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Posted on 15 Feb 2021

In May 2019 we welcomed eight new clinicians to undertake our second Clinical Fellowship Program. 

Over their 12-month journey with us they participated in a learning program to build their skills, including:

  • project management.
  • change management and leadership.
  • leading priority projects in healthcare improvement.


We are looking for our third cohort of fellows to start in April 2021. 

To those who applied for the Clinical Fellowship 2020, we apologise again for the program being withdrawn due to COVID-19. We welcome and encourage you to apply for the 2021-2022 program.

To give you an idea of what’s involved, we spoke to some of our past fellows about their experience of the Safer Care Victoria Clinical Fellowship Program.  

Meet Priscilla

Photo of Clinical Fellow Priscilla Stephenson
Clinical Fellow Priscilla Stephenson

I’m a Registered Nurse with most of my career spent in the Paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) both here in Melbourne and in the UK and USA. I’m also the mother of two primary school aged children and a cheeky chocolate Labrador! My partner, children and I all enjoy spending as much time at the beach as possible.

Q. Why did you apply for the clinical fellowship? 
Looking for ways to improve on the care we provide to children and their families is a key aspect of my role as Nurse Coordinator in PICU. It’s an area that I’ve always been interested in, along with ensuring we deliver high quality and safe care. The fellowship provided the opportunity to learn a great deal about the best way to do this from a statewide perspective.

Q. What are the key things you have learned and has the fellowship impacted you as a clinician?
SCV has provided a well-supported and structured program that’s allowed me to learn about project management and quality improvement methodology. I’ve then been able to apply this simultaneously by leading a quality improvement project. While my project was at a statewide level, the method can be used at an individual level and will absolutely have a positive impact on the work that I do moving forward.
Q. As part of the fellowship program you delivered an improvement project.  What was your project about and what did you learn during this process? 
I’ve been working with five hospitals to test change ideas to improve hospital readmission rates for paediatric tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. My biggest learning has been around teaching and coaching front line clinicians in using the quality improvement methodology to practically apply the changes. Then, using data and feedback to monitor and adapt as we go. The project participants have been fabulous to work with!

Q. How will you apply what you have learnt over the past 12 months? What are you looking forward to doing next?
I’m really looking forward to finding opportunities to apply my new improvement skills.  What I’ve learnt will provide me with a solid structure to apply to any project, big or small, and ultimately improve the care that I provide to patients and families. 

Q. What words of advice or encouragement would you give clinicians thinking about applying for the fellowship program in 2020?
This program is designed for clinicians. If you think you fit the criteria and you have an interest in quality improvement, then don’t be afraid to apply!

Meet James

Clinical Fellow James Fowler
Clinical Fellow James Fowler

While a clinician can help one person at a time, a system improver can help whole populations. The SCV fellowship took me from the first to the second.

Some of the things I learnt are easy to define, like improvement science. I now have a toolkit of statistical analysis, data , and proven methodologies to bring about sustainable change. I also have a toolkit for project management, leading a team to achieve their objectives on time. Other things are a little harder to define, like stakeholder engagement, which is essentially getting diverse people to work well together. And some things are even harder to nail down, like more effective communication. I thought I could write and present well, but the fellowship pushed me to a new level.  

During the fellowship I met people who taught me things, showed me new ways to thinking, and led me from frontline clinician to system thinker. They were patient, thoughtful, inspiring, and I now call a lot of them my friends. I left the fellowship with many new professional connections.

Before the fellowship I was an emergency nurse and paramedic – I always will be – but now I am also a clinical nurse consultant and improvement project coordinator. My team is trialling and implementing a whole new way of caring for some very vulnerable young people. It’s exciting work on the frontline of health system improvement, and it is all because of the SCV fellowship.

Meet Sarah

I’m a Dietitian and have spent most of my career working in regional health services across NSW and Victoria. I have two very energetic German Shorthaired Pointers and have loved making the most of my commute time in Melbourne to read.

Q. You were part of the very first SCV clinical fellowship in May 2018, why did you apply for the program?  
During a PDP meeting with my manager I identified the skills I needed to develop further my career interests – quality improvement, project management and leadership. A week later, the clinical fellowship came up and was too good to be true, ticking all my boxes and with the added bonus of working at a system wide level.

Q. What are the key things you learnt and how has the fellowship impacted you as a clinician?
It has been amazing to have the opportunity to step back from the busy clinical environment and give myself time to learn. I have gained a deep appreciation of how invaluable the consumer perspective is and the importance of involving them in the work right from the start.  I now find myself thinking differently about issues and have a broader perspective of the health care system.

Q. What are you doing now and how has the fellowship impacted this?
In April I will be starting a new role as the Improvement Lead for the Paediatric Patient Safety Program at the Clinical Excellence Commission in Sydney, NSW. If it wasn’t for the skills I developed in the fellowship,   there is no way I would ever have considered applying for a role like this. The fellowship challenged me to reflect on what I wanted my next career step to be.

Q. What words of advice or encouragement would you give clinicians thinking about applying for the fellowship program in 2021?
The fellowship is about learning – professionally and personally. You don’t need to be experienced in project management or quality improvement or have experience in any of the advertised 2021 projects. But, you do need to be open to the challenges it will provide (don’t worry, they’re good challenges).

Meet Courtney

Prior to completing the Clinical Fellowship in 2019 I had worked as a Physiotherapist for ten years across a variety of clinical settings, and most recently at The Alfred. During this time, I developed a real passion for health care improvement and patient advocacy however at the time, felt that I lacked the necessary skills to lead meaningful and lasting change in the healthcare setting.

The fellowship was a fantastic training program that I feel very fortunate to have completed. The program was a steep learning curve and certainly put me outside of my comfort zone, but it was here that I learnt the most. Through the fellowship I gained new knowledge in quality improvement and project management methodology, stakeholder engagement and leadership. The defining feature of the program for me was then being supported to apply these capabilities, tasked with leading a state-wide Quality Improvement project, aimed at reducing unwanted variation in informed consent processes for dialysis patients. The program also provided opportunity to work alongside great mentors within Safer Care Victoria and build sector wide networks. Our group of fellows are still in regular contact on both a personal and professional level, having built strong connections going through the fellowship together.

The fellowship has enabled me to pursue career opportunities that I would not have been able to otherwise. At the commencement of 2020 I was successfully appointed in the role of Allied Health Informatics Executive Office for Alfred Health, in which I reported directly to the Deputy Director and Director of Allied Health. In this role I worked across quality and safety within Allied Health, lead the Allied Health inpatient and outpatient Telehealth role out in response to COVID-19, along with functioning as the Allied Health EMR and data leads. As the Informatics Executive Officer, I was able to apply and build upon the skills developed through the fellowship whilst working with fantastic leaders and stakeholders.

At the end of 2020, I followed my passion for healthcare improvement and was fortunate to be appointed as a Senior Project Officer with Safer Care Victoria. In this role I am leading the operationalisation of our Evidence Based Guidance strategy, aiming to reduce unwanted variation in the delivery of guidance.

For me, the Clinical Fellowship was an invaluable experience for both my development and career progression. I would encourage anyone with a strong interest in improving healthcare delivery for both consumers and clinicians to apply!

Page last updated: 16 Feb 2021