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The choice to inspire others this International Women’s Day


Story by Holly McKay

Her aim throughout her impressive career has been to inspire others to be the best version of themselves each and every day.

The fact she’s Cabrini’s Chief of Health Operations and a single mum of two teenage girls is really just the icing on the cake.

So who better to sit down with on International Women’s Day than Louise O’Connor.

As part of the global day, which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, we sat down with Lou to discuss juggling the work-life balance, the role she plays at Cabrini and her message for other women wanting to make their mark.

She’s worked in health service and clinical services management for the past 24 years, 13 of which were spent at Epworth Eastern Private Hospital before she made the move to Cabrini in May 2020.

“It was time to leave home, I’d been there for so long,” Lou said.

“For me it was about taking the next step, the next challenge.”

The next challenge happened to be as Chief of Health Operations at Cabrini, a role responsible for all the healthcare services we provide, including our acute hospitals, palliative care, aged care and clinical homecare services.

“I think what I do well is change,” she said.

“I like to inspire people to be their best and give their best, I think to work in healthcare – it’s a vocation, I don’t see it as just a job. I believe that in a leadership role, I’m there to set the scene and empower and help all the clinicians and non-clinical staff be able to do what they do, right, every time.

“What motivates me is that at the end of the day we are caring for people who are in a vulnerable position – what bigger privilege is there than that? Every human life matters. Every single interaction you have with someone will have an impact on their life.”

And the impact she’s had on her two daughters, Caitlin, 19, and Neve, 16, speaks for itself.

Caitlin, who is currently studying nursing, said no one managed a hospital and a household better than her mum.

“It’s hard but she does it well,” Caitlin said.

“That’s what mum’s good at – there’s work and then there’s family. It’s nice not feeling like we share ‘Louise’, we have mum and then there’s Louise.”

When asked what she’d learnt from her mum, Caitlin’s answer was simple.

“Resilience, especially because being in this kind of role where it’s very male dominated,” she said.

“Being my age, you see a lot of guys doing this stuff and you think it’s a man’s job. I’m doing nursing at uni and I would have thought you do nursing and that’s it, you become a nurse. But mum was a nurse and then she was director of clinical services and now she is where she is.
So it shows that if you have determination you can do what you want.”

Lou said that when it came to gender in the workplace, she’d never let it get in her way.

“I know this is a standard quote, but be the change you want to see in the world, but also leave a footprint behind,” she said.

“My father taught me to never give up, if you’re going to walk away – walk away with no regrets.”

Her message for International Women’s Day, with this year’s them being #ChooseToChallenge, was to “call it out”.

“It’s about calling out the importance of what women have contributed to society,” she said.

“For me life is like a ‘chose your own adventure’ so the word choice is really important. It means there are options for what you can do, there’s choice to take on negativity or not, there is choice to put yourself forward and be the best version of yourself. I believe that what you put out you get back, so positivity and empowering other woman and leading the way will come back to you.”

As for her plans for Cabrini’s future – it’s simple.

“We’ve got some amazing opportunities ahead of us. The entire executive team is engaged around growing our reach and really being the premier provider of private healthcare in the southeast of Melbourne.”