This article is no longer listed, please search the site for up to date articles

  • Role: Management Trainee
  • Location: Sheffield
  • University: Leeds
  • Degree: Classical Civilisation

Dawn Stephenson

I was initially set on becoming an archaeologist. I have always loved classical civilisations and Leeds ran a well-respected degree. After leaving university I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I completed a Masters.

In terms of my career I wanted to work in the public sector, as I’m not really motivated by material things and wanted a worthwhile career. I started as a temp, where I helped set up a new organisation to support doctors’ training and development. I then moved into medical education at Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

Although I’d already had a number of years working, it was recommended that I apply to the graduate scheme with the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. I felt I would be suited to the intense training and it would give me an opportunity to work across the different departments within the NHS. I knew a few people on the scheme and they’d highly recommended it.

The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement

The graduate scheme provides potential to go far very quickly. You are in a privileged position as you’re exposed to lots of situations and involved in strategic pieces of work. It’s also valuable as you make contacts and form networks.

The support offered was one of the key aspects in choosing to join. My line manager provides training and support and I have a programme manager who has overseen my two years of training. She’s been incredibly supportive and I can go to her about anything. We also have mentors and learning sets of eight to ten trainees that meet every two months.

I like that we are doing a post-graduate diploma in health and public leadership. I’m currently finishing the taught element but still have the dissertation to go. I guess I still have a bit of study left in me!

What the graduate scheme entails

There are three core parts. The first is an operational placement. I worked at Sheffield Teaching Hospital as a Deputy Service Manager. This involved capacity planning, budget monitoring, any service developments and the line management of clerical and outpatient staff. It’s at the coalface of health care provision so there’s a lot of fire fighting to keep services running efficiently.

You then have a two-month flexi placement where you can do something completely different that adds to your training, within your strategic health authority region. I joined PriceWaterhouseCoopers where I supported a high profile piece of work on world-class commissioning for the NHS working closely with a number of directors.

I am now on my 9-month strategic placement where my role is business planning and performance manager in service development. Basically, we provide business and project management support to the clinical directorates.

We’ve just got a new contract to plan how to reduce the waiting list down to six weeks for alcohol misuse services. I’ve worked with the lead clinician to work out an action plan, management and resource planning to deliver this.

The biggest element of my work is writing the annual plan for 09/10 to be submitted to Monitor. This is strategic and involves different departments, such as finance and governance, as well as stakeholders throughout the organisation.

Every placement has done exactly what it’s supposed to do and I’ve got a great overview of the work of the NHS and what’s going on in the community and with other partners.

My typical day

Every role has been different. The operational placement was full on every day dealing with staffing problems and capacity issues. My current role lets me plan my work. I started in November and the key deadline was the end of May so you can work backwards on what needs to be done. As part of my week I have an Executive Directors Group meeting for an hour and a half to talk through the nearly final draft of the annual plan. After that I have a meeting with finance and planning and performing directors to discuss the detail and the exact figures in the plan.

I will also meet with the substance misuse directorate to provide support on responding to a tender.

Key challenges

Working on the annual plan involves the whole organisation. This means I need input from finance, HR and governance. The main challenge is managing upwards and getting what I need from senior people in a timely way.

The operational role was more about problem solving. You have to be quick on your feet and provide actions and solutions to keep the services running. In a way, this role was more stressful. It was difficult to leave your work behind at the end of a day. I’d find I was thinking about things during the night and the hours were certainly longer.

The future

I loved the buzz of managing the service in the hospital so this is where I’d like to get a job. As I’m due to finish in August, I’m actively looking for roles and am awaiting the outcome of a recent interview.

Benefit of work-experience

Doing my Masters and having a few years of work experience meant that I was one of the oldest on the scheme. This certainly helped my confidence as you’re thrown in at the deep end and quickly need to build relationships and rapport with the people as well as getting to grips with all the different issues. I’ve been lucky to have really meaty placements during the training.

Proudest moment

My proudest moment has been project managing an Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Register Clinic in my first couple of months on the scheme. We had a consultant at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals whose son needed a bone marrow transplant, so the consultant, the Anthony Nolan charity and myself set up a clinic for the public to come along and join the register by providing a blood sample. For me, it was a great cause and allowed me to manage the logistics, staff, and media in setting such an event up. We had over 100 people come to the clinic and received masses of local coverage in the press and live on the news.

Most valuable lesson

Trusting my own judgement and knowing I can always contribute something valuable. When you first join you feel people at a more senior level know everything and your contribution won’t be meaningful. Over the course of the scheme your confidence grows and you realise that your experiences and opinions are a really important contribution in the development of ideas and services.

Back to Top