Kylie Ward – The Leading Light of the Nursing Profession Today and Tomorrow

Kylie Ward-Australian College of Nursing (ACN) | CIO Women Magazine

“My desire is to leave the world a better place and I have an unrelenting passion to bring others on the journey with me.”

Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward is a humanitarian, CEO, equality warrior, transformation specialist, mom, policy reformer, visionary and a for-purpose leader. These roles fall short of her dynamic and strong leadership personality. The Enterprise World is proud to introduce her as one of The Most Influential Women to Watch In 2023.

Raised in the western suburbs of Sydney, life was simple, but Kylie Ward was not. Little did she know that she was about to become one of the country’s most influential professional health leaders and a formidable, passionate advocate for women, children, and equality.

Kylie’s story is grounded in service to others, a vision for a greater future with a tenacity to get the job done. Her strengths lie in breaking down walls, reframing the issue for fresh thinking, and bringing people together to create long-lasting solutions.

By the virtue of this, she has acquired several accolades over the years and been recognized for her work. In 2017, Kylie Ward won Telstra ACT Businesswoman of the Year for Purpose and Social Enterprise.

A Wharton Fellow, who also holds honorary academic appointments with five leading Australian Universities, Kylie Ward received a prestigious Honorary Fellowship with the Australasian College of Health Service Management (ACHSM) in 2019.

In recognition of her leadership in digital transformation in the health industry, Kylie Ward was ministerially appointed as a Board Director to the Australian Digital Health Agency, a Board Director to the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Health Translation Advisory Committee (HTAC) whilst holding numerous other national and board positions.

Kylie Ward has served on numerous State and Territory Senate, and Parliamentary Inquiries and gave evidence in 2019 at the Australian Aged Care Royal Commission. In 2020,Kylie Ward was named one of the Top 100 Health Voices for LinkedIn worldwide and was recognized as a National Influencer by AuSAE, the leading body for association executives.

      A graduate of Western Sydney University (WSU) for both her undergraduate studies and her Master of Management. In 2018 she received Western Sydney University Alumni Award for Professional Excellence, which was presented by the Chancellor at a celebration dinner with 1000 guests in attendance.

In 2022, Kylie Ward was named the National Winner of Executive / Team Leader of the Year and Overall National Winner of the Outstanding Leadership Awards for Leadership HQ Australia. Within the same year, she was also named the ACT Winner of the Excellence in Women’s Leadership Awards by Women and Leadership Australia.

Kylie Ward has been a national finalist for two of CEO Magazine’s prestigious awards, CEO of the Year and Not-For-Profit Executive of the Year. On top of all of that, she is a regular keynote speaker, author, media personality, and mother of two.

Fostering Inspiration

“I work to achieve social reforms and policies that give greater access and equity for all and to ensure we are embracing and supporting diversity in all its forms.”

Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward is the CEO of the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) and was pivotal in establishing the Australian College of Nursing Foundation (ACNF) to support emerging leaders through sponsorship and mentorship as well as inspiring research and policy. She is honoring nursing history through the raising of a commemorative sculpture of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel at the Australian War Memorial.

When asked about her vision, Kylie Ward says, “I wanted to create a workplace that allowed staff to flourish, and I wanted to create an organization that enables nurses to succeed, placing them at the forefront as leaders and decision-makers. As a Registered Nurse myself, I know the sacrifices, the challenges, and the effort that being a nurse demands. I wanted to, and still do, problem-solve to make it better for every nursing professional.”

Refocusing on Purpose

As CEO of ACN, Kylie Ward has led a program of transformation, focusing the organisation squaring on its purpose to advance health and shape nursing She has built not only a legacy of nursing leadership but also the importance of policy, sponsorship, and community around it.

Kylie Ward is inspired to increase the recognition of nurses and women in society. Articulating and amplifying the professional voice of nurses, she has ensured that they have a major seat at the table to develop health and social policy.

Kylie Ward was instrumental in launching Nurse Strong, a platform empowering nurses to look after their own health. She has made a significant contribution to numerous policy campaigns, including the removal of conversion therapy, nurse-led care in Aged Care, and the improvement of population health outcomes.

