Make Your Own Luck

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Dr Nicola Ward, Orthopaedic Surgeon.
Dr Nicola Ward, Orthopaedic Surgeon.

Nicola Ward is succeeding in a profession where she is pushed to find another like her. Nicola is an Orthopaedic Surgeon and the Deputy Director of Orthopaedic Surgery in one of Queensland’s largest public hospitals.

More importantly, Dr Ward feels lucky to be where she is today.

Dr Ward’s outlook on life is one of gratitude and hard work. Falling into medicine when she secured the grades, Dr Ward attended university in Dunedin, “as much for the escape from a regional small town as to develop academically.”

A thirst to explore the world and dedicate herself to her endeavors, Nicola completed the six year undergraduate medical degree, and then moved to Australia where she completed eight years of orthopaedic training.

An unsaid rule of the industry dictates an international fellowship is required, in order to be “taken seriously” as a surgeon. It was in Belfast UK, during her two year fellowship, that Nicola had her outlook challenged.

“I said to my professor that I felt lucky to be where I was. He told me that was rubbish, that we make our own luck.”

Taking on the role of Deputy Director in a public hospital might not seem lucky to those who know.

Public hospital administration is far from what motivates surgeons throughout their day. It’s people management, budget cuts, media scrutiny and bureaucracy; none of which their thousands of hours of training have prepared them for.

So why take it on?

“I admire and respect the Director who asked me to do the job,” replies Nicola. “We get on well and he’s taught me a lot.”

Admiration, gratitude, respect. These are words that of late, have not been associated with the Australian medical profession. The public is more likely to hear “bullying” and “sexual harassment”, from an industry that has had more than it’s fair share of negative press.

What keeps Dr Ward motivated in a role where the pressures are numerous and extensive?

“Seeing little old ladies, with new hips post operation, back playing lawn bowls. That is a great feeling to know that someone’s life is better because of what I did. Especially when they drop in with fresh baked scones to say thank you, that’s always really nice,” Dr Ward says.

With the recent joint purchase of a premise with colleagues to go into private practice, Dr Ward is working on a professional balance that satisfies her.

“The public sector is essential, and medical professionals appreciate some of their time needs to be dedicated to it. In private practice though, we are able to run things more efficiently, and after years and years, of round the clock availability, gain back some semblance of a life for ourselves.”

That doesn’t mean Dr Ward has decided she has done her bit for the wider community. Far from it actually.

Dr Ward has joined the Australian Air Force Specialist Reserves and completed the training necessary to be part of the Queensland AusMAT Team. Come December 2016, Dr Ward will likely be deployed to the Middle East to provide her services to Australian troops serving abroad.

“I like to keep things interesting, and also I like feeling useful,” Dr Ward says, who spends her spare time running marathons and hanging out with friends.

In an industry plagued by ego and entitlement, Dr Ward is bringing a refreshing perspective to the operating theatre.

Dr Ward isn’t the only one who should feel lucky for where she is. The Australian medical profession should too.

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