A message from Dame Jackie Daniel: latest from the Chief Executive's blog
We are delighted to share an excerpt from the latest blog by Chief Executive for Newcastle Hospitals, Dame Jackie Daniel.
In this edition, she shares her career reflections, in light of recent pressures and changing cultures, as she prepares to celebrate 40 years with the NHS.
Originally posted on 1 October
This week marks a special anniversary for me, as on 5th October I will have worked in the NHS for 40 years. During the last few weeks I have been reflecting on how things have changed over those years and how much has endured.
I began my career in the NHS as a student nurse – knowing from that first day that this was exactly where I wanted to be. I valued the learning and the experience it brought. Every day was unique – a rich array of people with varied needs.
The NHS is built around people, those who work here and those we care for and treat. I have felt that connection to people since I joined. It’s because of this connection that many of us experience a range of emotions each and every day. Often we feel the joy of being able to bring comfort or relief from pain and suffering or our ability to open up new possibilities for our patients. This is at times mixed with the angst of sometimes knowing there is a limit to what can be done. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion because we care.
Ten years working clinically were some of the most rewarding of my career, even though there were days that were incredibly tough. I was recently talking with a ward team at the Freeman Hospital when a staff nurse asked me if I missed nursing. I said without hesitation “often” – and I really do, I often reflect back on my days as a nurse with pride and satisfaction.
So why did I move from frontline care?
As a ward sister I recognised the difference good leadership could make for patients and the team of staff caring for them. I also noticed the wards where the leadership was lacking and the consequences of how that played out for staff and patients alike.
From very early in my career, I understood the importance of creating the right climate or culture for staff, so that they were able to be the best version of themselves. I appreciated that creating these conditions meant the outcomes for patients and their families were significantly better. What gave me great joy was that patients who received care on “my ward” – for years later would tell my dad what a difference it made to them. Along with my team I experienced enormous pride that came from seeing the lifelong impact of positive patient experience. Recognising that, I moved into management because I believed I could make a difference to quality of care on a bigger scale.
Our patients and staff and our families and friends all have a lifelong relationship with the NHS. When care and treatment is good, it has such a powerful effect. When it is not to the standard it should be it can be devastating – for the individual and those around them.
I learnt a lot as a Director at the mid-point in my career. I began to understand the complexity of leading in large NHS organisations, and I also tuned into the political dynamics linked to our NHS. At the time I was leading significant service reconfiguration in a mining community supported by several high profile female MPs serving in the early Blair Government. Those challenges of balancing clinical quality across a wide geographical area with local provision remain one of the major concerns in many areas today.
I became a CEO aged 39, and the last 19 years have been challenging and varied. Every year I have consolidated learning and constantly sought to develop myself as a leader. I’ve led small speciality trusts, district general hospitals of varying sizes and a social care and mental health provider before coming to Newcastle.
Increased emphasis on organisational values
Every job has of course held its own challenges. The golden thread through these years has been an appreciation that organisational culture is vitally important. Building it isn’t easy and takes time, and there are many elements of it that are important – leadership, strategy, good governance as well as a relentless focus on creating the environment where each individual can be their authentic selves and give their best work, whatever role they fulfil. Creating a climate where everyone – staff and patients alike – feels valued and supported.
When I began in the NHS we didn’t talk much about values and compassion, diversity and inclusion. They existed, of course, but were not universally recognised and this wasn’t necessarily a focus for leaders or organisations. Today, I remain optimistic that many more leaders at every level in our NHS are talking and acknowledging that these things matter, and matter the most. The NHS today is a kinder and more compassionate NHS.
Inevitably I have experienced pressured periods over my forty years and I know that my perspective and judgement has changed as my experience has grown. What we are experiencing now, after over 18 months of this cruel pandemic is in a different league. The legacy that COVID has left on our NHS people is huge, and it had been very distressing to hear the stories and testimonies from staff. I’m grateful to be able to call upon so many years of my own experience and that of those around me to help tackle this situation.
It is our NHS people who have made all of my experiences over the last 40 years so worthwhile. Supporting you and your teams continues to be my major focus as the NHS, and society as a whole, recover over the years ahead. If I have learned one thing over the course of my career to date, it is that we can achieve much more together than alone.
I understand that our work over the next few years will be tough. Having said that, I am confident that the commitment we have here in Newcastle will drive us to continue to provide the very best care for our patients.
The above was taken, with huge thanks, from Dame Jackie’s blog, 1 October 2021.