Shaping Health, Advancing Nursing. This is the foundation that the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has been poised on since its inception back in 1949. While it has been ACN’s primary objective to enhance health care, by bringing together thousands of extraordinary nurses from across the country, for CEO and Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, it is all about shaping a world in which the nursing profession is well-respected, appreciated and whose input and influence is sought after.
Australian College of Nursing, a purpose-led not-for-profit association for Australian nurses, was formed from the unification of The College of Nursing, Australia and the Royal College of Nursing, Australia, which were both founded in 1949.
The amalgamation of these two institutions in 2012, was to create a national College of Nursing. This manifested in the form of the Australian College of Nursing, whose purpose is to support the nursing profession, advocate for the rights of nurses and provide high-quality education.
Kylie explains that “By Shaping Health we mean – having real and lasting impact on the way all health care systems are designed, delivered, supported and resourced.”
Not only does ACN enable nurses to continue their education it also provides amazing professional opportunities to network, access to grants and scholarships and advocates on behalf of the profession. “We provide a collective voice for the nursing profession by utilising our members’ experience and knowledge to provide input into health and aged care debate and policy,” states Kylie.
At ACN, the management is committed to supporting the holistic development of nurses so they can grow their skills confidently and one day assume leadership roles in healthcare or aged care. An information hub for members and nurses, ACN specialises in educational courses and workshops in nurse leadership. They offer an array of convenient and valuable tools including but not limited to – career development, leadership skills development, networking, and library services. Furthermore, ACN’s postgraduate programs are designed to hone the nursing skills, by equipping them with detailed knowledge of their chosen specialty, extending their clinical skills.
ACN is the Australian member of the International Council of Nurses (ICN), in collaboration with the ANMF, and advocates for the nursing profession, both at national and international levels. As the largest professional nursing organisation in Australia, ACN advocates at state and federal levels with Ministers and Health Departments to provide valuable insight and recommendations from a nursing perspective. “By Advancing Nursing we mean – supporting nurses and the health sector to train, inspire, educate and uplift the skills and expectations of nurses,” says Kylie.
A passionate advocate for women, Kylie has been involved in women empowerment initiatives for many years. At ACN, she established the Australian College of Nursing Foundation (ACNF) and the ACN Institute of Leadership to support emerging nurse leaders; launched Nurse Strong, which equips nurses to look after their own health; and has been instrumental in numerous policy campaigns from the removal of conversion therapy to the improvement of population health outcomes and the fight against modern slavery.
Kylie has also led the development of ACN’s stance against occupational violence against nurses which demonstrates ACN’s commitment to promoting a safe environment for nurses at their jobs and their homes. “Our positioning statement examines key issues using a collection of data to understand the scope of the problem, as it is currently impossible to ascertain the true cost of occupational violence against nurses.” This statement also includes recommendations to the Federal government, to actively make changes to improve the overall conditions of nurses in Australia.
This position statement further evolved into the creation of a special segment at the National Nursing Forum (NNF) specifically looking at occupational violence against nurses. The National Summit on Nursing Workforce Issues, saw ACN bring together 56 Associations in the Coalition of National Nursing and Midwifery Organisations (CoNNMO), the Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer (CNMO), the CNMOs from each States and Territory, The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Council of Deans of Nursing and Midwifery, 110 organisations in healthcare, as well as leading nurse experts throughout Australia.
Apart from all her on-ground initiatives, Kylie maintains a strong social media following, often using her online presence to direct awareness on the issues nurses face daily, and the need to support and educate them to be organisational figureheads.
For Kylie, it has been her life’s mission to create opportunities for nurses to propel them into leadership roles to propel healthcare outcomes. “Nursing leadership looks like nurses sitting at the boardroom tables of the world, sharing their full perspective of chronic, acute, aged and community health,” says Kylie. Therefore, at ACN, she remains committed to creating a system that not only hones the skills and techniques of nurses, but a culture that also provides the utmost support to these nurses to be the best versions of themselves, at work and in life.
