July 31, 2019

Get to know: Q&A with Roger Nicholls

What is your coffee order?

Strong long black. More strong than long.

When at work I use fresh ground coffee from home and use a plunger my wife bought at an op shop. I only have one per day but it’s the equivalent of about 4 cups!

What does a typical work day look for you?

I generally like to start about 7 am and get away by 5 pm.

Board or Committee papers are published on Friday afternoons and so each week is geared to meeting this week’s deadline and having the feelers out for papers for subsequent weeks. I have the privilege of working with a broad range of good and smart people to bring reports and proposals to the Board for discussion and decision.

Tell us about your Northern Health journey?

I started at what was the precursor of Northern Health – PANCH – in late 1997.

I moved into a HR role and one of my first jobs was running staff tours of the new and vacant Northern Hospital which opened in February 1998. I was eventually appointed as Director of HR at Northern Health. I have been in my current role as Director of Corporate Governance for a bit over four years.

Can you tell us a bit about your career before starting at Northern?

I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I had numerous part time jobs when I first attempted university: hotels, hamburger chef, milkman, hay carter, cleaner. After some time on the road and unemployed, I realised I had to get a real job and ended up training as a nurse, doing a critical care course, some years as a Nurse Unit Manager and so on. There’s a wide variety of opportunities in health and always something new to learn.

What is your greatest achievement or favourite memory since working here?

I’m surprised that I’ve been here over 20 years now. There is a scene in the book Siddhartha by Herman Hesse where the young Buddha is sitting next to a river and realises that while it’s the same river, it’s always changing. Such is Northern Health, except the river has got much bigger!

One of my greatest pleasures is getting to know the people and the satisfaction they get from acquiring new skills, growing their careers and meeting the challenge of providing healthcare to the community.

What are some things people don’t know about you?

I do like to try and fix things myself, whether it’s the car, the lawn mower, our house. Some years ago I bought a car that was going to the wreckers, so I parked it in our driveway and pulled it apart down to the last nut and bolt to find out how it worked. I also like to grow vegetables using seed from the previous year but have lost touch with that over recent years.

What do you like to do after work?

Over the last 10 years I have become…yes…addicted, to cycling. After discovering the many cycle trails around Melbourne and seeing some stages of the Tour de France live, I bought a good road bike. This opened up a new world of experiences; meeting people from diverse backgrounds and local back roads I wasn’t aware of. Weekdays I train to be fit for the Sunday morning group ride which usually heads out via Diamond Creek to a range of roads with hills, great views, kangaroos and kookaburras. Each year I join a group for a few days cycling in the Victorian Alps. It brings me closer to the landscape and helps me feel young.

We are aware you are a Melbourne Rebels supporter – how did your interest in rugby union come about?

I was blessed to have grown up on a farm in central NSW, however, there wasn’t much entertainment except for sport. I had big brothers who played rugby so I followed their path. At 16 I went on a regional representative tour to New Zealand – the peak of my rugby career! Despite over 40 years in Melbourne I still can’t watch a full game of AFL, so I take my son to all of the Rebels home games.

How would you describe Northern Health in one sentence?

Health services are large complex organisations – community expectations are increasing and resources are limited. Generally, Northern Health people are up for the challenge and are committed to doing the best possible by finding new ways to provide effective services. The notion of empowered health workers described by the HRO initiative gives me hope that the sum of all of our skills and experience will be harnessed to bring a bright future. Perhaps that’s more than one sentence?

Who would you nominate next for a staff profile and why?

In this role I have lost contact with many staff at the clinical coalface. I was heartened to read the recent story of Graduate Nurse Lauren Parkinson. I recall meeting Maree Glynn in the early days prior to the move to Northern and admire her consistent commitment to the organisation. I think she will have some interesting insights.