Take the lead in health by embracing change

Flinders health alumna Judith Barker has some wise words for students pursuing a career in health management – “take whatever opportunity that comes your way and say yes”.

The CEO of St John Ambulance NT is not a fan of comfort zones. Great things never come from comfort zones, she says.

Instead, embrace opportunities, discover your passion, and believe in your ability to always learn more.

“I will learn nothing by staying somewhere where I can do a role standing on my head. I will learn by doing,” Judith says.

“I get things wrong… all the time. The trick is to own what you get wrong and learn from it. Also cut yourself a break.”

Judith’s journey with Flinders University began in 2003 when she undertook a Bachelor of Health Sciences.

She says her studies at Flinders armed her with an excellent grounding in practical health management skills and knowledge within her chosen field of health and ambulance service.

Upon graduating in 2007, she was a Team Leader within the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) and continued on into more senior roles including Manager Patient Services Metro East, Operations Manager Metro South East, Director Service Performance and Improvement, also taking on many acting roles to assist development.

St John Ambulance NT CEO Judith Barker

In 2018, she left SA for the Northern Territory to take up what she now considers her biggest career achievement so far – being appointed Chief Executive Officer for St John Ambulance NT.

“I have always been very passionate about ambulance having worked in the industry for almost 24 years,” Judith says.

“To now be able to head up a fantastic service such as St John NT, to deliver ambulance and volunteer services to the Territory and be able to work with a great team of people is an amazing opportunity.

“The Territory presents a unique set of circumstances and conditions, so to be able to have a leadership role in how we shape a service that addresses the needs of the Territory population is a something I highly value.”

Like all health professionals across the world, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for the sector, with communities throughout the NT not immune.

But Judith says the response within the ambulance service has been positive, with people coming together to form rapid, cross functional teams to put in place measures to cope with the virus.

“For us in the NT, we were acutely aware that we needed to be well prepared, over-prepared in fact, so that we could respond to any situation and know that if COVID-19 were to reach our Indigenous communities that this could be disastrous,” she says.

Despite Judith’s success in health management so far, she has no intention of staying idle. She’s starting to think about pursuing a PhD at Flinders University and sees herself staying in the health or service industry.

“Health is an amazing field to be a part of and there are so many different career paths available to us – the possibilities are endless,” she says.

“My advice is whatever opportunity comes your way, say yes. Don’t doubt yourself, don’t worry that you may not be able to do all of the role. Say yes, take the opportunity, ask lots of questions and grow.”

For more information on studying Health Sciences, visit the Bachelor of Health Sciences webpage.

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Health Sciences