She has led the ACN community to find its relevance through policy leadership, and political and industry influence. Thanks to Kylie’s efforts, ACN is now Australia’s beacon for Nurse Leadership.

Digital Champion

Kylie Ward has been a champion for digital health and nursing informatics for several decades.

Throughout her career she has led major reform for modernisation of paper-based systems, point of care solutions, quality and safety initiatives to minimise risk to patients. This is in tandem with a focus on optimising the time nurses get to spend with their patients.

Most importantly, Kylie Ward’s leadership in digital transformation is guided by a vision to see digital platforms as a key tool for health equity and access greater access to expert care. In particularly to address the disproportionate illnesses such as chronic and complex diseases for those living in rural and remote communities, as well as other vulnerable and marginalized people.

The importance of technology in the health sector cannot be undervalued says Kylie, from moving staff to work-from-home models through to delivering important educational and informational updates via webinars and hybrid learning models.  

One key area of work, including Kylie Ward leading the role out of the CAN Immunisation for Health Practitioners course which is now offered via an on-demand online portal, providing access to the latest information on immunization to a larger audience. 

Turning Point

In speaking to Kylie Ward today she presents as a woman of great strength, determination and conviction. And although she acknowledges she has had these traits since a very young girl, the road to being a voice of authority has not been without great challenges and sacrifices.

Upon reflection, Kylie Ward confesses that she has come up against much criticism, knocks and even bullying because she dared to speak out and dream of something different, something better for the staff and the consumers of health services. She states she has worked in some organizations and teams that have had a pack mentality in tolerating the status quo, even at the expense of good care, better use of resources, and safer patient outcomes. Resistance to change at the top of an organization is crippling, as is a culture that doesn’t value innovation and diversity.

The journey has not been an easy one for Kylie Ward with the challenge of what is, what was and what could be. Without her inner strength and desire to help people less fortunate than herself, she would have pulled back long ago to fit in. Instead, she has sacrificed the security of positions and titles in the pursuit of working with others who are also valued-based who want to make a difference. .

With an innate ability to connect with people from all walks of life, Kylie Ward says it is the unexpected conversations and people she has encountered that have taught her the most, and who became her inspiration to keep fighting the system.

Her impeccable work ethic and ability to get people to unite with her resulted in many great outcomes and achievements for the teams she led. A natural creative and systems thinker she has delivered greater efficiencies and better use of resources.

As she gained more experience, her sphere of influence grew, as did those who wanted to follow her direction.

Kylie Ward has a great love for people, and when you walk with her amongst her peers, you see this is very much reciprocated; people say that with Kylie Ward they feel heard and seen.

“I have always felt that I have a smart brain, a strong voice, and a kind heart and I should use that to make a difference for humanity.  I speak for all those who will never get the opportunity to feel heard by decision-makers, powerbrokers, and politicians.”

Owning this conviction, she has led ACN in illuminating Nurse Leadership within her seven years as the CEO. Moreover, she has exceeded in meeting her personal KPIs and business goals to date.

Earlier this year, she completed a course on Strategic Non-profit Management at Harvard Business School. Kylie Ward continuously looks for new ways to better herself in her role and is committed to personal development.

Behind The Curtains Of Success

A good leader defines organizational success. Kylie’s leadership style reflects all shades of victory with empathy, compassion, innovation, problem-solving, and seizing every opportunity.

Everyone becomes a nurse for a different reason. However, at the core of ACN, there are caring people who want to make a difference and help others. The organization’s purpose has always centered around people, and Kylie Ward is determined to build a strong, supportive and inclusive team to serve their nursing community.

Having a team that shares the same vision is what makes ACN a beacon of hope. Kylie Ward strives to give her team new opportunities, supports their ideas and initiatives, challenges them for professional growth and ensures they have the help needed to do their job. Over the last year the structure of the team, the roles, and KPIs have been refreshed, giving staff greater opportunities for growth and development.

