Its 0550 on the first day after my first week of any real study programme in years. I am sitting in the airport waiting for the delayed flight home, missing my babies (teenagers included), my husband and my home. It’s been a real week of intense emotional and sometimes brutal reflections on myself and others. It’s been excellent!
As a NHS manager there is no shortage of personal development if you want it and are willing to work for it. I have been fortunate to have had all of my professional development provided by the NHS, in lieu for probably more hours and tears than many usual vocations. I never went to University but have studied to a post graduate level and believe myself to be a professional. Not bad really considering some of my life choices.
The course is called the Nye Bevan. It’s a NHS leadership Academy programme (a corny phrase as I think leadership is used too much in the NHS sometimes and thus loses credible meaning), that is all about you as an individual and your impact on others. It’s a year long self managed learning initiative designed to make you truly think about how you interact with others due to your beliefs and your life experiences and then work out how to make sure they have a positive impact. Simple!
From that description I am sure you can work out that it was pretty emotionally charged. From day one I was faced with strong emotional reactions to situations that although not extraordinary, were an uncomfortable reflection of the national organisation I work within. I don’t think I have ever cried so much in front of strangers or felt such a close and instant connection to people who I believe I can trust implicitly.
Meeting patients, fellow NHS staff members and listening to stories about diversity has already changed how I think about my own family with its many cultural heritages. I wonder how diversity and my experiences have impacted on my children and their understanding of their cultural links (eg. I have never taken them home to meet my wider family or done a tour of Northern Ireland until this year) and, the impact on my career where it’s been probably mostly positive due to how people perceive me.
As a woman I have obviously faced discrimination and inappropriate comments both in and out of the workplace but when you read about statistics where women in the NHS hold disproportionately less senior positions than men you start to really think about the structure and bias within the NHS and what’s truly being done about it. One person I met this week, when asked on his views on the position of women in the NHS and how men have impacted on this, replied – “Nothing”. I wasn’t shocked by his reply really, his view that there are more female CEO’s and there were many women in the room with us at the time meant he did truly think it was all OK now. I politely pointed out the female to male ratio in the surgical world and left it there. Yes it is some progress but its not enough if we are looking to create balanced views within our health system.
I didn’t even add into the conversation the recent TUC figures where childcare costs have risen seven times faster than wages in the UK. Not directly linked but relevant, is the question – how can there ever been a gender balance while women are seen to be the people who need to be at home and should compromise their working hours and career? Its hard enough for our own brains to give us a break without the bias towards pregnant women and those on maternity leave. The Guardian article yesterday echoed my thoughts whilst the comments left by women who believe a women’s place is at home means we will fight a battle between ourselves probably more than anything!
Further to gender in the work place, when you learn that racial diversity and the lack of it has a direct negative impact on patient outcomes how much of a modern and inclusive healthcare system are we providing? How does it make you feel to learn that black nurses have to wait on average 50% longer to reach ward manager level within the NHS than their white nurse colleagues? Did you know that Pakistani babies have a much higher mortality rate than those from other mums? How about all the regulatory boards and governing bodies being white males. Wouldn’t you have believed that the NHS caters for all? If you work in the NHS or even if you don’t, I strongly recommend you read The Snowy White Peaks of the NHS by Roger Kline and from that the figures are probably worse still almost 4 years down the road.
So the question is what next? I have no idea but that is my first assignment so hopefully I will be clearer in a few weeks. If not I will fail the first hurdle and that will be that.
If you have a story to tell please let me know. What are your thoughts on diversity in the NHS?