Julie, a registered nurse by background, has worked as a senior manager and director in our Trust since 2002 and has recently been appointed as chief executive. I recently spent the day with Julie to find out how a typical day as a chief executive of a health trust unfolds.Julie’s day starts with a briefing with her PA Donna, where they discuss any issues, Julies diary, upcoming meetings and any emails that need responding to on Julies behalf. As well as general internal and external meetings, Donna also arranges 1:1 meetings with Julie and members of the executive team.
Julie and Donna chat about several topics, Donna has either a printed email with an action, or papers for Julie to read. Watching them together is quite fascinating, it’s like Donna knows what Julie is going to say before she does and is prepared with what is needed.
Speaking to Julie about her relationship with Donna she said: “Donna is fantastic, we have worked together for a number of years now and over that time have built such a good working relationship I know I can rely on her to keep me right, it’s like we are one mind!”
Julie then spends some time looking through complaints and compliments received, responding as required. Although the patient experience team deal with these in the first instance, Julie does receive some directly and signs off all formal written responses.
Julie explains: “I like to be involved and respond as and when I can, it’s important to hear patient’s experiences and how as a trust we can improve.”
Its now 9.45am and Julie has her regular ward rounds scheduled for 10am, she has time to have a quick glance over her blog to see if she has had any comments or questions, and also to think ahead what she might like to highlight next.
On the way to the wards I ask Julie what she hopes to get out of visiting the staff on the floor, she said: “I enjoy having the time to visit staff, it gives me the opportunity to get a feel for staff morale, and deal with any issues they may have. It’s also great to see the staff doing what they do best, treating patients with care and compassion.”
We arrive at ward 29 and Julie introduces herself to the ward clerk, who greets Julie warmly.
Julie locates matron Helen, who was in a patients room updating paperwork, for a quick chat. Julie asks how things are on the ward, enquires re staffing levels and staff wellbeing, especially in regards to the hot weather, finally asking Helen if she has anything she would like to discuss.
Helen explained: “It’s been hard in the heat, the wards are already warm and it has been uncomfortable for the patients and the staff. I make sure staff are taking regular breaks and keeping hydrated. It has been difficult recently as we have had a lot of complex patients who have needed discharging to hospice’s which has added pressure on the staff.
“I find the most important thing on the ward is good communication, I make sure we hold daily briefs which involve all shift staff, both day and night so we can handover and pass on key information ensuring nothing is missed. My main focus is keeping the ward clean, tidy and quiet as this is the best environment for our patients. “
Julie thanks Helen and walks around the ward, speaking to a few patients, one lady commented how Julie was a ‘beautiful lady’ which definitely brought a smile to Julies face.
“I love being in the ward environment, having the opportunity to speak to the patients and staff, as a registered nurse, caring for the patients is the thing I miss the most, so I take as many opportunities as I can to visit wards across both hospital sites”
We move onto ward 28 and Julie speaks with some of the staff around the nursing station, they speak very highly of the discharge liaison service which supports the ward and Julie takes the opportunity to speak to frailty co-ordinator Mark who works in the discharge team.
Mark describes the service: “The discharge team often work with patients and families from front of house, mainly accident and emergency or emergency assessment unit to put a discharge plan in place as soon as possible.
“There are many factors we consider when building the discharge plan, such as the emotional state of the patient, what support they have, what are the families’ wishes and preferences, and are there other services we need to involve at the trust or in the community such as the mental health team. “
Julie responded: “The work the discharge team are doing is first class, in healthcare frailty is one of the main concerns and by tackling the obstacles that keep patients in hospital longer than necessary we can get them home sooner. “
Just before leaving the ward Julie spoke briefly to a member of NHSP staff, the trusts bank agency, who told her that she has previously worked in James Cook but was really enjoying picking up bank shifts now she has retired as it keeps her practicing. She commented on how as a trust we are far more advanced in technology and that this had been a new challenge in her varied career.
At lunch time Julie grabs a bite to eat in her office while catching up on her emails and prepping for the afternoon ahead.
The next thing in the diary was to attend the ‘GIRFT – Getting it right first time’ meeting which is a quality improvement pilot commissioned by the department of health who are currently working with the trusts critical care team. The meeting involved looking at data that had been collected, recognising trends and where improvements could be made.
Julie’s day was rounded up by attending the trust annual volunteer thank you event. Volunteers from across the trust were invited to enjoy a meal and sing along supported by the trusts choir. Julie spent some time speaking to the volunteers and thanking them for their contributions and also speaking to the staff who were supporting the event.
Julie concluded: “The volunteer event is such a lovely occasion; it gives us the chance to give something back to our wonderful volunteers who dedicate their own time to improving our patient’s experiences.
“The job that I do can vary massively, I hope that this experience can enlighten people to a nicer side of my job, a part which I really enjoy doing. We work in a fantastic trust and being chief executive makes me incredibly proud.”