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Talking aged care and leadership with Helen Kemp

2nd November 2020

Joining Benetas in August this year, General Manager of Community Health and Care, Helen Kemp shares what she’s learnt from her career in health and aged care, and what she hopes to achieve in her new role.

Starting her career as a registered nurse in Queensland, Helen undertook a number of leadership positions before proactively seeking out training and expertise in business management and workforce management.

“At 28 I took on the role as CEO of a small hospital,” Helen said. “I realised that I really needed to build my capacity in organisational and financial management to deliver on roles like this going forward.”

Helen promptly enrolled in a MBA at Melbourne’s Business School, where she harnessed the skills that equipped her to build a lasting career in management consulting at a critical time for Australia’s health and disability sectors.

Through this work, Helen was brought into organisations at key junctures to support change management projects and ensure that services were both client centric and financially viable.

“We focussed a lot on how employees themselves were going to be impacted by the changes involved,” Helen said.

“The key to this is to listen to the people on the ground. If you don’t do that, you’re lost before you start.

“The team bring key insights on what changes are most needed, and they know best what systems and bureaucratic processes are holding them back in delivering exceptional care.”

Helen notes that when working across health care services, it’s important to remember that the people are driven by a deep commitment to their work.

"You can’t work in an aged care organisation without understanding that those in the industry love what they do and they love working to support their clients,” Helen said.

"What they want is to do their absolute best, and management’s job is to get the barriers out of the way and allow them to do that.”

Something that sounds simple, but with some 15 years’ experience in workforce and management consulting, Helen has garnered key insights into what good leadership requires in the care industries.

“Being an effective leader in community health and aged care is very different to other sectors. You have to be drawn to it and have a genuine interest in client outcomes. Coming without any technical knowledge and competence makes it very hard.

“Leaders who aren’t able to talk turkey are going to find the job much more challenging to have the impact needed. But, there’s also a tendency to promote good clinicians into management roles without the training and education they need.

“There needs to be the balance between experience in the industry and a strength in management that delivers results and enables their teams and services to thrive.”

Asked how she wants to bring this about in her new role, Helen expresses how excited she is to work closely with the team and provide them with the training and framework to feel supported.

"There is such a great deal of opportunity to transform how we deliver services in Community Health and Care and ensure that our home care and allied health clients are receiving the holistic care they need to live their best life.

“My job is to help build clarity for the team around roles and responsibilities; to reduce client touch points and improve a seamless experience; and importantly increase the consistency of carers for our clients. That’s what our clients are after, and for me it’s about creating the frameworks that enable that.

“In two to three years, our Home and Community Care team will be operating at a strong and empowered level to extend our services and ensure an exceptional quality of care for all that we serve. And we know that demand is only going to increase.

“The fact is, you’ll only see the successful delivery of care services if your front-line people are listened to and empowered, and that’s something that I feel that many organisations could learn from in our sector, and I’m really looking forward to driving it forward over the coming years.”

Find out more about Community Health and Care and team driving it forward.