Theatre nurse of 30 years hangs up her scrubs


It’s hard to imagine St Andrew’s theatres without Judith Kabel.

For 30 years, Judith has been a part of our operating theatre team, taking on a number of different roles from Clinical Manager to Clinical Nurse Consultant, and now Staffing Coordinator.

Judith Kabel RetirementJude – as she is more commonly known around St Andrew’s – started her career in outback New South Wales, where she trained as a nurse and gained a broad range of experience including with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

But it was the operating theatre that Jude loved the most.

“I like that everything makes sense, but it’s ever changing and the unexpected can be around every corner. But when you go home at the end of a day in the theatre, you know you have helped so many people to receive the care they need. It is such a rewarding and satisfying place to work,” Jude said. 

In 1993, Jude applied for a Clinical Nurse Consultant role at St Andrew’s and was successful.

Reflecting on that time she said, “The staff where I was working wondered why I was going to St Andrew’s. They thought it was just a small community hospital,” she said.

“But how wrong they were! St Andrew’s has a huge case mix in theatres, and at the time had one of the highest-acuity, or complexity of cases, for a private hospital in the country,” she said.

For the past 15 years, Jude has been responsible for coordinating staffing in the theatres and ensuring that each surgical team is matched for clinical skills, personal passions and interests and cohesiveness with other team members including our doctors.

“This role started as a short-term special project which was all about matching the right staff with the different specialties. The role soon became permanent, and I’ve been in it ever since,” Jude said. 

“I look after rostering of staff, performance management, and roster engineering to do what we can to help our people achieve the right work-life balance. I also provide a listening ear and a bit of counselling from time-to-time when my colleagues need to discuss issues or just vent about the day’s events. It is a challenging juggle of personalities and demands, but I have enjoyed it immensely.

“We know that when we create a team with the right mix of skills and people it will work better and ultimately the team will be happier. This role has meant that I’ve been able to get to know my colleagues well, which has been one of the great joys of my career.”

Over more than 30 years in nursing, Jude has experienced significant change in the operating theatre environment, but says some things at St Andrew’s have remained constant.

“Advances in surgery continue to change rapidly, particularly with the introduction of minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, endovascular procedures, robotic surgery – surgery has evolved immensely,” Judith said.

“But the spirit of St Andrew’s has never changed, and it’s been great to see every new Executive team continue to foster that culture. St Andrew’s was once described to me as being a community hospital, and I think this hospital absolutely has a great community feel.

“It might be a cliché, but everything this hospital does is to make its people feel like family. I’m really going to miss the people.

“I won’t miss getting up early though, and starting each day at 4.30am!”

As Jude embarks on her retirement she is looking forward to travel and to spending more time with family, but disagrees she is leaving big shoes to fill.

“It’s wonderful to see the new generation coming through with new ideas. We’ve set the foundations, but it’s a great challenge to bring in new people with a fresh perspective,” Jude said.

“I would like to thank all the people I’ve worked with over the years for making the role fulfilling and enjoyable. I feel incredibly lucky and have made lifelong friends.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying more travel and to spending more time with friends and family and my grandchildren, as well as getting back to outback New South Wales where my heart is.”