Many of us are faced with the choice of continuing a career or raising a family. Job-sharing can provide the flexibility and opportunity to do both.
Medibank’s Garrison Health Services talked to Alison Burns and Dianne Davidson, GHS Clinicians from the Duntroon ADF On-base Health Centre, about their experiences of job-sharing. While they are now both working full-time as Clinical Nurse Coordinators, their years spent job-sharing brought them, and the Health Centre, many benefits and resulted in the two women becoming firm friends.
Please tell us about your current roles in an ADF On-base Health Centre?
Alison: I’m currently working full-time as the Clinical Nurse Coordinator for the ward at Duntroon. The ward is a 24-hour unit which has 18 inpatient beds. We also facilitate after-hours presentations and weekend clinics. I’ve spent nine years working in the delivery of healthcare to ADF personnel; all of them at Duntroon.
Dianne: I’m the Outpatient Nurse Coordinator. I’m ex-Defence and I started at the Duntroon Health Centre in 2014. Today I’m really a ‘Jack-of-all-trades’ with my role encompassing managing staff and rosters, creating appointment books, vaccination parades, health promotion, and liaising with health units and Doctors.
What is it like to work at the Duntroon ADF On-base Health Centre?
Alison: Defence personnel have such unique requirements for their healthcare—I thoroughly enjoy taking care of these patients. The Clinical care is diverse and there is always so much to learn. We see cadets with injuries that may require surgery, we work with ADF personnel from regional areas, and we see patients presenting with mental health injuries. We work closely with a mental health team that provide high-quality care—they are excellent.
I work with an incredible team of people who deliver a high standard of medical care with dignity, care and empathy. Many of them have been in Defence health for years, even decades! It’s a pleasure to work with them.
Dianne: ADF personnel have their own set of values and expectations about being fit and ultimately deployable. Health prevention is a major interest of mine and it’s rewarding to see our care and support taken seriously by patients who are engaged and motivated to be healthy.
As someone who previously worked in Defence, I understand the unique requirements for ADF personnel. We go above and beyond for our patients because we know that there are special circumstances, in which their injuries have occurred.
GHS Clinicians, Alison Burns and Dianne Davidson
Tell us about your job-sharing experiences at Duntroon.
Alison: I shared the role of Clinical Nurse Coordinator with Dianne for over two years, from 2014 until last year. During that time I was working part-time and Dianne also shared another role; one day a week in the outpatient department.
The job-sharing came about because in 2014 I decided to resign because my family needed me and I didn’t have the capacity to work full-time and raise my children. I have five kids—now aged 12 to 20! When Di started at Duntroon we saw an opportunity to share a role instead. Job-sharing enabled me to work part-time for a season. This flexibility was really important for me at a time when I needed to focus on my family. I am very grateful for it.
Over the past few years, we have developed a great working relationship and created a strong team. We’re quite different. While we both have a strong work ethic and values centralised on patient care, I’m probably more relationship focused; I like talking and encouraging people. Di is an expert with policies, and she’s all about best practice and accuracy.
We have worked hard to communicate well and have a united approach. Our strengths in different areas means that we bring a balanced approach to patient care for the Health Centre. We have also become good friends.
Dianne: When I met Ali at the Duntroon Health Centre we just clicked and I wanted to support her to stay at work. I didn’t want her to think she had to leave her career. I said that I would fit in around her schedule so she could work part-time and I continued to work full-time with two roles. I was the Clinical Nurse Coordinator two days a week and then on the ward for three days, sharing the responsibilities with Kristen, another On-base Clinician.
Initially, it did take a bit of time to sort out our shared responsibilities. Alison is a really lovely person who is very giving. Each of us is happy to support the other. We’ve worked hard to get to this point and it worked because I believe it’s important to put people into places where they’re needed most.
We still work closely together now in different departments but we’re no longer job-sharing. We bring the ward and the outpatient department closer because we communicate well.
No longer job-sharing, Alison and Dianne have remained good friends
How has job-sharing benefited you, the Health Centre and ADF personnel?
Alison: Job-sharing kept me in my career. It allowed me to keep working and now I’m in a leadership position. That wouldn’t have happened if I’d had to take a step back. The arrangement also gave me the capacity to give my best self at work and at home.
I developed as a leader while I worked with Dianne because she shared a lot of her experience and I had someone to talk things through with. Personally, I found the handover process each week quite valuable. It forced us to reflect on our own practices and to make sure they were fully developed and well thought through so they could be explained.
We consult regularly on the needs for each area and use our resources across the two teams efficiently. The staff we work with have displayed flexibility and great team work which helps us to do this well.
Dianne: Our shared role benefited Ali and I personally. She had seven to eight years’ experience in the Health Centre and I am ex-Defence so I brought that valuable experience with me. I also had acute care experiences and that helped us to look for ways to continually improve healthcare delivery at Duntroon and achieve best practice.
I learned that our job-sharing also benefited ADF personnel and still does to this day because we share resources effectively. We back each other up. Specifically, it means that we’ve reduced the number of re-scheduled appointments for patients because if one of us can’t be at the Health Centre, we and the Clinicians in our teams can cover for us.
Thanks for your time Alison and Dianne.
Alison Burns, GHS Clinical Nurse Coordinator
Dianne Davidson, Outpatient Nurse Coordinator