I can’t quite believe it, but I now have less than 8 weeks left of my first placement. I’m excited for the opportunities ahead, first on my flexi-placement at one of the 15 Academic Health Science networks and then in my final (!!) placement in the Informatics department at an acute Trust. I am also very, very sad to be leaving the absolutely fantastic team I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year, and the wonderful world of community healthcare.
I’m definitely biased, as community healthcare has been my only experience of working in the NHS so far, but I am still constantly bowled over by just how much healthcare goes on right under our noses and outside of the acute hospitals walls. I’ve never knowingly accessed community healthcare myself (save for as a small child, which I think it’s safe to say I’d have no hope of remembering) so this year has been a fascinating one learning about what it is that community providers do. From breast-feeding support for new mothers, to school nurses, district nurses, podiatry, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, continence services and beyond, the services provided by the Trust are a rich patchwork which aim to support people in remaining independent and getting all they can out of life. It’s incredible, and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to witness the work that goes on.
Working in the community also brings its very own set of challenges: we cover a fairly large, generally sparsely populated county with teams and hubs and care settings spread throughout. There’s rarely such a thing as just nipping down the corridor to speak to someone! This is where informatics comes into its own: the ongoing rollout of a Trust wide electronic patient record system means that staff can now access patient records more easily and remotely with no need to send for paper copies or return them to base at the end of the day. The process of accessing records is therefore generally much quicker and simpler, and audit and reporting processes are also much more straightforward. Smartphones have improved the ability of staff to communicate remotely, and across the Trust many ‘back-office’ staff are making the move to agile working, saving time travelling from offices to meetings and making it easier for staff to adopt a more flexible approach to their working day.
Agile working has itself been something I did not expect to experience so early on in my career. It has many benefits, such as the ability to work from home if needed or saving hours of driving time crossing the county but it has also been a fascinating experience to reflect on. By its very nature, if not carefully managed agile working can become a lonely experience; so from the perspective of a trainee manager it has been interesting to observe the approaches and strategies teams take to avoid this becoming an issue. I will readily admit to being the kind of person who very definitely needs company to give me energy, so the idea of moving away from the traditional office environment filled me with some degree of trepidation: other people I have spoken to really welcomed the idea, with the flexibility it provides and the opportunity to work quietly when a lot of concentration is needed. As trainees, we are regularly encouraged to be mindful of diversity within the workplace – and this really illustrated to me how true this is.
So there you have it – a whistle stop tour of my experience of informatics in a Community Trust. I can’t wait to find out just how different my next two placements are going to be…