A voice for nurses in management

Step outside your comfort zone to make a difference.

From her earliest training at RPA, Leanne Mills knew she wanted to work in a role where she had influence to improve nursing practice and enhance the profession.

Now DON and Director of Clinical Services at Liverpool Hospital, Leanne said it is an absolute honour to have fulfilled this dream.

‘I grew up in Liverpool and went to the local high school, so it’s like my life has come full circle, working in a senior role at the hospital I passed every day on my way to school,’ Leanne said.

Leanne believes it is her responsibility as DON to enhance the nursing profession.

‘It’s a role where I bring the voice of the nursing profession to an executive and corporate level. I am in a position to improve the culture and framework in which nurses practice.

‘Nurses keep me informed of their concerns and suggestions, and I can raise these in the committees that have the capacity to address them.’

Even as a trainee at RPA, Leanne was convinced that things could be done better. ‘I worried that nurses seemed to have no voice. I wanted to do something about it, even that far back.

‘I was very influenced by the charge sisters (as they were then known). I learnt a lot from them. One advised me that instead of complaining, I should work up to a position where I had voice and influence and could improve things.’

Leanne undertook specialist training in cardio-thoracic nursing then, after a stint in London, worked as CNS in coronary care at St George Hospital. She later took up a nurse educator position in cardiovascular nursing.

‘I had contact with amazing people concerned about good nursing practice, but I felt that at that level I wasn’t making the difference that was needed,’ she remembers.

Leanne’s first step into management came when she was appointed NUM in the cardiothoracic unit at Westmead Hospital.

‘I’ve never looked back. I finally felt that I could influence nursing practice and the running of hospital systems,’ she said.

When the chance came to act as executive assistant to the DON, Leanne got the opportunity to interact with the whole hospital in a range of specialties, not just one specialty area.

‘From there I was appointed NUM to a range of specialty areas outside my comfort zone of cardiothoracic nursing, including psychological medicine and women’s health.

‘These weren’t my specialties but I had the management and organisational skills to do the job well.’

Meanwhile Leanne studied for a Masters in Health Administration, giving her additional qualifications to successfully apply for more senior posts including DON at Liverpool Hospital in 2002.

Her advice to other nurses?

‘Step outside your comfort zone, embrace education and professional development and look for opportunities to explore a new speciality.

‘The key to getting ahead in the nursing profession is clinical education and experience. In my job I try to encourage more clinical education support for nurses.’

Recruitment and retention of nurses is prominent on Leanne’s agenda. ‘I am constantly exploring ways to open up and extend the role of the RN,’ she said.