The extraordinary lives of practice managers and how to celebrate them

By Heidi Bubendorfer, PMAANZ secretary

24 May 2023

Category: College and members


Originally published in New Zealand Doctor Rata Aotearoa

Earthquake, volcanic eruption, terrorist attack, pandemic, cyclone, floods and fires, and to cap it all off, the transition to a new health system.

It’s been a heck of a few years. But what rises from the ashes of chaos and trauma is resilience and creativity. Smarter and faster ways of doing things have emerged that have quickly become the norm, such as phone and video consults and increased patient portal usage. Perhaps there is no better time for the new health system – with our fresh agility to pivot and respond to change, especially with the kiwi ability to apply ingenuity to make all things happen.

So, about resilience, the official definition reads like the role definition of a practice manager: ‘adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands.”

If practice managers weren’t already resilient, they have certainly learnt it on the job. Of course, coupled with resilience, are other factors which influence how quickly we bounce back in the face of adversity. Most general practices are familiar with emergency and business planning, in fact, it features as a requirement in the College’s Foundation Standard.

Its almost impossible to prepare for every type of incident. The Emergency Response and Business Continuity Plans help practice’s get back to delivering healthcare services as soon as possible, and to do it as safely and well as possible - under the circumstances.

Angela Mackenzie, practice manager from Hawkes Bay Wellness Centre, a Third Age Medical Centre, in Napier says, “when it comes to mother nature you can’t beat it” and describes her experience of Cyclone Gabrielle as “unprecedented.’”

Angela says roads and bridges were closed meaning many staff couldn’t get to the medical centre. The practice team’s first thoughts were to remote into their practice management system (PMS) so they could contact patients for wellness checks, but that was impossible because there was no data, no internet services. and power. The whole community was cut off, there were no digital communication channels or access to information through the media. Nevertheless, the community responded quickly by checking on people door to door.

It only took a few days for Hawkes Bay Wellness Centre to get back to work, they hired a generator and opened their doors. Angela admits they were one of the lucky ones, getting power back relatively quickly. Next, Hawkes Bay Wellness Centre stepped up and pulled together as a team, finding the best ways to serve their community, especially focussing on their vulnerable patients.

Looking back, Angela observes there was a lack of community readiness. Many people lacked basic survival equipment, including a radio, torch and batteries; these items were indispensable in Cyclone Gabrielle.

This is one of many stories across the country where a practice manager has led the team through an emergency situation. Practice managers are often the lynch pin of general practices, the unsung heroes, but lately many are weary, exhausted and sometimes demoralised. To add to these woes, healthcare is not attracting and retaining key members, adding to the existing burden on teams.

Keeping your practice managers happy and feeling inspired and appreciated is no easy task in these times, but there are some easy wins.

PMAANZ publishes a Remuneration Survey every two years which is free for members or can be purchased from the PMAANZ website.

The survey gathers information on the changing nature of our workplaces and provides PMAANZ, and other interested groups, with a current market remuneration guide for practice managers aligned with their scopes of practice. This year 51 percent of our membership responded.

Some salient points from this survey are:

  • The percentage of practice managers who have over 10 years’ experience has decreased.
  • Practice managers undertaking professional study is down from the 2020 survey.
  • Only six percent of respondents have PMAANZ practice management qualifications.
  • 62 percent of respondents attended the PMAANZ National Conference with 94 percent finding it beneficial.
  • 22 percent of practice managers receive performance bonuses.

So, if you are wondering how to show appreciation for your practice manager or inspire and invigorate them in their work, we have some clues.

PMAANZ, in collaboration with UNE Partnership , offer a series of short courses as well as a Diploma of Leadership in Healthcare Practice. There are some scholarship opportunities available and employers could also consider supporting and encouraging their practice managers to extend their professional development to bolster their skills and job satisfaction.

Then there is the PMAANZ Conference, our feedback tells us the educational content is en-pointe and the networking and social aspect equally as valuable. If you are not already supporting your practice manager to attend this, then perhaps you may want to consider it.

It’s been an incredible few years of growth and change and PMAANZ strongly believes all our practice managers are awesome, as are their teams. So, a huge shout out to you all for the good work you do. To finish, I will leave you with a thought, if you believe your practice manager is amazing, and I’m sure you do, then there is no better way to show your appreciation an admiration by nominating them for the PMAANZ Practice Manager Specialist of the Year award


RNZCGP: The Foundation Standard

UNE Partnership

PMAANZ: Scholarship opportunities


Practice Manager Specialist of the Year

PMAANZ Conference

Third Age Health