Justine Burg: Board Director, Assistant Treasurer, Committee Member, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Sessional Instructor

May 2021

When Justine Burg was approaching the end of her high school years, she deeply considered the type of career she wanted to lead. She desired to be independent, to make a positive contribution and to remain employed after witnessing several family members experience the difficulties of unemployment. After 25 years of nursing globally, nationally, rurally and remotely in a range of different healthcare facilities, Justine today is the After Hours Clinical Nurse Specialist at a tertiary hospital based in Perth. Always looking for a challenge and to further her knowledge and skill set, Justine was previously a sessional lecturer at The University of Notre Dame Australia and Edith Cowan University, but now focuses her passion and talents in the boardroom. When Justine isn’t supporting and advising on clinical matters, she is an avid folk dancer.
 
Tell me about your day-to-day job
Being a nurse is integral to my identity as a person. I’ve always been passionate about healthcare, mostly because it’s challenging and every day is different. As the After Hours Clinical Nurse Specialist, I lead a brilliant team of nurses at the hospital — they’re some of the most amazing people I’ve ever worked with — to troubleshoot, run medical emergency codes, to assess deteriorating patients, find equipment and source materials, and make nursing goals. When everyone goes home from management, we are the most senior team at the hospital.
 
What led you to the world of boards?
Now that I reflect on it, at age 19, I was actually the Treasurer and President for a camp for kids and then a little later, President of an St Vincent de Paul group. They both taught me critical skills about leadership and the professional running of boards. More recently, I was invited to submit an application to the Human Research Ethics Committee of the University of Western Australia. They were looking for a nurse to join the committee as its part of their mandate to have professional carers. Ethics is a topic that has always interested me, while still covering a lot of medical based and clinical knowledge. I’ve been with this committee for almost four years now.
My mentor Gabrielle then encouraged me to join WOB. After finishing teaching at the universities, I was considering how to expand my career. I like to be doing multiple roles at once; I always have. I was looking at the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency as an option because they have boards for every health sector. The Nursing and Midwifery Board is one of the largest and divided among the states so with the support of my mentor and the guidance provided by WOB, I submitted an application. I was successful and very recently, was appointed Chair of the Registration Sub-Committee. I’m also the Treasurer for the Hora Sholam Israeli Dance group, which is a great personal passion of mine.

Can you share what boards and committees you currently sit on?

  • Human Research Ethics Committee Member — University of Western Australia
  • Nursing and Midwifery Board Member — Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • Chair of Registration Sub-Committee — Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • Assistant Treasurer — Hora Sholam Israeli Dance
What are your areas of expertise?
I obviously have direct clinical knowledge and skills when discussing the healthcare system, but I also have an eye for risk and possibilities, and can weigh up the pros and the cons. In a medical setting, you’re always considering not just the second step, but the third. It’s much like a chest game, and that’s very appreciated at the board table. The fact that I’ve worked overseas and around the country in a range of settings, alongside my experience of teaching at the universities, is considered valuable.
 
What do you enjoy most about the boards that you serve on?
I really enjoy the challenge and meeting people outside of my little bubble. I meet people from all sectors — private, public, age care, disability and community members — and have the opportunity to hear a lot of different perspectives. The diversity of voices challenges me and helps me grow as an individual. Sometimes the decision that is made at a meeting isn’t necessarily what you would have predicted at the beginning. Sometimes you think it’s a black and white topic, but when you hear the ideas around the table, it can change your mind. I enjoy the debate and the academic rigor.
 
I also really enjoy the non-clinical side, which permits time to think and plan. In the clinical space, you’re mostly reacting, not responding, so it’s nice to have that opportunity.
 
And you’ll probably laugh, but as Assistant Treasurer for my local folk dance group, I get great satisfaction from numbers. People and healthcare are messy. You never get to the end and put a line underneath the total, and everything matches up. That’s satisfying.
 
What challenges or hurdles have you had to overcome in pursuing boards?
I think my biggest hurdle was my lack of self-belief. Like a lot of nurses, I didn’t think I had much to offer beyond bedside care. Gabrielle has served on several government and Not-For-Profit boards and convinced me otherwise. She is a massive advocate for diversity and women’s empowerment, which has had a positive influence on my board direction. I also have an incredible professional mentor by the name of Madeline who has significantly helped me navigate the path of my career. I hadn’t considered finding a mentor when I was younger and I wish I had. It wasn’t until I was recently approached by several people to be their mentor, that I reflected on the mentors in my life and proactively sought their support.
 
How has WOB helped you on your board journey?
I have done the Getting To Know You course, the Financial Literacy course and attended several networking events, all of which I found really inspiring. I thought my skills were very marginal, but Claire is one of those personalities that makes you realise you’re thinking too small and have much more to offer than you realise.
 
What words of advice can you share with women starting out on their board journey? 
  • Everyone has something to offer
  • Start with what you’re good at and already know
  • Learn what good leadership looks like so you can develop good leadership skills within yourself
  • Don’t wait, start young
  • Get involved at a grassroots level and then build on your specific abilities to add to your portfolio
  • Don’t underestimate the commitment that is required — you have to be prepared and take every role seriously