Born and raised in the western suburbs of Sydney Australia, Kylie knew from a young age that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people in her community and in the lives of the women and children around her.
At present, Kylie is recognised as a passionate advocate for health, women, children and equality. As CEO, she continues to lead the transformation to make ACN the beacon of light all over the world for nurse leadership and education.
Along with the numerous initiatives she has established for nurses, Kylie holds honorary academic appointments with five leading Australian Universities and was ministerially appointed as a Director to ADHA (Australian Digital Health Agency), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Health Translation Advisory Committee (HTAC) whilst holding numerous other board and national committee positions.
She has also served on Senate and Parliamentary Inquiries. Prior to ACN she ran a consultancy specialising in transformation, executive coaching, leadership and change management. In 2020, Kylie was named one of the Top 100 Health Voices for LinkedIn worldwide and in 2021 she was recognised as a National Influencer by AuSAE, the leading Australian body for Association Executives. In 2021, Kylie was also finalists for two of CEO Magazine’s prestigious awards, CEO of the Year and Not-For-Profit Executive of the Year. “My knowledge and experience are backed by decades in the health industry, but I’m driven by a bigger purpose to make real impact and a lasting legacy in the nursing profession in Australia. I love what I do, I care about my industry, and I will continue to advocate and support all nurses on their journey,” says Kylie.
Apart from proven business acumen, Kylie also possesses a sound financial track record of growth. She is a regular keynote speaker, author, media spokesperson and mother of two young men.
Flanking the Frontline
The recent years saw tremendous disruptions in all our lives due to the COVID pandemic. With most of the world confined to their homes, it was the nurses who were the pillars of healthcare systems all over the world.
Kylie shares that; “COVID-19 was the toughest challenge we have faced as an organisation and for most people, on a personal emotional level as well. Not only because it was unknown, but because as nurses we faced a mass workflow shortage and unprecedented stress to the healthcare system. We wanted to support all nurses through this time, ensure they had the right tools and support to deliver high-quality care to the Australian public.”
At ACN, Kylie led the implementation of a critical strategy to deal with the pandemic. This strategy consisted of a six-pronged approach under the categories – Information, Upskilling, Advocacy, Support, Changes to the Health Care System and Community Awareness.
“I worked hard to steer the organisation through its response to COVID-19, with generosity and inclusive principles. The most important decision I made was to invest in the emotional wellbeing of the nursing community instead of banking surplus income – to benefit all Australians.” The strategy led to the creation and launch of a dedicated ACN run COVID-19 portal that functioned as a platform where nurses could access latest research and information on the virus, participate in live Q&A exercises around dealing with COVID, stay updated with the political advocacy for nurses and more.
To young upcoming nurses, Kylie’s advice is to, “understand you will devote the rest of your professional life to people and learning. It’s a challenging but rewarding career, that tests your moral fibre, nurtures your thirst to help others and will see you continuously learning throughout your life.”
Starting out in her nursing career, Kylie remembers how she would often find herself wondering what a professional body of nursing development could and should entail. Today, she feels humbled that she has been able to provide positive change in the life of so many people, especially women, around her by being their voice and fighting for their rights.
Through advocacy and representation, ACN remains focused on advancing nurse leadership to shape health care. “We are committed to our intent of advancing nurse leadership to enhance health care and strongly believe that all nurses, regardless of their job title or level of seniority, can be leaders,” says Kylie.
As for Kylie herself, she continues to lead the charge against social injustice against, helping people be the best versions of themselves, and training them to be future industry leaders. “For me personally, at my core I am a humanitarian and have always been passionate about human rights, equality, diversity and a sustainable, inclusive world. I have invested decades in developing and empowering women because I believe when women are invested in, children can flourish. I will continue to champion these causes that are close to my heart and hope that my platform will only increase as there is much to do globally, as well as locally,” concludes Kylie.