Nicole Elkins

General Management Scheme

NHS Trust: Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Role: Assistant Service Manager for Children’s Services

What are your main areas of responsibility in this role, what type of work are you involved in?

As the Assistant Service Manager for Children’s Services, I oversee the management and facilitation of numerous paediatric services. I focus primarily on Outpatient services, but have sight of all aspects of paediatric care at Luton & Dunstable Hospital. I currently lead on the 18 weeks Referral to Treatment (RTT) target for my team. This is a national target which gives patients the right to treatment within 18 weeks of referral. I examine the Service’s activity, validate patient attendances and appointment outcomes and report into a weekly update meeting. I then look at what we can do to make improvements, for example liaising with clinicians and secretaries to add more clinics to see more patients. I also manage three neonatal secretaries, have had input into paediatric surgery scheduling, as well as planning for winter pressures and COVID contingency.

Do you feel your role has made a difference?

I certainly feel that my role has made a difference. I’ve initiated three weeks of ‘intense skin prick testing’. Due to COVID we had a large backlog of children waiting to have their skin prick tests to determine their allergies and how severe they are. With the support of my team, we’ve been able to set up extra clinics to get these children tested quicker. As a result, hundreds of children will now be seen months earlier than they would have been previously. This significantly improves the lives of these children, as they will be able to effectively manage and control their allergies with accurate and up to date information.

What experience has been the highlight of your training so far?

I’ve been able to meet other teams and learn what they do. I believe that learning is continuous, so I spent a day shadowing some of the paediatric nursing team to get a better insight into what they do. I don’t have a clinical background, so I definitely learnt a lot! I got a personalised tour of the paediatric wards, was introduced to everyone that was on the ward and got to spend time decorating slime with a patient who had been admitted to have a feeding tube fitted. Spending time with that patient grounded me and helped me to remember that they are why we are here. The work we do is ultimately always to benefit the patients.

What is it like working in the NHS and would you recommend it?

It’s very fulfilling to work in the NHS – I’d thoroughly recommend it. I’ve discovered new skills and talents that I didn’t realise I had, and made decisions that will positively impact people for the rest of their lives. There are definitely some days that are challenging, and some that are less enjoyable than others. However, it’s a part of the job that I love, as it pushes me to do my best work.

Is the scheme helping you to develop your leadership skills and in what way?

Yes, definitely. I had previous leadership experience, but not within healthcare or the NHS. I’ve learnt that different teams all respond to different leadership styles – it just means you need to figure out which one! I’ve also started to understand what kind of leader I am, which is important moving forward.

The scheme has also helped me to hone my time management skills. Balancing scheme, work and personal commitments is an important element of the scheme. I’ve also become more comfortable with making decisions, the scheme has helped to give me the confidence I need to be an effective and decisive leader.

What are the top three aspects of your overall experience which you feel have prepared you to take the next steps in your career?

I have learnt that I enjoy operational management – this is the day to day management of a service. I also know that I like the pace of an acute Trust, as there is always something happening and something to learn from every day. I’ve realised that I enjoy challenges, and I enjoy areas where there are things that can be improved. These three aspects are certainly things I will consider when preparing to take the next steps in my career.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to the scheme?

My advice would definitely to be yourself. The scheme looks for people who are genuine and have a passion for working in the NHS. Do your research and have a think about what you can bring to the scheme, but also what the scheme can do for you in terms of development.

I would also say don’t be scared to be wrong. No one is right all the time and trying to be is a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Getting things wrong provides you with an opportunity for learning, which will serve you well in the future.

Finally, I think it’s important to be as involved and visible as you can during the scheme.

What have been the best three things about being on the scheme?

Learning more about the healthcare sector and the NHS. Understanding my capabilities and realising what I also need to work on developing. Most importantly, being able to positively impact the lives of countless people.