It’s three years until the new hospital building opens. As part of the Westmead Redevelopment, staff and partners across the precinct are assessing models of care and new ways of working. Shalini Balram has been involved in an innovative program transforming aged care services at Westmead Hospital.
Two broken legs as a child, inspired Shalini to want to work at a hospital. Years later, as the acting physiotherapy team leader for geriatric medicine at Westmead Hospital, she is a young leader who is dedicated to life-long learning.
Shalini grew up in Fiji and graduated as a physiotherapist before moving to western Sydney with her partner and their then 18-month child. In 2007, with a young family, she started work at Westmead. Since then, she has worked within the field of geriatric medicine and management.
Shalini’s passion for helping older patients has been integral her work in the Rapid Access to Care and Evaluation (RACE). RACE is a pilot program that aims to discharge older patients from the Emergency Department as soon as possible, so they can return home. RACE has created an interface between the acute care services at Westmead Hospital and in-home care service providers. It has improved patient care, resulting in faster and more tailored treatment and in-home support.
“Through RACE, I took the opportunity to address problems faced with regards to our ageing population. In doing so, I have been able to grow as a physiotherapist and into a leadership role.”
Shalini recently celebrated the pilot’s success at a presentation to over 100 staff and partners. In her presentation, she discussed the many changes that were instrumental to the success of RACE.
“I noted that RACE required Geriatric Medicine staff to adapt to a new behaviour, new culture and new practice. Any form of change is difficult. Collaboration and communication is essential for behaviour change to deliver patient-centred care.”
“There are many styles a leader can draw upon to encourage a change. A leader is a role model. It’s important to stay connected to your team through regular meetings, inclusive consultation and informal catch ups.”
The support of the executives in Geriatric Medicine has been valuable to Shalini. When asked about mentors, she noted three key people who have inspired her— Dr Ray Cabela, Head of the Department of Geriatric Medicine at Westmead Hospital; Jude Constable, Operations Manager of Critical Care and Medicine at Westmead Hospital; and Carole Deburn from the Clinical Excellence Commission. All three have provided ongoing guidance and advice.
“RACE is the project I undertook for the Clinical Leadership program (CLP) - a program run by the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC). Regular meetings with all of my mentors, including Carole from the CEC, was important to me and for the program. With Carole, I discussed a range of aspects of the project including her feedback on my progress and reflection on my development as a leader.”
Shalini constantly strives to develop her leadership skills, while managing a team of 29 clinicians. She believes it’s important for women in healthcare to pursue leadership positions and to seek employers that encourage ongoing learning.
“I constantly get support from this organisation and within my department. I'm encouraged to develop and utilise my skills. This approach benefits employees, the patients and the department.”
Read more about the program for middle clinicians and managers, and senior clinicians, on the Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) website.
This story appeared in the Westmead Redevelopment Project Update 101 - see this story for more photos of Shalini in action.
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