors.
The most significant change in my organisation/industry in the next few years will occur in… Over the next few years I think there will need to be a more planned and dedicated approach to the management of chronic diseases, with mental health being one of them. There will also need to be a greater focus on comorbid physical and mental health problems. In a study commissioned by the World Economic Forum, mental disorders emerged as the single largest health cost, with global projections increasing to $6 trillion annually by 2030, more than diabetes, cancer, and pulmonary diseases combined. In Australia our spending on health is increasing every year. In 2009-10 we spent 9% of GDP on health alone. Spending on health is important but we will need to find ways of providing more cost effective health care, and that will require a lot of rethinking by governments, health providers and health professionals.
In the next few years, my most important goal is… Over the next few years I want to see mental health nursing better understood by the community, other health professionals and nursing more broadly. We need more mental health nurses and we need to demystify mental health and mental health nursing. I have always felt very privileged to be a mental health nurse to work with people at times when they are most vulnerable; to work with people that so much of our community don’t understand and shun. Mental health nursing is a wonderful career and if I can get others to see that I will be happy.
Sourced from: https://www.enterprisecare.com.au/newsletter_september_2014_-_get_to_know_a_ceo