Amanda Campbell Managing Director & Physiotherapist Encompass Allied Health developed her allied health practice in 2015, based on her experience of growing up rurally and having to travel significant distances to access health care. Encompass Allied Health offers mobile health services to private clients, residential aged care facilities and community care providers across a large geographic area of Central Queensland.
Amanda previously held an academic position at James Cook University. She currently holds a casual academic post with Central Queensland University, delivering specialist elder health content. Amanda was awarded an international scholarship to assist in bringing private rehabilitation cancer services to the people of Central Queensland. She offers Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy services, as well as Hippotherapy using her own horses, and miniature horses for therapeutic benefit.
How did your experience of growing up remotely influence your decision to become a health professional?
Whilst growing up, both my parents and many of my aunts worked in the health sector. My father was a hospital business manager for NSW Health responsible for running 2 small country hospitals. My mother and several aunts were nurses at these hospitals. As a young teenage girl, our wonderful and highly skilled local GP suspected that I had an ovarian tumour. My mother had taken me to see him due to concerns regarding the size and shape of my stomach.
The nearest medical imaging facilities were approximately 100km away in Tamworth. As the only facility in the area, it was a long and nervous wait for my parents before a conclusive diagnosis could be made. From that point, things all happened very quickly. Before I knew it, I was 700km away from home in Sydney undergoing surgery as there was no specialist closer to home that could perform the surgery I needed. The impact of our rural location had finally hit home. We were away from our family and extended community support network at a time when we probably needed them the most.
My siblings were left in the care of my grandparents for an unknown period of time. My parents had to take indefinite leave from their jobs. I can remember thinking even back then as a 14 year old girl, that something needed to change. We needed access to specialist services closer to home. We needed access to basic medical imaging facilities closer to home. This led me to commencing a degree in medical imaging upon completion of Grade 12 and really ignited my drive and passion for bringing high quality health services to regional, rural and remote areas of Australia.
You left a well paid job in mining on a Friday, and decided to set up your own business from the next Monday. Tell us about how saying ‘yes’ to a series of opportunities led to you starting Encompass Allied Health.
I had been living and working in Blackwater in Central Queensland for almost 5 years. My role as a Health Advisor for a large mining organisation again drove home the need for services in the bush. I was travelling between 2 of the organisation’s mine sites in Blackwater and Chinchilla on a regular basis, because accessing experienced allied health professionals to support our injured workers in these locations was difficult.
The demands of the job, being on call 24 hours a day, 364 days a year and operating as a sole practitioner was taking its toll on me physically, mentally and emotionally. At the same time, I was missing my partner Troy and our children who were living in Gladstone. Troy and I spoke at length about finding some balance between work and family, which eventually drove me to leave mining. I resigned from my job without thinking twice about how I was going to earn a living.
After having the weekend off, I decided that I would approach a residential aged care facility in Rockhampton. I knew that attracting and retaining allied health professionals was challenging in the aged care industry.
The Director of Nursing and CEO offered me a wonderful opportunity to start my own business by providing pain management services to their residents. Within several months of starting, I was receiving calls from other aged care facilities and community care organisations asking if I could provide services to their clients, because they were unable to attract and retain their own staff.
Again, as a sole practitioner it was very difficult to service the number of clients needing help. Saying no to these opportunities was never an option for me. I don’t believe in closing a door without looking inside first. I had agreed to help everyone, but then realised that there were just not enough hours in the day or days in the week. Especially when combined with a daily commute in excess of 300km.
At this point in time, I was fortunate enough to meet Elizabeth Kane. Liz is a wonderful and highly skilled Occupational Therapist. She, like me, grew up in regional NSW and understood the difficulty faced by members of these communities when they needed to access health services. Similar values and ideals saw Liz join Encompass Allied Health. Together, she has helped me grow Encompass Allied Health to where it is today.
Our team of professionals and support staff grew rapidly. Liz is now in a Senior Occupational Therapy role and is Clinical Team Leader, providing support and mentorship to our new graduate therapist Brent Reynolds. Brent also hails from regional Australia and understands the challenges and complexities of delivering health care in regional, rural and remote areas.
How do you approach leading and managing a mobile workforce who are often working remotely? What systems and routines do you use?
This is one of the biggest challenges for our business. Therapist safety is always at the forefront of my mind. Once our therapists go behind a closed door, anything could happen and no one would be aware. At present, we have a multi-level system in place whereby we complete an extensive intake form prior to booking any appointment. This form is designed to help us understand who we are going to see, where they live, how they live and who lives with them.
