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6 January 2017
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Clinicians and managers need a common language

Should I, shouldn’t I? That was the question running through my mind, as I debated with myself whether or not I wanted to extend my training by a year to take up a post as a National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellow. I was excited by the opportunities the fellowship offered, but my training had already been extended because of maternity leave and working part-time after my children were born – did I really want to add another year? And would I be around enough for my children if I increased my working hours to full time?

I was within a year of completing my CCT, and taking time out of clinical work at this stage was a worry. However, I also recognised that many of the leadership and management skills required of a consultant are not necessarily covered during training, and I wanted to broaden my understanding of the impact of national level developments on local services. So I decided to apply. I went through the interview process, and was pleasantly surprised to get a phone call offering me a place on the fellowship programme.

I then went through a host of emotions about starting the post: fear and anxiety led to excitement, and the feeling that I was incredibly lucky to be given such a wonderful opportunity. The post I had chosen included the added challenge of being based part-time in Northampton and part-time in London; I live equidistant between the two, but the job was going to require significant travel.

So, how has it gone? It seems amazing to me how quickly time has passed, but I am now three months into the post, a quarter of the way through the year. My family have adjusted to me working full time and the additional travelling I do. The fellowship has opened up doors, and given me multiple opportunities to develop areas of interest.

At the Royal College of Psychiatrists, I am involved in the work of both the Leadership and Management Committee and the Quality Improvement Committee. At St Andrew’s, I am looking at end of life care and how to improve the care offered to patients in a mental health setting during this final stage of their lives. This area is often overlooked in mental health, and comes with many additional challenges, particularly around specific legal matters. But it is essential to get it right to ensure that patients get the appropriate care. This work has offered me learning opportunities in engaging staff and internal and external stakeholders, developing training, writing policy, leading a managed clinical network, leading and implementing change, and considering the important links between local organisations and national bodies, and how they impact on patient care.

I still have many lessons to learn to achieve my ideal work-life balance, but I have no regrets about taking up the position. The experience so far has given me great insights into the pressures and demands of those in senior positions, and has emphasised to me the importance of keeping up to date with national changes and clinical information. I now have a better insight into ’management speak’ and I am much more aware of how much I still have to learn about the system that I work in. Clinicians and managers need to develop a common language and a better shared understanding to ensure that the organisations become the best that they can be. The National Medical Director’s Clinical Fellows scheme has helped me to take my first, tentative steps towards bridging that gap.

Interested in applying to the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow Scheme 2017/18 cohort? Find out more and submit your application by 16 January 2017.

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