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Perioperative Mentorship Program 2023

In 2023 ACORN piloted the Perioperative Mentorship Program (PMP), a leadership development program that focused on developing leadership skills in the context of leading innovation, change and transformation.



To infinity and beyond: Mentoring and growing our future leaders

I still look in the mirror and wonder how I am a perioperative leader and how I got here. I started my perioperative journey surrounded by names that are synonymous with excellence: Menna, Phyllis, Sally and Fran were all royalty of NSW OTA and ACORN and I looked to them on a daily basis as my leadership measuring stick. From my first day on the floor, these giants of the perioperative world shared their wisdom and guidance freely, and instilled in me the importance of the common goal of patient safety.

Jump forward 12 years, I am an educator and a member of the ACORN board. How did that happen? Patient safety is still the common goal but in the face of an ever-changing health care landscape it is easy to lose your bearings and miss the big picture. The overtime, short staffing and supply chain issues narrow your vision until you just look to getting through the next patient and the next shift. Many days have felt like rinse and repeat – no staff, no equipment but more patients and longer waitlists. Young leaders, such as myself, are coming through as the next generation during a time when a much larger number of our leaders lay down their gloves and gowns, calling time on their careers. This movement results in a void as the ‘old guard’ take with them not only their knowledge but also their wisdom and leadership capacity. For young leaders like me, the focus over the last three years has been survival rather than cultivating the future but now, as the leadership mantle is passed to those who come next, I feel that all leaders within all levels of our profession need to focus on deciding how we wish to go forward as perioperative nurse leaders.

With this challenge ringing in my ears and a massive case of imposter syndrome, I decided to undertake the ACORN 2023 Perioperative Mentoring Program (PMP). Despite being an ACORN director, I felt that I needed to gain additional tools to consolidate and reaffirm my leadership capacity in this brave new world. And I am so glad that I did. Throughout the duration of the course, I heard from other leaders all over the country and their lived experiences – many echoed my own experiences – which reinforced and normalised how I was feeling. Many of these leaders wanted to grow their knowledge and capacity to achieve their own goals and make the culture within their teams better and it was so empowering to be in the company of like-minded leaders from all different levels of leadership and within different facets of our Australian perioperative community.

I started this with the line ‘to infinity and beyond’, a nod to the film Toy Story. My leadership journey reminds me of the scene where Buzz has just arrived home and he still believes he is the real ‘Buzz Lightyear’ and Woody is introducing him to the ‘real’ world. It’s a culture shock for both parties and a common ground seems a universe away. When I enrolled in the 2023 PMP, I felt a little like Buzz – I thought I didn’t belong – but I was accepted by the other members of the course with open arms. I now see, through the program and the individual coaching of Dr Irena Yashin-Shaw, that I do not need to feel so isolated but I do need to let go of my imposter syndrome and embrace my leadership capacity with confidence and authenticity. I am currently working on my final project of the course which I plan to deliver as a presentation and I hope it will lead to an article and positive change within my team.

Thank you to Irena and the other members of the PMP community for helping me to find my confidence. 

Justine Vost