A Family Tradition

Colbrow Healthcare

With expert qualifications in a range of areas including intensive care, general medicine, mental health, aged care, paediatric nursing, home healthcare, palliative care and much more, Colbrow is a Specialist Healthcare Service dedicated to providing the finest Specialist Nursing and Care Services to Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Corporations, Private Clients, Schools, and Doctors (GP) Clinics. Working within a range of disciplines and providing all levels of nursing care from comprehensive clinical care to domestic care and companionship, Colbrow Healthcare remains dedicated to working closely with all clients, enriching its staff, and looking forward to providing healthcare solutions and services in the future.

With a rich history, Colbrow remains a family-owned and operated Specialist Healthcare Service, and is currently into its third generation, under the auspices of Chief Executive Officer Christina Widuckel. Unlike her grandmother, a nurse who purchased the business in the mid-1960s and later her mother, also a nurse who helped to build upon the company’s existing success, Ms Widuckel brings a unique perspective to the business with years of experience as a lawyer. Until she began working at Colbrow seven years ago when she started as General Manager, she was employed as a lawyer at a boutique family law practice. This experience, she says, provided an invaluable foundation and gave her a thorough understanding of all the necessary requirements of running a successful day-to-day business, along with a solid understanding of workplace relations laws and obligations, including equal opportunity laws and Occupational Health & Safety.

“Family law was totally different to what I’m doing now,” says Ms Widuckel. “It has helped a lot, because I know how to read legislation and regulations, and implement changes that are made, particularly with workplace relations. Even though family law has nothing to do with workplace relations, my legal training and background has given me the grounding to be able to understand what is required in order to run your business in accordance with the law.”

This August will mark seven years since Ms Widuckel made the transition from law to health care, following in the footsteps of the women who came before her. Founded by Mrs Collins-Brown back in 1957 – after whom the business is named – Colbrow was purchased by Christina’s grandmother, Catherine. Back then, the business was small, with only a handful of staff. In time Christina’s mother, Rose Widuckel, went to join her mother and provide care to those in need in Melbourne. At the time Rose took over the business it was still quite small, with just a few staff members. “Mrs Collins-Brown gave us the name, but it was really my grandmother, my mother, and now me who have been the force behind building Colbrow,” says Ms Widuckel. “All of them were pioneering women, from Mrs Collins-Brown – who started the business in the 1950s – to my grandmother who bought the business and my mother, both of whom got married and continue to work.” Christina’s own involvement with the company came about when her father took ill and her mother left work to look after him. “I was practicing law, and could see that there was a big power vacuum in the business, and I wanted to do what I could so made the decision to leave my law career to take the ‘Colbrow reins.’”

Changing With the Times

Providing excellence in healthcare placements and a continually available pool of registered nurses to patients in the home or in hospital, Colbrow has changed into a very process driven business, one with more stringent recruitment processes and procedures. “I built a recruitment team,” she says, adding that the nature of the healthcare business has changed a great deal over the years, from a model where nurses would simply go out into the field, do their job, and be paid. “Through natural evolution, we are a much more conscious employer now.”

In addition to comprehensive training, compliance, high levels of transparency and accountability to clients, Colbrow is a specialist nursing and care service, including its hospital divisions and Homecare division. “We are not just having a nurse go to work, but we are actually nurturing that nurse, and making sure that she is appropriately trained,” says Ms Widuckel. “In addition, we are giving them annual feedback, along with performance reviews for all staff, including all external and on-hire staff, to link them back in with us better.”

Realising the importance of keeping up with technology, Colbrow has a new informative website, www.colbrow.com, with toll-free numbers, information on the company’s many healthcare services, online store, and even a Careers section, where potential new employees can apply for work. Additionally, Ms Widuckel introduced and implemented Colbrow Connect. Serving multiple purposes and with a high degree of functionality, Colbrow Connect provides an integrated bookings and payroll system, which allows staff to put in their availabilities online, and also serves as the organisation’s recruitment system where information and applications are processed, so there is no need to handle everything twice. “We do not rely on paper at all for the application process anymore,” she says of the system, which was introduced three years ago. “It is constantly evolving in response to our needs, and has quite sophisticated reporting technology, which is what our clients want now: how many bookings we’ve got, how many we have filled, how many we have cancelled – they want to know that level of detail – and Colbrow Connect allows us to give them that.”

