Who are you? And what’s this graduate programme you’re on?
Mainly things are going well; however, I would be telling a lie if I said the first month has been without its difficulties. Challenges are important to highlight, even more so than the good points and I hope it gives you as the reader an unfiltered day in the life of a graduate trainee.
As previously mentioned I’m on a pilot urgent & emergency care stream, all very exciting! During my orientation I’ve spent enthralling days out on various different response vehicles, named using various different acronyms (RRV, RAT, LAT, HART). These responders specialise in the rapid response to cardiac arrests, chemical & radiological incidents, patients stranded at height/ in water, collapsed buildings amongst others.
I’ve also gained an understanding of frontline operational management, business resilience, continuity and emergency communications. The learning opportunities have been vast and after the whirl-wind that is orientation I’ve now settled down into a routine and focused on a project.
The majority of staff from frontline to executive level have been extremely welcoming. They’ve offered sound advice and invited me to attend meetings & events to further my experience (be careful, your diary will soon becoming a daily task).
However, all has not been ‘buttered bacon’ (perfect). As a somewhat metaphorical ‘Guinea pig’ I’m the first graduate to work within operations at Yorkshire Ambulance and quite the master of my ‘elevator pitch’ and introductory speech. I imagine this is the same for all new grads on the scheme when faced with; who are you? What do you do? What do you want to do?
Although I get the feeling within larger NHS trusts, CCGs, NHS England people are a little more attuned to the leadership academy and grad scheme.
Initially it was difficult to position myself in the organisation, simple things like not having a desk or team to be involved in. There have been occasions where my diary hasn’t been full and I’ve felt slightly lost with no clear purpose. As somebody who can’t sit still it was hard to mentally justify the amount of work I was or wasn’t (in this case) doing. When this happened I challenged myself to ‘wander with purpose’ and introduce myself to departments and see if they could spend 5, 10-30mins explaining their role. It worked and I even got invited to an annual leadership summit on the back of it, allowing me to network with all the top level execs and managers in YAS!
My advice is two-fold: Firstly, don’t expect to be constantly doing (especially in orientation), but ensure you utilise this time to network – you’ll be surprised how welcoming people are once you explain what you’re doing. Secondly, have a clear picture in your head to answer questions like, what is the grad scheme? Why have you chosen to focus your work in the NHS? What’s your long term plan?
Volunteering to help out at careers fairs and transitioning me from applicant to ambassador really helped with this and forced me to speak to people about the course, what it is, why I chose it and the benefits for my career plans. In doing this I’ve been approached by 2-3 members of staff interested in scheme at YAS to have a chat.
Headline: “An ageing fleet, high sickness rates and slow uptake of technology hampers the ability of the NHS to answer 999 calls quickly, a review says”
As a new starter and ‘fresh’ graduate how much should you read into the media surrounding your trust? Will it bog you down in “P” word (politics) and distract you from your ultimate purpose?
Before orientation I met with the steering group for the urgent care pilot scheme. The group was very open about the fact that it was an extremely exciting, fresh, new directive for the scheme and a wonderful opportunity to develop strong leadership in a service that has somewhat characteristically become set in its ways. They didn’t however shy away from the challenges:
- Stagnated workforces
- Areas of poor organisational culture
- High pressures
- Staff wellbeing
Since starting I’ve become engrossed with reading publications and press releases surrounding my trust and the wider NHS. Obviously this has its benefits:
- Teaches you about your trust and its values
- Keeps you up-to date with current issues and performance
- Highlights key projects and forward strategy
- Helps you align with your colleagues and raises discussion (the latest NHS headline is always hot topic Monday morning)
There-in lies the warning, it’s easy to bog yourself down with the negatives you see in the press and the views of some of your colleagues. I’ll give you an example; recently I read a well known report on underperforming ambulance services, it seems pretty bleak (see headline above).
Two weeks ago I spent time with forecasting & planning teams where I found out that in years gone by ambulance rotas and staffing were based on quite simply educated guesses. Over the past 5+ years the team have obtained, ratified and pieced together forecast models to pin-point the exact daily requirement of call handlers and ambulance staff. These forecasts are based on trends from previous years and have significantly improved ambulance response times. So much for a lack of technology uptake!
Great leadership & transformations are happening but as the report suggests this is one trust and not representative of national services. Communication across the region and nationally is somewhat fragmented with major variation.
To close – Not everything is as it’s portrayed. Yes do your reading, use the right channels, be critical and keep an open mind.