Words by Lindsay Mackay
A 15-minute meeting almost 14-years ago was the start of my journey and it built the very foundation of how I lead today, and it all started with a surprising radio call….
Beep - Beep - Beep
I reached for the button of my radio and to my surprise it was a direct radio call from a voice I wasn’t expecting to hear. I repeated my call sign to ensure it was me they were looking for, and my regions Operational Support Manager (OSM) confirmed they were looking for me. I was instructed to attend an unplanned meeting in their office. Somewhat confused and a little bit curious, we headed back to the ambulance station.
As I stood in the ambulance station I remember taking a deep breath as I reminded myself that this was my bosses’ boss and I had this sudden feeling of trepidation.
The walk to the office where the meeting was scheduled wouldn’t have been more than thirty meters but that walk felt like an eternity. I had so many thoughts running through my head.
‘Did I do something wrong at a job’,
‘Did I make a clinical error, that I haven’t realised’, or
‘Maybe a patient has submitted a complaint about me?’
But I couldn’t think of a single reason that senior management would want to see me. Although I didn’t like this feeling I continued walking towards the unknown.
Now as a senior manager in an ambulance service, I reflect on that day fondly. I remember feeling anxious and unsettled because it would be the first time I would meet the regions OSM behind closed doors. But that wasn’t the worst part. The OSM had a formidable reputation. As I approached the door my stomach was in my mouth but I knocked on the door, and walked into the office.
Although it felt like a life time, the meeting only lasted 15 minutes. As I left the office, I remember feeling confused. I remember having this slight feeling of excitement, but more powerful than that deep down I felt a tinge of fear. Not because of what had just occurred in the office, but because of what was about to happen. My mind raced as I thought, “what would others think about me”, “how would people treat me” and what had the OSM seen in me….. seriously why me?
That long walk to the office of doom and the 15-minute meeting was actually the launch pad to my future as a senior ambulance manager. The ‘formidable’ OSM who had requested my presences in their office that day was my first ever real experience of women supporting women within Paramedicine. She had climbed a challenging ladder in a challenging environment, and was now looking for people to encourage and take with her.
It made me extremely grateful that I was fortunate to be a junior paramedic in the region with the only female senior manager at the time (with a so-called formidable leadership style). Today I reflect on this and I realise that the style she was infamous for wasn’t formidable. It was just a female leader in a male leader dominated world. This challenged the culture norm at the time and although it was confronting and challenging for some, I suddenly felt entirely supported by her style!
Behind closed doors, this immensely articulate, and supportive female manager had asked me about my previous experience. As I answered her questions, I realised that she was already far more aware of my background and ethos than she let on. A real manger knows their people. She could only have known these things by taking the time to read my resume and follow up with my referees. At the closing of the meeting, a question was asked which I never would have expected; especially as a 22-year-old, female, junior paramedic.
"Lindsay, are you interested in an opportunity to cover someone’s annual leave, and work in the role of Station Manager?"
This experience continues to ground me as a leader today. I believe that women supporting women in life is not just compelling and powerful but it’s also a responsibility. Women supporting women within paramedicine is crucial to the positive progression of women working within the paramedicine industry. When I think about the OSM taking the time to invest in me (you could even call it a gamble, a roll of the dice if you will), I am inspired. She offered me an opportunity to change the controversial narrative which has not just led me to where I am today, but inspired others as well.
I am certainly not the first women in paramedicine and I have enormous respect and thanks for those trail blazers who were ahead of their time, but I have achieved many firsts as a woman in paramedicine. So to all of the women that came before me and laid the path for us, I thank you! To the women who are currently rising and those who are still to come (keep studying), I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you, listening to your goals. Never forget woman alone have power but collectively we have impact. When we stand together to address the issues and challenges that women face within Paramedicine, we are unstoppable.
Ms Lindsay Mackay is a strategic health leader, with expertise in integration, innovation, and executive leadership, to improve the sustainability of the health care system.
Ms Mackay is known to be a strong leader, focused on developing, mentoring and motivating teams, to achieve positive health outcomes by providing best care and clinical excellence. Lindsay is also known as an advocate and positive role model for women, to progress within senior leadership roles.
Lindsay was recognised in 2016 as the first Paramedic in Australia to work in a commonwealth government initiative, focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the primary health care system, by connecting and integrating with ambulance service delivery models.