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A continuous learning curve

Kevin Vaughan has experienced and initiated significant change in his 35 years at NHW.

Kevin Vaughan standing in front of the 140 years commemorative wall at NHW.
NEVER ENDING STORY: Kevin Vaughan believes NHW will always be a place of change in the ongoing search for improved care for patients.

During his 35 years working at Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW), Kevin Vaughan has pretty much seen it all.

In fact, he has played a key role in establishing, teaching and developing many of the modern workplace systems found at NHW today.

Kevin trained at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne, one of 10 males of the 80 nurses at that time.

After almost a decade of nursing at various hospitals and travelling up and down the east coast of Australia and overseas, Kevin returned to Wangaratta for what was meant to be a temporary stay with his future wife Monika.

The couple met when both were working in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

After starting at NHW in 1987 in a short-term position as an ICU nurse with plans to head west as an outback nurse, an offer to teach student nurses at the hospital‘s training centre seemed too good an opportunity to pass up.

“I thought it was a good opportunity so planned to stick around for a year or two prior to heading off after that,” he said.

The couple bought land at Whorouly and suddenly it seemed they were reasonably settled.

When the nursing school closed Kevin became the manager of the Staff Development Unit, which he discovered required copious records leading to a mountain of paperwork.

“Computers were just coming in so I started taking an interest in the advantages they could provide,” he said.

“Back in 1985 I did a computer course, which was more about the hardware, and I had also had a few days working in a bank‘s computer department, which I found didn‘t really suit me.

“When I began in management roles at the hospital, with so much paperwork, I decided I needed to understand software.”

Kevin began developing his own software for better record keeping, which he found effective.

“I‘ve always believed in continuous improvement to the systems we work with,” he said.

“It‘s motivating, I find it difficult to do the same thing day after day without searching for a better way – whether it‘s incremental or exponential, we always need to be looking at improving what we do.

“It worked for me and other managers started to use it.

“As different needs arose, I developed different systems and a lot are still being utilised today at NHW.

“It adds to the satisfaction of going to work; knowing that I may not be directly helping a patient these days, but I‘m helping someone who is.”

From those relatively humble beginnings, Kevin has played a key role in developing many of the systems that help keep our modern health service ticking along day to day.

The variety of roles he has played have also been invaluable in understanding the needs of departments and staff to better align those workplace systems.

This includes developing and maximising the efficiency of specific clinical systems enabling clinical handover, patient transport, surgical waitlist management, emergency patient tracking, staff health information system, upgrading and improving the hospital‘s utilisation of the rostering and payroll systems, and regional coordination of the Hume Region Workforce Systems Group.

“Our handover system software for instance allows clinical staff to record and update patients‘ statuses relatively easily compared to how it used to be, when it was done with a conversation and handwritten notes that were basically used just the once,” Kevin said.

“Security and privacy is paramount.”

Kevin said during his time at NHW he has seen a notable increase in patient throughput and complexity, increased staffing requirements, and an improvement in facilities and equipment.

“The use of technology now is something that was a pipedream back when I started, but even now we still have a long way to go,” he said.

The change in technology has been dramatic and continuous Kevin said; he began with typewriters, graduated to computers and now handheld mobile devices are the norm.

“It actually seems like we have less time now because we have the systems to do more. Paradoxically, if we acquire better time saving systems we may in fact end up with less time,” he said.

“For younger people, this is their ground zero, the base that they will build from.”

Staffing remains one of the biggest challenges facing NHW according to Kevin, along with the continued need for additional funding to maintain current facilities and meet the demands of the future.

“As a regional centre there will always be a mix of employees who stay long term while others will be short term. Each have their value,” he said.

“The challenge now is trying to attract people and then retain them, like all businesses.”

He said NHW, certainly from his experience, offered many positives for potential staff looking for a variety of roles.

“The hospital is like a village in itself with the variety of positions available, allied health, medical, nursing, finance, engineering, catering, supply, administration, IT, there are just so many options.”

As in any workplace or team environment, particularly one as close knit as NHW, it‘s the people who have left the most lasting impression on Kevin.

“Like most hospitals, NHW‘s is a microcosm of the Australian population,” Kevin said. 

“There have been many great inspiring people work here. 

“To point a few out wouldn‘t be doing justice to others.

Kevin has confidence the next generation has what it takes to take up the baton from those who have gone before.

“There is the same mix inability of young people now as when I was younger,” he said.

“It was probably easier to make change back then because there was so much improvement needed.

“There is now more focus on individuals taking greater responsibility for their own health.

“I think the next generation has the same potential to make change in a different world.

“Their expectations and society‘s in general have increased.”

Wangaratta Chronicle Friday 18 November 2022 – Article by Shane Douthie and photo by Kurt Hickling