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Gold Coast University Hospital

Healthcare runs in the blood – Meet the Bills Family

Natalie O’Driscoll | February 2021

All five siblings of the Bills family have grown successful careers as healthcare professionals at the Gold Coast University Hospital; following in the footsteps of their mother, Marian Bills.

When Gold Coast health worker Marian Bills and her husband Kevin were raising their five children, there were already signs that they might be following in their mother’s professional footsteps.

“I used to work in a large aged card facility in [Sydney’s] northern beaches,” Marian recalls. “The kids used to come after school and spend time with the residents.

“I think that might have been the beginning of some sort of awareness of health care for them and wanting to help.”

Fast forward a couple of decades, and the Bills Family offspring – Sally, Gemma, Lisa, Lucy and Sean (as well as Sean’s wife Jess), are all employed in health care. In the Gold Coast University Hospital, in fact.

Lisa, described by her mother as “very loving” and “compassionate”, is a Registered Nurse, who cut her teeth in paediatrics before moving into cardiology. At first, she wasn’t sure how she would cope dealing with sick children, but once she started the job, Lisa “fell in love” with the role.

“Kids are amazing,” says Lisa. “It made me appreciate that family is everything.”

Now, Lisa works in the cardiology department at the Gold Coast University Hospital which she describes as “state of the art”, looking after patients with a range of heart conditions.

Sean Bills decided on his future career at a young age, telling Marian that he was going to become a doctor so he could make sure his sister Lucy’s bleeding, eczema-covered hands would “get all better”.

Now a physician in the emergency department, Sean takes his mother’s lessons to work with him each day.

“One of the things mum always did tell me was to respect your nurses and be polite,” he says.

Particularly in areas like emergency [which are] high stress, you’ve got to trust each other. Patients need team approaches, and ED’s a team.”

Lucy is now a Nurse Educator, also working in the busy emergency department alongside her brother and other two sisters Sally and Gemma, both Registered Nurses. It was at about the age of 16 that Lucy started believing nursing was the career for her.

“One of the things I always teach is I don’t think you should ever try to separate who you are as a person from your job as a nurse,” she explains.

“Everyone’s version of an emergency is different. You don’t know their story, you don’t know what’s made them get to that point of their life or what’s led them there, so always put yourself in their shoes.”

Gold Coast Health recently received international attention for nursing and midwifery by becoming the first full health service in Australia to receive the prestigious Magnet Recognition, the highest national honour for nursing excellence.

“[It’s] a huge recognition of the work that nurses do,” describes Sean, “and a very rare thing.”

In 2019, the Royal Australian College of Surgeons also declared Gold Coast University Hospital’s Emergency Department a level-one Trauma Service, ranking it, along with four others, as one of the best in Australia.

“I don’t want our ED to just be a great place to work, I want it to be the best place to work,” says Lucy. “And that’s one of the things I strive for as an educator – that we’re trying to grow into being one the best facilities in the world.”

COVID has certainly put those facilities to the test, but our local response to the pandemic has been among the best in the world, say the Bills.

“Gold Coast Health has done an amazing job, the fever clinics and everything have run really well,” says Lucy.

Lisa agrees. “I feel like Gold Coast as a whole has done really well listening to the advice of health professionals,” she says. “I’m very proud to be a health care worker here.”

Marian, now a Quality Improvement Specialist for Aged Care, is also proud of her hardworking family and the empathy they bring to their roles.

“Compassion is a really important thing,” she says. “There are a lot of people that don’t have compassion, and I think if you haven’t got compassion, I don’t think you can truly understand your patient.”

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