HEALTH workers have been "inspirational" in their efforts to turn up to hospitals and clinics every day through the pandemic, to help people in need.
That's the view of the woman who has been at the helm of local health services through what can only be described as an "absolutely crazy" year, Susan Heyman.
She's the executive director of rural and regional health services for Hunter New England Health, and said the predominantly female nursing workforce deserves to be celebrated.
"They are the same people who had young children ... older parents, grandparents, that they were worried about and had to look after, and they've got the same experience and same pressures that everyone in the community has, but they are coming to work and they are the frontline," she said.
"Overwhelmingly we saw the best in people, both in the community and in our staff."
The theme for International Women's Day this year is Choose to Challenge, and although Ms Heyman agreed COVID had challenged her in ways she couldn't have imagined, there was more she wanted to tackle.
"I think everyone had a heightened sense of awareness and anxiety around the uncertainty ... there's the temptation to be overwhelmed but, certainly in these positions, you just can't be," she said.
"We've got to get through this pandemic and we certainly are on the right track ... it still remains a challenge and that's immediate and present.
"The biggest challenge for us is to improve health outcomes for our rural communities."
Ms Heyman - who is also qualified as a lawyer and social worker - has been a boss lady her whole life and credits it to growing up in a family of strong women.
Now, she tries to be that for her own three daughters.
"What I've tried to do is act as a role model for my girls and also encourage them to see that the only barriers there are for them are the ones they create for themselves, or the ones they accept," she said.
"What we need to do is support other women and encourage other women to come into ... a workforce that can be flexible."
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