Listen to staff to make lives easier: WSLHD Board director still a nurse at heart

Mount Druitt Hospital patient Peter Keenan chats to WSLHD board director Kathy Baker.

It’s at the patient’s bedside where you can see the nurse in WSLHD Board director Kathy Baker.

Her willingness to listen and her common sense suggest after a lifetime devoted to health, Kathy would still be just as happy on the wards where she began her career in 1964 as a student nurse in Newcastle.

Kathy is quick to admit there are some things in health that need fixing.

Being a founding director of the WSLHD Board is a way she can satisfy her appetite for improvement – but she acknowledges the way forward won’t be easy.

“At the moment, our funding is focused on providing acute care, but the vast majority of our care should be moving out of the hospital and into the community,” Kathy said.

“We are fortunate in this LHD, with the engagement of our public health staff and primary health networks working together, but we have more to do.

“As we expand as an LHD, one of the biggest challenges is the inevitability of cultural change that needs to be embraced.”

There are two factors that Kathy points to as necessary to underpin large-scale change management: staff engagement and innovative thinking.

When discussing the future of the LHD, Kathy consistently returns to the theme that power can be harnessed from listening to staff.

She embraces the proposition that lifting small problems from staff shoulders can create positive culture and productivity gains.

Kathy is an adjunct professor at the University of Technology in Sydney, University of Western Sydney and University of Sydney.

In 2010, Kathy was appointed a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia for service to the nursing profession through contributions to education and the promotion of clinical excellence in healthcare.

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