Embracing inexperience

Posted by: Zoe Bradley - Posted on:

A lot has happened on the scheme since that first Welcome Event back in September; a 20-day orientation, more scheme related events and residentials, 2 face-to-face sessions at UCL and an exam, not to mention the actual day job. The deadline for our first submissions for the Elizabeth Garret Anderson award are due next Monday and it’s partly that which has triggered my current train of thought.

One of the assignments we were required to compete was an exercise with our team based on the concept of ‘Leadership Links with Care’. For me, this was an odd one on many levels – whilst informatics informs many decisions made around the provision of patient care, it isn’t exactly patient-facing so some lateral thinking was required to join the two together and in addition I was supposed to be teaching the team about leadership theory. As a grad with approximately 3 months’ work experience at the time I didn’t think that approach would work for me, so the session became more a conversation about what I had read and what the team could identify with based on their vastly greater experience.

What had at first made me slightly apprehensive turned into a fascinating conversation about leadership in all its forms – due to the enthusiasm of the people based in my office/ my sending-out-a-team-wide-email approach to recruiting to the session the mix of people in the session was diverse, from the Head of Informatics, to members of the Projects team and some of the Analysts. The same theme that I have found so far in my NHS journey stuck out a mile; so many of these people have had varied and wide-ranging careers that have spanned many sectors and given them enormous amounts of experience in different settings. It was fascinating to listen to, and helpful in many more ways than just fulfilling the assignment brief.

As daft as it sounds, one of the things I have struggled most with in these first few months is the idea that the knowledge and experience I have is so little compared to those I work with. There is a distinctly odd feeling about trying to organise a group of people or prepare a document to be taken to a large meeting whilst at the same time being acutely aware that your knowledge of that particular issue is also still developing, and at a speed that is not much greater than the speed with which you are imparting that information. It has definitely meant that the grad scheme mantra of ‘stepping outside your comfort zone’ has been a pretty much daily reality for me as basically everything I have done since starting the scheme is something I have done for the first time.

The turning point for me in all of this was learning to embrace my inexperience, and use it as a driver to do more, learn more and push myself further. This ties neatly back to that EGA assignment – I voiced a similar concern there and was met with the reply that as a manager you are often working with people who have far more experience in a specific niche than yourself, and that that is often the point. The whole purpose of working as a team is to pull together the most appropriate breadth and depth of experience in the necessary fields and to knit them together to enable the best possible outcome to be produced. Of course, I already knew this on some level, but it has never been more apparent to me than here in the NHS.

Informatics is all about adding the expertise of a diverse group of people together to improve patient care, whether that be through easier access to patient records from service to service across the county (goodbye paper records!) or through the reporting of service usage to help with budgeting and monitoring of the deployment of resources. This requires the input of information governance, information development teams, analysts and business intelligence and also the knowledge, experience and opinions of the clinicians who are actually on the front line, using the software and delivering the services. Stepping back and thinking about it is really quite something, and as far as inexperience goes – I know that’ll fade but I hope I never lose the curiosity it has triggered in me to get out there and learn everything I can, after all the NHS never stays still and being open-minded to change might be one of the most important things I can be…

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