Empowering People

Colbrow Healthcare

Connecting People

“We really strive to do everything as a team with integrity, flexibility and reliability. These are values that underpin the business as a whole,” says CEO of Colbrow Healthcare, Christina Widuckel. “Colbrow is here to help. Whether we’re filling a sick leave vacancy in an ICU unit in one of Melbourne’s major hospitals or we’re providing qualified advice to a new mum in her first week of bringing home a new baby, Colbrow can help.”

After practising as a lawyer for four years, Ms Widuckel started at Colbrow Healthcare in August 2007 as General Manager and in May 2011 took on the position of CEO and Managing Director. She has been part of the company’s incredible growth, particularly over the last two years. Ms Widuckel says that this experience has been very rewarding. “I would say my biggest career highlight so far has been overseeing the implementation of the first phase of our in-house booking and payroll software program called Colbrow Connect,” she says.

Colbrow Connect has been specifically designed with the requirements of the organisation in mind, with input from employees. Colbrow is composed of four separate business arms: the on-hire nursing recruitment agency, the vaccination division, homecare, and first aid responder services. Rather than purchase an ‘off the shelf’ system, the Colbrow team wanted to build software around the requirements of each division. Phase 1, which focuses on Colbrow nurses and critical solutions nursing agency, is now complete. “It’s been rolled out and is working well,” comments Ms Widuckel. The valuable software links employees with geographical locations, hospital preferences, individual shift preferences, availability and more. “All of this information is at the tips of our fingers now, which really makes it a much better program from a usability point of view – and allows our allocators to excel at their job,” she adds.

Colbrow Healthcare has also implemented web-based marketing strategies. “The main thing that we did was rebuild our entire website which showcases all of our services,” Ms Widuckel explains. Following a complete overhaul of the company website last year, Colbrow invested heavily in search engine optimisation. While the company has also done some advertising with Google AdWords, its most effective strategy has been to continue developing its website with relevant material to increase ranking in organic searches.

Homecare: Making all the Difference

Colbrow Healthcare specialises in providing assistance to people during some of the most vulnerable times in life. Colbrow Homecare provides in-home care and nursing to the elderly, new mothers and post-surgical patients. While there is a definite demand for these services, Ms Widuckel acknowledges that for some, reaching out for help can be daunting. “I can say and I can certainly speak from personal experience, don’t be afraid,” she says. “There are people out there like us to help you through the many funding and care options that are available to you or to your family.”

The ageing population increasingly tends to prefer staying at home, when given the option. Providing care within the home for elderly patients allows the patient to maintain a sense of control and stability. This can ease pressure on family members and contribute to the wellbeing of all those involved in the patient’s care. “There’s definitely no need to feel guilt because sons and daughters really should embrace the opportunity for their parents to remain at home where they can,” says Ms Widuckel. “It’s a much nicer option to stay at home rather than to go into residential aged care because [in the latter option, the patients] lose their independence, they lose who they are.”

There are also services available that allow people to pass away with dignity in the comfort of their own home. The palliative care option that Colbrow Healthcare offers makes a difficult situation a bit easier. “Both my grandmother and my father died in our family home,” shares Ms Widuckel. “The only reason that they were able to do so was from the help of some of the wonderful nurses that we have here – also my mother, who is a nurse herself. It was such a special time for the living as well as the dying because, from my point of view, having the people that I love the most being in the house that I grew up in and then dying there, it was an absolutely amazing experience to be there at the end of their life journey.” Colbrow Homecare palliative services allow for patients to spend their final days in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by family and friends.

Quality care, tailored to the individual needs of every client, is a key focus at Colbrow Healthcare. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to matching caregivers and nurses with clients. Colbrow matches the right person to each client by listening to client preferences and assessing their care goals. The company aims to maintain consistency in client care so that the relationship between patient and caregiver can be positive and based on trust. “That’s the thing about this industry; you do have to have people who care,” says Ms Widuckel. “It makes a massive difference. People who actually care about the welfare of their clients, they are the kind of people we want to have with us.” Being a part of Colbrow Healthcare is more than just a job; it is about making a difference to people in need of a helping hand.

Colbrow Healthcare follows a rigorous recruitment procedure to ensure that clients receive care from people of the highest calibre. Certain positions, including palliative care positions, require applicants to have a minimum of 12 months relative experience in the industry. Applicants must have or undertake a current police check and a working with children check. There is a skills confirmation and interview process in place to ensure that prospective employees align with company values.

Ms Widuckel credits the staff at Colbrow Healthcare for their professionalism. “If they were not skilled and trustworthy, then we wouldn’t have a business,” she says. “They are our main asset and we do try and look after them and make sure they are the right fit for our clients and for our organisation.” Colbrow recognises and rewards employees for their contribution to the success of the company via a loyalty program. All staff members receive two points for every hour they work, which can be redeemed for a variety of gifts including iTunes vouchers and movie tickets.

Flexible Care

Hospitals may see on-hire nursing companies such as Colbrow as competitors for skilled nursing staff, of which there is an acute shortage. “If there’s one message I’d like to get across in this respect,” Ms Widuckel explains, “Using on-hire staff nursing agencies to fulfil staff requirements as a result of unexpected fluctuations in admissions actually provides hospitals with much more flexibility.” With the on-hire nursing service, most of the responsibilities and obligations including work cover, performance review and management fall on Colbrow. “The future of healthcare is in the home, and a trend is already emerging that hospitals are really only for very sick people,” Ms Widuckel says. The cost of residential aged care will only grow, and bed shortages are an increasingly critical issue. “Really the only viable option for aged care in the future will be providing it at home,” she foresees. “And that is already being recognised by the federal government by increasing the funding for in-home care in this year’s budget.”

One common misconception surrounding in-home care is that only the wealthy can afford it. While quality care does cost money, it is certainly not out of the reach of the average person. Colbrow offers many options for care, ranging from a couple of hours each week to 24 hours a day. The state and federal government currently offer funding support that is not means tested, although that is likely to change soon. “The current funding arrangements are a bit of a minefield,” says Ms Widuckel. “But Colbrow will seek out every available funding avenue on behalf of our clients to ensure that if there is funding available to them they will receive it. We’re actually in the process of completing our own application to become an approved provider of government funded care, and of course once this has been approved we will be able to pass those savings on to our clients.”

With the nurses, carers and medics of Colbrow Healthcare, Ms Widuckel and her team are working toward a prosperous future. “Our vision is to be industry leaders in all that we do,” she explains. “And it’s to embrace all of our business opportunities and make a difference through value adding, collaboration, and excellence in customer service.” While Colbrow Healthcare has grown considerably over the years, caring for and helping people remains at the heart of the business. With an expert workforce dedicated to client welfare, Australians are continuing to put their trust in Colbrow. Ms Widuckel encourages people to look to Colbrow for above average care: “I personally would be honoured if you, the reader, let our family look after your family.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

December 19, 2018, 9:20 AM AEDT