Celebrating our female leaders - Lisa Norman

In 2020, St John of God Berwick Hospital was given 45 minutes notice that they were needed to join the COVID-19 fight and provide care to 30 local aged care residents who had been displaced during the pandemic. CEO Lisa Norman remembers receiving the phone call that changed everything.

8 Mar 2021

It called on all of Lisa's skills and experience to lead in a moment of crisis, which kick-started a defining moment for the hospital. 

Lisa said it took 30 minutes to empty the orthopaedics ward in order to welcome 30 frightened aged care residents to the hospital, arriving with only the clothes on their back.St John of God Berwick Hospital CEO Lisa Norman

"They didn’t know us, our facility or what was happening to them.

“It required all of our team, including leadership, on the front line in scrubs developing our models of care for COVID positive residents. It harnessed us as a team and created incredible solidarity within the hospital.

“It was important that we didn’t just deliver the best patient care clinically but also looked out for their emotional wellbeing with home comforts and creative outlets, and when their family couldn’t visit we were there and often the last person to comfort them before they passed.” 

Lisa was well placed to rise to the challenge. She started her career as an emergency department and trauma nurse and went on to hold hospital senior leadership positions culminating in building and commissioning St John of God Berwick Hospital.

“As an emergency department and trauma nurse you never knew what would come at you each day and it taught me to be incredibly adaptable, to value and rely on the team around you and always put the patient first.

“It also taught me to take any opportunity as they come which is how I took my first leadership position as the nurse unit manager of a busy emergency department with no previous management experience. 

“As I progressed in my career my experience enabled me to always put the patient at the centre of everything I do even when I was no longer on the floor and seeing the direct result of frontline care.” 

She now oversees three hospitals and around 1200 caregivers located in the South East of Melbourne, the fastest growing population in Victoria. 

“Our primary catchment area includes the Casey and Cardinia local government areas that are growing at a rate of 300 people per week, and while they have traditionally had a younger demographic, this has changed over time as we see older people downsizing and moving to the area.

“As a health care provider this has meant that we have had to adapt our services to meet the needs of the community such as introducing oncology and adding more orthopaedic services. 

“Our vision for South East Melbourne is to provide services for every stage of life, close to home at any one of our facilities including St John of God Berwick Hospital, St John of God Frankston Hospital and St John of God Pinelodge Clinic.”

As a whole St John of God Health Care employs 81 percent women of its total workforce and registered nurses are the largest employed profession.

“I am proud to be a nurse. It is an amazing profession that tends to be a workforce that organically attracts women to it.

“Even as a CEO I still consider myself a leader of nurses and you need a strong army of nurses to run a hospital in partnership with doctors and grow a culture that recognises great patient care is critical to our success.”

On International Women’s Day and during the Year of the Health and Care Worker, Lisa credits her success with working hard and always taking advantage of opportunities that challenged her and made her happy. 

“My advice to women and other young leaders is believe in yourself but always ensure that you surround yourself with people who encourage you to succeed.

“It is then important to empower the people around you and give back to other young leaders by believing in them and encouraging them to be successful.

“I think the saying – do what you love and you will never work a day in your life has been so true for me. I think finding passion in your work leads to success because when you love what you do you are usually good at it.”