Once an appointment is made, we send two people to the first home visit (therapist and assistant, or case manager if from an organisation). The team notify our clinic via text message when they are going into the home and provide an estimated time for completion of the visit. If they have not contacted us prior to that time to advise that they are safely out of the premises, our support staff will call them and advise that they are needed for another appointment urgently. The support staff and therapist have a response that means that they are safe and will be finished shortly or that they require assistance. We are currently investigating other options such as the introduction of Safety Card or a similar system as a more robust way of managing safety for our team.
You incorporate Hippotherapy in your practice, using horses. How does this have therapeutic applications?
Hippotherapy simply means treatment with the help of the horse. Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists undergo further training to understand how to use the rhythmical and multidimensional movement of the horse to help in managing physical impairments. I was very fortunate to be able to attend a course held in Central Qld with Pippa Hodge, a leading Canadian Physiotherapist using Hippotherapy, and Sally Francis, former Chef de Equipe for the Australian Paralympic Equestrian Team.
Unfortunately for children living with conditions such a Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, Autism Spectrum Disorders and so on, therapy consumes so much of their time and is often difficult and painful for them. Using horses helps many children to relax and we can achieve therapeutic outcomes without it ‘feeling like therapy’. The children gain so much more than just physical benefits from their interaction with the horses and it is much less stressful for the entire family unit when children actually ask to attend their therapy sessions.
Encompass Allied Health team and their miniature horses, used for Hippotherapy
Tell us about your plan to have all multi-disciplinary Allied Health professionals under one roof, and why you believe it is important.
As a James Cook University graduate and then Physiotherapy Lecturer, multidisciplinary care in rural and remote areas was extensively taught. I have always enjoyed working with the other Allied Health disciplines to ensure that client outcomes are optimal and holistic. The learning opportunities for allied health professionals in this environment are significant. I really believe that continued education, both formal and informal, is what encourages us to continue to strive to be the best in our field.
Our new Encompass Allied Health clinic has Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Dietetics at present and we are actively seeking a Speech Language Pathologist to join our team and help us provide a one stop shop for our clients. With our team of therapists working together, we can ensure that all barriers to independence are addressed adequately and holistically.
We will soon commence group sessions involving dietetics and occupational therapy that will help clients regain or maintain their independence in cooking and performing other kitchen based tasks. Similarly, group classes with physiotherapy and occupational therapy professionals will assist people living with declining mobility and upper limb function to regain independence within their home and community environments.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge has definitely been recruitment. It is difficult to attract and retain staff in regional areas, but when coupled with the specialty niche that we work in, it becomes extremely challenging. Aged and community care is an area with a high emotional toll on the people that work within the sector. Our staff deal with frailty, disability, grief and mortality all day every day.
As an experienced therapist I have learnt to deal with this and view it from a different perspective to possibly that of a new graduate or young therapist. I really believe that I am very privileged to be able to work with and support people in perhaps their time of highest need. I get to see them at their most vulnerable, and this allows me to develop a bond with them that positively enhances the care that I can provide.
We are working hard to support our young team and ensure that they get the emotional support they need to be successful for both their clients and themselves. We are currently looking at job rotation strategies to ensure that our staff can have some emotional respite and maintain optimal mental health. Including by working with a different population in areas such as Occupational Health and more traditional areas of physiotherapy and occupational therapy, like private practice clinics that treat injuries rather than illness.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being able to provide a very much needed service to the people of our community and region. I am also equally proud of our wonderful team of professionals and support staff and the care that they provide for the more vulnerable people within our community. The culture we have within and around our business is energetic, empowering and empathetic.
We have worked hard to develop a reputation for being reliable, reasonably priced and understanding of our clients needs. This is reflected in both our business culture and reputation.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Narrowing this down to one piece of advice is difficult! There are so many things I have learnt along the way. It takes courage, confidence and at times, a huge leap of faith to start a business. You have to have the courage to ‘back yourself’. You need the confidence in yourself to know that your product or knowledge is valuable to others. I think the most valuable piece of advice however, is to be kind in all aspects of your life and business.
As women, we should use the strengths that are inherent to women to help us run successful businesses. We should draw on our natural softness, kindness and willingness to help and nurture others. Despite what some people may think, this does not equate to weakness or lack of leadership, but rather it helps us build respect and the networks that we need to be successful.
Over the years I have had access to some amazing strong female role models within both my family and my industry. The one thing they have had in common, is a kind, collaborative and supportive leadership style. This style is not in direct competition with who they are internally, and therefore they are not creating an inner conflict that ultimately results in them not achieving success.
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