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From strength to strength: Stepping up as a leader in allied health

Transitioning from a clinical role to a managerial position requires adaptability and a lot of learning. But at Feros Care, it’s not impossible. Gareth Oakley reflects on what he has learned in his new position, and shares his advice to other clinicians ready for leadership.

Graduating with a Masters of Exercise Physiology in 2015, Gareth Oakley began his career in a hospital setting, before stepping into a community-based role with Feros Care in 2017. Eager to expand his skill set, Gareth has taken on a leadership role this year as Regional Manager for Community Services in Victoria and Tasmania.

When we sit down with Gareth Oakley to hear his story, we’re welcomed by his laid-back disposition and easy-going nature. Yet, when he gently informs us of another meeting he should soon attend, we’re reminded of the tight ship our Regional Manager for Community Services runs.

Passion: Play and profession

Growing up in Rochester, Victoria, Gareth has always had a passion for sport and fitness; an interest that saw him play a season of professional-level cricket in the UK before returning to Australia to commence his undergraduate degree in 2009. However, it wasn’t long before he found himself back in the UK playing another two seasons of cricket, this time for St Albans, while studying his Masters degree part-time from 2012.

When Gareth graduated as an exercise physiologist in 2015, he joined the allied health team at St. Vincent’s hospital in Melbourne, before taking a break to travel the world. Eager to experience a different side to allied health when he returned home, Gareth joined Feros Care as a community-based exercise physiologist in 2017.

This year, Gareth has stepped up as our Regional Manager for Community Services across Victoria and Tasmania – all while keeping one foot in clinical practice once a week as an exercise physiologist. He says it’s a ‘sweet spot’ that offers him variety, but importantly, provides an opportunity for significant professional and personal growth.

Why consider taking that step up the ladder?

Gareth reflects on what he has learned over the last six months transferring from a clinical role into a managerial position. He offers advice to others forging a path towards leadership in allied health. 

1. Remember, the challenge will be worth it!

Gareth emphasises that a managerial role in allied health and community services comes with a whole new skill set – of which clinical knowledge is just the foundation.

“It’s been a really challenging role, but absolutely worth it for the opportunity to push myself. I was really comfortable in my role as an exercise physiologist, so taking on a leadership position has allowed me to broaden my skills. I’m learning all the time. The personal and professional development has been immense.”

2. Reach out to your mentors

“I go to my managers with all my questions, and they always offer guidance and support. I feel really lucky. My clinical leader, Ben Happ, is an inspiration. He has a vast clinical knowledge and his passion for Feros Care is second to none. He’s the best leader in this field I’ve ever seen. Another leader who has had a great influence on me is our General Manager of Community Services, Peg Webb. Having been a Regional Manager herself, she can answer any tricky questions and she is always available to offer advice and support.”

3. Prioritise     

Gareth says one must expect the unexpected when managing a team working in the community. The nature of leadership in allied health, particularly in the community, means there is always something on your to-do list. This, combined with the unpredictability of incidents that occur during the day means that the ability to prioritise multiple tasks is essential.”

4. Stay connected

“Transitioning from a clinical position to management meant that I took a step away from seeing the clients on a regular basis. However, it’s important to stay actively involved by maintaining connections with clients and our workforce in the community. I’m often travelling from Bendigo to Ballarat, throughout rural Victoria and across Tasmania, to meet our workforce face-to-face. Once a month, I also touch base with the leadership team in Head Office in Coolangatta, Queensland. The culture at Feros Care makes it really easy to maintain those relationships. We have a fantastic culture: a healthy mixture of fun and seriousness. Everyone is kind-hearted; our clients are at the centre of everything we do; it’s about treating others as you would like to be treated.” 

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