As a brand, Colbrow Healthcare represents all services under Colbrow. These include: Colbrow Nurses, Critical Solutions, for the hospital nurses; Colbrow Immune, providing immunisation nurses, and Colbrow Homecare which provides specialist nursing; and care services into the home. Employing nurses with expert qualifications from a range of areas of nursing practice – including general, specialist, mental health, paediatrics, and midwifery – Colbrow Healthcare carries on its commitment to excellence in all areas and its dedication to the people of Melbourne, and has grown to over 450 external staff, and 19 permanent and part-time full-time staff in the office.

Colbrow is based in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but has a strong presence everywhere in the home care space, including in the palliative care field. “We are building a name for ourselves being experts in the palliative care field,” comments Ms Widuckel.

Five Wishes®

Realising that people are living longer, and that there is a strong need for all people to talk about end of life care more openly, Colbrow recently developed Five Wishes® (www.fivewishes.com.au). Launched at the end of May in conjunction with National Palliative Care Week and the Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late Initiative, Five Wishes® is an engaging booklet which address the issue of how we want to spend our final days.

Activated by Colbrow Healthcare, the Don’t Wait Until it’s Too Late Initiative encourages a wider community dialogue, inclusive of all ages, relationships and backgrounds. Helping to guide the reader through the process of recording her or his wishes, the booklet enables Australians to identify not only their personal, emotional, and spiritual needs, but their medical wishes if they are unable to speak for themselves. The first booklet of its kind in the nation, it is non-partisan, legally recognised, and best of all ensures that men and women retain the power to decide exactly how they wish their loved ones to see them and how they wish to be loved at the end.

“While it can be difficult to talk about death, it is necessary to communicate final wishes before it is too late. Too often, we do not make these wishes clear to others, which can make matters challenging for our loved ones, and ourselves,” says the booklet. “Five Wishes® promotes a dialogue, ensures no one else makes important decisions for you, and is a simple guide to stipulate your requests before entering the final stages of life.

“It is all about making sure your wishes are known to your nearest and dearest they know how you want to be treated and gives you a voice when you are not able to speak for yourself,” she says. “In some cases, people want to pass at home, or in hospital, and it is best to discuss this in advance. Five Wishes® is really for anyone at any age, and it is better to do it before anything happens, because usually that stress that comes with – ‘I’m sick, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, and the doctors don’t know yet,’ – some people don’t want to know how they’re going to be treated in her final days, because that’s an admission, but if you have this conversation before you’re sick, there’s nothing confrontational.” Five Wishes® means you have taken the time to speak with your family, appointed an attorney or medical agent, a doctor, and others important in your life. “The idea that your medical power of attorney, in discussions with your doctor, will then follow your other five wishes.”

Diverse Services

With highly experienced, compassionate, and caring nursing staff, Colbrow’s range of home care services include palliative care, postoperative care, aged care, personal care, respite for carers, help around the home, and support for new mothers.

As a successful tenderer to the public sector, Colbrow Healthcare also offers opportunities for employment within Melbourne’s leading tertiary hospitals. These include The Alfred Hospital, Box Hill Hospital, Maroondah Hospital, Peter MacCallum, The Royal Women’s Hospital, The Royal Children’s Hospital, St Vincent’s Public Hospital and many other public health care facilities. Colbrow Healthcare is also a preferred supplier to the Epworth HealthCare group, which includes the Epworth Hospital Richmond, Epworth Freemasons and Epworth Eastern.

With four divisions, being: Colbrow Nurses and Critical Solutions (general nurses, and critical care staff); Colbrow Homecare (providing nursing and care staff), and Colbrow Immune, delivering vaccines and immunisations, Colbrow is well-known in Melbourne for its decades of unparalleled service, commitment to caring, and dedication. One of the big challenges for home care services, says Ms Widuckel, is making people aware services exist for themselves and their loved ones. “One of the big discussions I’ve had with people is that they actually don’t know that there are services out there that can support them to stay at home. Public funding is limited and it is means-tested, but there are always private health services like ours that can provide the support to allow them to stay at home. Getting that message out is key. Our word-of-mouth, our linkages, and our referrals to the community are really how we get that message out.”

As industry leaders in all they do, Colbrow Healthcare values teamwork, integrity, flexibility, and reliability, and these four values are paramount to making sure that the Colbrow name stays strong.

“One of our mottos is, ‘your home, your life, your choice,’ in terms of allowing people to stay in their homes. We do everything we can to support that… We want people to know that we will look after them, and we will look after their families. That’s what we want to do. A lot of times, families don’t know what the next step is in the homecare context, such as when a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer or terminal illness, coming to the end of time, the person wants to go home, but the family does not make that happen. That’s where we can step in and say ‘we can make that happen for you.’”

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?

September 19, 2018, 2:06 PM AEST