Cynthia Payne: From Nurse to CEO

Cynthia started her career in the earlier 90s as a registered nurse, at the age of 33 she became CEO of a For Profit aged care organisation.  For the past 13 years Cynthia Payne has been CEO of SummitCare and gives back to the aged care community through by being involved in a variety of boards and Not For Profit organisations
Read on to hear more about Cynthia's leadership journey ...

Whilst working part time as an RN in the early 90s, Cynthia transitioned to a Bachelor of Applied Science- also in nursing. In this very early part of her career she was working as an Agency RN – mainly because at this time it was not customary for Graduate programs to offer a part-time solution. She knew that a long terms career would only be found with a commitment to learning and with this she commenced a Master of Nursing to pursue her interest in pain assessment for people with dementia.

Her love of caring for older Australians was formed in this very early part of her career, with her exposure to both the acute and long terms care environments and how much influence nurses had. Her very first permanent role was as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. Quite a big deal considering the pay differences between a 1st year RN to a 9th year RN at the time!

Two years in to her working career she realised that her actual career focus was all about leading people and managing complex businesses. In her late twenties she was responsible for managing a Nursing Home, Hostel and retirements Village. The budget was in excess of $5M and so she left the Master’s degree and commenced an MBA through University of New England.

“This was quite a pivotal point in my journey as I had to make the key decision to move away from my clinical specialisation and really build the foundations enabling my leadership and business management focus.”

In 2000, after 4 years of distance education, working and having had one child and pregnant with her second, Cynthia graduated with an MBA. By this stage she was 31 and had landed a great opportunity leading the operations team at the Baptist organisation for the aged care division. This was another pivotal journey point because her more commercial skills coupled with her deep understanding of the aged acre reforms agenda enabled her to bring about a strategy focus in a company that was really transitioning through a major change process to bring a mission and commercial focus.

Fate though had a funny way of working, this role ended up being quite short because at the age of 33 she was offered the opportunity to take on a CEO role for a For Profit organisation known at that time as Summit Health Care.

At the time it was a well-regarded company in the For Profit arena, but it was not necessarily strong on its strategic focus or its genuine customer alignment. Like many organisations at the time it was not run with a corporate mindset and it did not enable a brand framework which tied the entire business together.

Cynthia reflects, “at the time I questioned whether or not I had enough experience to take on a CEO role, but having talked with a few trusted mentors, thought that it was in fact the best time to step up - I recognised that all CEOs have to take on their first appointment and I wondered what the world would be like if a For-Profit organisation could also be famous for a great brand and customer experience and one where staff loved to work.”

The rest now is all history. For the past 13 years Cynthia has been CEO of SummitCare. It is a well-recognised business that has sustained exceptional performance using the Australian Business Excellence Framework. It experiences very high satisfaction and engagement scores from customers and staff alike.