In Conversation With: Heidi Poole, Deputy Director of IM&T, University Hospital of North Midlands NHS Trust
I Was Always Conscious of My Gaps
As Deputy Director of IM&T, Heidi coordinates, facilitates and supports a number of departments within the IM&T Directorate. This includes business intelligence, health records, telecoms development, business change, and also infrastructure, data centre, support service delivery and desktops.
Starting her career in the NHS on a temporary 12 month contract as a receptionist, Heidi is now 23 years into her NHS career - a career that has seen many opportunities.
“Developing from postgraduate medicine, I got an insight into clinical terminology and professions as a medical secretary. I did that in a couple of different teams - orthopedics, plastic surgery, orthodontics. I handled waiting list management and improvement, which was my first taste of transformation.”
From there, Heidi went on to introduce new systems for secretary templates. Strong transformational work here led to her support for wider EPR projects with ED and outpatients before embarking on wider strategic transformation projects such as Digital Dictation. Looking for operational experience, Heidi went back into the Outpatients Department as a Business Support Manager before going back into IT as the Deputy Head of Service Development.
“The focus was initially on the integration and transition between Royal Stoke and County to form University Hospital of North Midlands. We were looking at what solutions we had between the two organisations and how we could blend the two and integrate them.”
Now, as Deputy Director, Heidi has taken her service development experience to provide support to the revolution of work and planning methodology. She is investing in the team and building their work methodologies so they meet both the goals of the organisation and clinical needs.
Taking These Opportunities
Heidi’s career in the NHS, which started as a 12 month contract as a Receptionist, has seen her take on many opportunities across many different disciplines and teams within the NHS. With an expansive understanding of both the clinical side and operational side of many of these teams, Heidi is able to combine that with her passion and knowledge of digital transformation to provide solutions for all.
The driving force for Heidi’s pursuit of the next best opportunity stems from her passion for making a difference and adding value.
“I get immense satisfaction from seeing change through. I love to find different tools, different services and different people to engage in our projects.”
Despite never being a direct aspiration for Heidi, her desire to see change through to the end has led her to new and exciting projects. Regardless, she’s still not forgetting her routes.
“Even now, I’d love to go back to the reception and have face-to-face contact with patients and enjoy that camaraderie within the clinical teams. But it was also about ‘what else can I offer?’ It was never about ‘where can I be in 20 years?’. There was no planning.”
Do You Need to be Technical to Lead Technical Teams?
Despite lack of formal training or experience in the technical topics she works within, Heidi brings a wealth of transformational, clinical and organisational knowledge to her teams.
For Heidi, different teams need different leadership styles and approaches. If a team needs specific direction and coaching, then technical knowledge in the issues they’re dealing with would be valuable.
For her role, technical knowledge is just not that important to the delivery of projects and programmes that provide a positive impact.
“Through experience, whilst working with the Development Team who handle a wide range of systems and skills, that I don’t have specific knowledge in but I understand the context, the priorities and I can support them with that knowledge by removing barriers and helping them to manage expectations and fill gaps where needed.”
There’s a lot to be said about Self Awareness
Now 23 years into her NHS career, Heidi is on the bleeding edge of digital transformation in one of the world's biggest employers. Heidi’s journey, which has been filled with learnings and setbacks, has prepared her for the responsibility she now has driving change for the NHS.
For those looking for a leadership role within the NHS, Heidi has two pieces of advice. First, know where your strengths lie:
“It’s about looking at yourself critically and understanding where your strengths are and building on those strengths while having the awareness and confidence to look for help and support. “
Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s about having a level of organisational knowledge that allows you to peak over the horizon to find the best possible opportunity.
“Having an understanding of what our services do now, whether that’s the frameworks we use or general processes, systems and solutions, will mean you’ll have foresight into an achievable but ambitious strategy for the business.”
Combine the two, self-awareness and foresight, and you’ve got an effective way to climb the career ladder within a large organisation like the NHS.
“Coming back to your self-awareness, it’s important to match up your own development with that of your organisations. Working on personal gaps in skills and knowledge while providing solutions to the wider business gives a sense of a personal and professional achievement.”