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Broadening horizons with an MBA in Healthcare Management

When Dr Belinda Hibble embarked on a Master of Business Administration (Healthcare Management) two years ago, she thought she’d have a few years to prepare for future leadership opportunities.

Just months later though, she was offered a dream role as Director of Emergency Services at Barwon Health and found herself thrown in the deep end, managing two major projects for the organisation. 

Dr Hibble credits her studies at Deakin University with helping her to rapidly upskill in key areas and gain confidence as she stepped into the position.  

“I was hoping the MBA would support that career progression and I think it did in terms of selection for the role,” Dr Hibble said.  

“Since then, I’ve been able to really think about the subjects I choose in the MBA to bolster my experience and skill sets as I’ve grown into the role and that’s been really, really helpful.” 

While Dr Hibble admits the directorship presented “a big learning curve”, the MBA gave her the confidence she needed, particularly in the areas of business management and strategic leadership. 

She said the major projects she’s been working on – a virtual emergency care service and a new $20 million paediatric emergency department – have demanded project management and development skills not readily accessible to medical clinicians.  

“Never before have we seen so much change, and so much need for strategic leadership in emergency services, certainly in our region,” she said.  

“And so having those additional business skills was really vital in helping give me direction to run those projects and ensure successful outcomes.” 

The (new paediatric department) will be big, so lots of growth of staff and new areas and considering of equipment and resourcing and how we manage all our operating processes, but it’s really exciting to be a part of. And those skills in project management and development have been key in helping me understand how to embark on a project of that scale.”  

Dr Hibble said the hospital is already seeing successful outcomes from the virtual emergency care pilot, and on a personal level that’s been incredibly fulfilling.  

“As clinicians, you get stuck in your particular department or area of expertise, and doing a course like this helps you step above that and think more at a health service level and a sector level,” she said.  

Dr Hibble said working in group MBA projects with students from other disciplines, particularly those working in the private sector, helped her gain a new, broader societal perspective.  

It’s funny because you go into these subjects thinking, ‘Oh I won’t have much in common with you guys working in the private sector’, and actually they get talking and you realise there are some real opportunities for us in the public sector to learn from,” she said.  

It’s an interesting challenge to open your mind to that. We don’t think about how we position a brand or market to our consumers, but there’s so many opportunities to cross-pollinate in those areas.” 

Another positive from the MBA (Healthcare Management) experience has been the gaining of skills to find a common language with non-medical practitioners within the health network.  

“It’s really helped me develop a language when engaging in conversations with leaders within the organisation as well,” she said. 

Historically, clinicians had our own language, and the business leaders had their language, and it was sometimes hard to find that common ground.” 

“We tend to be pretty tight knit within the medical sector, so you go to medical conferences and learn with your peers, but actually it’s valuable to step outside that (world) and network with business leaders from other industries and understand some of their pressure points.”