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21 August 2015
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I will not always get it right

Dr Claire Greszczuk shares her experience about being on the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow Scheme class of 2014-2015, during which time she was placed with the Association of British Healthcare Industries (ABHI).

I feel like a fortunate career journey led me to the scheme. When I started FY1 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital I'd never heard of management and leadership for doctors and could not imagine how it might apply to me. What I did know, though, was that I'd loved working in and leading teams in extra-curricular projects at medical school and I had a feeling I wanted to be part of 'making a difference'.

I joined Buckinghamshire Trust's Foundation Doctor Forum to represent the body of FYs to our training directors, and that's where I first learned about 'management and leadership' - through an in-depth course provided for the forum members; a perk of the job. The experience inspired me to pursue it further. I decided to take a year out after FY2 and applied for an NHS leadership development fellowship where I worked in a Cambodian NGO and learnt by observation and experience. I'd first heard of the National Medical Director's Clinical Fellow Scheme way back in FY1 and on returning to the UK it was my clear next step.

What I learnt
When I started the fellowship I bought a little red notebook in which to enshrine particularly noteworthy observations, ideas and reflections. Reading back, many themes are repeated throughout, documented in slightly different contexts or with a situation-specific spin. Taken from the book, the following sentiments I think about every day and will change me for the rest of my life.

'Not what I can do, but what only I can do'. I noted this when someone said it at an Academic Health Science Network board meeting. So simple, and yet it has since informed almost all my work and how I think about it: what are my or my organisation's unique strengths? How can I add value to this situation? If I can't, leave it someone who can!

'What is fundamentally important? Values.' The world is a complicated place and the NHS is steeped in culture and politics. When everything looks shades of grey and the 'answer' is unclear or non-existent, I can be guided by my core values. Moreover, I can ensure all my work aligns with these.

'She is open, fair, inclusive, non-judgemental, collaborative. I HUGELY RESPECT HER.' I wrote this about someone I work with at NHS England. More than anyone else, she has taught me to see the value that every individual brings and to understand we can achieve so much more by being collaborative and inclusive.

'I WILL NOT ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT.' It's the learning I take away that matters. It's been comforting to hear during talks from numerous influential leaders we shouldn't expect to do things perfectly first time.

What the scheme achieves
During our induction to the scheme we were introduced to the concept of 'chunking up' when trying to gain agreement in a group: what is the big picture value that achieves consensus? For me, at its broadest the scheme is about an ideal world. In an ideal world people have good health and wellbeing, and in the UK the government and our NHS serves to deliver that. An effective health service needs good leaders, and not only skilled and experienced leaders, but leaders from a representative range of backgrounds. Clinical leaders are essential and the medical professional must take part. The scheme offers unparalleled experiences for motivated doctors to truly understand what's at stake in the NHS and how we might lead it into the future.

Its impact on me
Now, at the end of the year, our population's health and wellbeing and the survival of the NHS have never been more central to my values. In September I will begin specialty training in public health. Thanks to the scheme, I have a professional mentor who described public health as 'the craft of leadership.' With this in mind I am excited about taking my newfound insights and reflections to my new role, practicing them in a different forum and exploring how and where I want to take my career in the future.

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