You are here: Home » Making the right career choice

Making the right career choice

A six month stint extends to 27 years of achievement for Jacqui Verdon at NHW

After 150 years in operation, there are a million stories to be told of the thousands of staff who have walked through the front doors of Northeast Health Wangaratta.

Current operational director at Northeast Health Wangaratta (NHW) Education and Research Unit, Jacqui Verdon’s professional career began in community-based organisations in Wangaratta working in program development and coordination of community-based services.

After graduating as a social worker from La Trobe University in 1994, she was employed by NHW in 1995 as a social worker locum for six months and has continued with the health services for 27 years (2022).

“Following work experience at Royal Melbourne Hospital in secondary school I decided that working in health as a social worker was my goal,” Jacqui said.

“After moving to Wangaratta, travelling overseas for a year and completing my study at La Trobe University in Wodonga, I applied for a social work locum at Wangaratta Base Hospital commencing in 1995.”

When Jacqui started at the hospital she was the only social worker in the health service, and when the Thomas Hogan Rehabilitation Centre was built she moved into a social work role there. Since then her responsibilities, along with her team, has expanded considerably.

“I have had the pleasure of leading the social work team, the allied health team in the Thomas Hogan Rehabilitation Centre, managed the Thomas Hogan Rehabilitation Centre and then the rehabilitation/sub-acute services across the health service.

“I have worked in project management roles, including ‘Improve the care for older people”, and then moved into the Education and Research Unit.

“I now have a role leading the Education and Research Unit, building on the foundations established by a number of passionate, skilled and knowledgeable people.

“This month we celebrated staff excellence, academic achievement and years of service.”

Jacqui’s experience and role reflects the changing face of NHW, from a regular hospital to an all encompassing health service.

“I have been involved with many partnerships between NHW and other organisations which have enabled programs such as the vocational education and training programs for young people, single points of entry for undergraduate students placements, and the establishment of education and training opportunities for health professionals.

group of ladies from the NHW educational team standing behind a healthcare training manikin
COMBINED EFFORT: Jacqui Verdon (third from left) with members of her team (from left) Amelie Scott, Lisa Twamley, Michelle Kelly, Nicole Humphreys and Robyn Marklew.

“As a team we –

  • Coach and support the learning and development of clinical staff and students in evidenced based practice;
  • Support the transition to practice of graduate staff in their first role after graduating from higher education/university;
  • We assist to build a workforce that is both skilled, knowledgeable and confident to provide safe and high quality care to our community;
  • We conduct clinical trials that enables our community to access new treatments and interventions before they are widely available;
  • We support the skills, knowledge and confidence of staff to undertake research and translate that research to practice and improvements in health care.”

Like many others who have worked at NHW over the last 20 or more years, Jacqui has seen tremendous change in the facilities as well as operational procedures.

“I have watched as NHW has grown through three redevelopments, one amalgamation of wards, change of ward locations and countless people,” she said.

“It does not seem like 27 years! I feel very fortunate to have had many opportunities in the one organisation to work in a variety of areas and projects, including the support to complete post-graduate study.

“The best thing about working at NHW is the people. The team that are so passionate and committed to making a difference and supporting people when they are at their most vulnerable and to seeking innovative ways to improve the care we can provide.

“Many people have inspired me with their humility, kindness, patience and calm in times of crisis and their passion and commitment to provide care to members of our community.”

That team mentality was never more apparent than in recent years with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last three years have been very challenging, we have had to adapt, be flexible, resilient and dig deep and be creative,” Jacqui said.

“The workforce shortages of health professionals is a daily challenge that has driven us to be very creative with resources.

“Contributing to workforce growth and development is a very rewarding role and I feel very fortunately to work in the team that I do.”

Looking back over almost 30 years in the health service, Jacqui has no regrets about her choice of career.

“I have had the privilege of supporting families to welcome new life, of supporting families to grieve, and provided assistance in times of trauma and ill health.

“I love my job. It enables me to assist people to grow and flourish in their careers.

“I absolutely recommend a career in health!”

Wangaratta Chronicle Friday 11 November 2022 – Article by Shane Douthie and photo by Kurt Hickling