North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) is pleased to congratulate Victorian Practice Manager of the year 2021, Laura Robinson, who won the award for her work at Women’s Health Hub in Werribee.
Like so many things in the past few years, the Australian Association of Practice Management (AAPM) awards ceremony was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The award was finally presented in March 2022, and it was deserved recognition for Ms Robinson and her team.
NWMPHN spoke with the award winner to find out more about what drives her passion for practice management, and how her team kept women and children well throughout the pandemic.
Women’s Heath Hub opened in 2018, the first purpose-built clinic for women in Melbourne’s growing western region. The practice showed its promise at the 2019 Wyndham Business Awards, when it was recognised as the leading emerging small business in the region.
Ms Robinson helped establish the practice and recruit a successful team of GPs, specialists, allied health providers, nurses and administrative staff, who today comprise a team of 30 from many different walks of life. They bring a wide range of personalities, priorities, and passions to their workplace – and contribute to an outstanding team culture.
“For me, a positive team culture is one of my biggest priorities and I know kindness, transparency, trust, and support creates that.”
The all-female GP team is a natural fit for the rapidly growing Wyndham region. 80 per cent of the practice’s patients are female, and many are aged between 30 and 45. This means the practice also sees many babies and young children.
This cohort of patients were hit particularly hard by the mental and physical effects of the pandemic and the practice had to quickly adapt.
“We had to change nearly every avenue of the way we serviced our patients,” said Ms Robinson.
“We had to look at all our communication methods to make changes on every platform. We also needed to be able to adapt to any future changes at a moment’s notice and ensure it was communicated efficiently.”
While managing Women’s Health Hub through the first year of the pandemic was challenging, Ms Robinson said that 2021 in fact “brought more changes and a lot more obstacles,” including COVID screening, vaccines, and changes to telehealth. The strain took its toll on the whole practice team.
“Staff were run down, staff absenteeism due to COVID put extra pressure on the team, there were more patient complaints due to COVID protocols, and staff couldn’t see their family members or take a well-deserved vacation. We all would have loved a break – but there was nowhere to go!”
When the going gets tough, the tough get going – and the award winner and her team sure did.
Their willingness to adapt and continuously improve, along with “strong clinical and administrative leadership” meant they successfully navigated the harshest lockdowns and COVID peaks. The team implemented online payments and set up an SMS system for patients to check in and answer COVID screening questions, reducing the need for phone calls. They also created an extra administrative role to relieve pressure on reception.
Ms Robinson said she knew her team needed extra support at this time. Little things like delivering lunch to the whole practice team went a long way.
“I spent more time checking in with the team to lift morale and debrief with any issues or challenges they were facing,” she said.
While her work in recent times has been more stressful than usual, Ms Robinson loves her rewarding career.
“No day is ever the same and it’s so dynamic. Health care is always evolving, and I love being able to use my innovative side.”
What advice does Ms Robinson have for new practice managers?
“You really need to be passionate, organised and always be willing to learn. Showing and demonstrating kindness, good communication, active listening skills, respect and empathy to your team and patients will create a great clinic and team culture.
“I would also advise new practice managers to network with other practice managers either though catch-ups, Facebook groups or through the local PHN.”
More information on the support NWMPHN can provide for practice managers and their teams is available on our website.
Laura Robinson now works at a general practice in Geelong.