“I believe connection to purpose and a culture of innovation, creativity, flexibility,  and problem-solving is key to staff retention, progression and instilling an atmosphere of anything is possible.”

A Chink In The Armor

During the rise of the pandemic, Australia experienced an unprecedented impact on the healthcare system and subsequently on ACN. Nurses had to undergo being overworked and underpaid, dealing with workplace violence and not having adequate access to personal protective equipment. ACN took up the mantel to advocate for the nursing profession and ensure all their community was respected, heard and supported as best they could during this time.

Kylie Ward and the ACN team organized over 200 care packages be delivered to hospitals who were feeling burnt out from the pandemic, all the products in these packages were sourced from bushfire-stricken regions. 

Internally at ACN, Kylie made sure her staff felt supported and valued by giving them a tailored care package filled with well-being-focused items – all 82 staff received one delivered to their homes. Whilst this might seem like a simple idea, it was logistically challenging and expensive to execute; but it was timely, practical, and very well received.

On the other hand, post-pandemic has opened up many opportunities for nurses to be heard at the decision-making table.

“I’m proud to represent the nursing profession and lead us into a new era.”

An Organization Standing Strong

The Australian College of Nursing is a purpose-led organization, that is committed to ‘Shaping Health, Advancing Nursing’.

By Shaping Health, they create a real and lasting impact on the way all healthcare systems are designed, delivered, supported, and resourced. It has a unique perspective of how they will shape health to ensure all Australians have access to high-quality care.

With Advancing Nursing, the organization supports nurses and the health sector to train, inspire, educate, uplift the skills and expectations of nurses. They are creating a world where the nursing profession is well-respected and appreciated.

This has been initiated with the sole thought, to enhance health care and a strong belief that all nurses, regardless of their job title or level of seniority, can be leaders. By bringing together thousands of extraordinary nurses from across the country, ACN builds a strong collective voice for nursing.

ACN represents in excess of 150,000 nurses through corporate and individual memberships. It is the voice of the 400,000-strong nursing profession in Australia. The organization has been responsible for graduating more than 6,171 students through national courses.

A Step Ahead

“This is a very exciting time where we are commanding a new history with respect, regard and influence.”

Kylie is a humanitarian at heart. She has invested decades in developing and empowering women as she believes when women are involved, children can flourish.

Kylie’s passion to see a world where a nurse is at every table a healthcare decision is made, paves the way for nurses to be seen as leaders in healthcare, and have a professional voice of influence and impact.

Nurses have so many avenues to be involved, network, learn and contribute to the greater body of knowledge. The challenges along with their work are often missed, not shared or sought out. This is now changing.

Moreover, ACN now aims to overcome the risks that are borne by the profession in Australia – workforce shortages, occupational violence, and burnout.

ACN has initiatives and programs under six brand pillars:

  • Advocacy – To advocate the issues for the nursing profession, making real and lasting changes
  • Community – To build a strong community of nurses
  • Education – To train, educate, inspire and mentor nurses
  • Leadership – Prepare nurses to lead and facilitate opportunities
  • Policy – Set the standard for exemplary healthcare
  • Social Impact – Improve the beneficial impact nurses have on our society

Going forward, the contribution from ACN towards building stronger economies, gender equality, and healthier communities will be paramount.

Experience Speaks Louder

“My advice to women is to understand who they are, what they bring to the position and organization as well as the areas they need to strengthen. We should all understand we have more learning and growth to do, and we should commit our lives to personal and professional development. This will require finding the right mentors and coaches who will challenge you. Then it is up to you to do the personal work to be authentic and assimilate the learnings into improving the lives of those you serve.

Surround yourself with exceptional people at every level and let them challenge you and let them soar. Know ahead of time that you will not have all of the answers but stand in your conviction and courage when you do know the right thing to do.

Being a CEO or business leader comes with great privilege and power but most importantly it comes with great responsibility. Always conduct yourself with integrity, grace, clarity, and purpose, and be filled with gratitude and kindness, even when making tough decisions. Time is the most precious resource today, and it is not renewable so be respectful of other people’s time, as well as your own and be decisive so people can follow your lead.”

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