Odeth Richardson began her NHS career as a healthcare assistant in one of the large London teaching hospitals. She considered training as a nurse, but after meeting occupational therapists she decided that their ethos of “helping people to live, not exist” resonated with her, and she moved into a basic grade occupational therapist role that gave her the foundation to develop her career. After leaving the NHS for a number of years to work in social services, she returned to Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 2009 as Head of Service for Occupational Therapy.
A couple of years ago, Odeth was at a stage in her career where she felt ready to take on the challenges of a more senior leadership role and make a larger impact on her organisation. After speaking to her HR team she was directed to the NHS Leadership Academy North East and steered in the direction of the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA) programme for mid to senior leaders aspiring to lead large and complex programmes, departments, services or systems of care. “I liked the mix of blended learning opportunities on offer and felt the work-based course elements would enable me to make changes at a manageable level,” says Odeth.
The EGA programme is a combination of online, face-to-face residentials in Leeds, self-managed Action Learning Sets, and work-based assignments.
“I always ensured that I completed my assignments on time and contributed significantly to the work required during the residentials,” explains Odeth. “The residentials were challenging because the group had to work together and agree to resolutions despite differing viewpoints. However the learning was invaluable and provided me with tools to use in the workplace where there are competing priorities and personalities.”
The work-based assignments helped Odeth to put her learning into practice. Throughout the course she experienced what it is like to be a patient, which provided the opportunity to see how services are delivered from a patient’s point of view. “Not all aspects of this experience were positive,” she reveals. “However it gave me an opportunity to effect change within the departments that I accessed. I was empowered to have conversations with my colleagues around the areas I found unsatisfactory.”
As part of the programme, Odeth undertook a case study that looked at her impact as a leader on supporting staff to use self-care to improve their resilience and therefore improve care quality. She is now working with the Health and Safety and Occupational Health department to review the support available. She remarks that, “I have more work to do within my team to support my staff to increase their resilience. It’s work in progress.”
Another element of the programme about living local values resonated with her and Odeth is now contributing to her organisation’s strategy by supporting work to review its vision, values and goals. She states, “I signed up to a work steam looking at our organisation’s values as part of our Chief Executive’s #FLOURISHATWORK campaign.” She continues to explain that, “The tools provided by the course are invaluable in supporting this work and I’m excited to have the opportunity to contribute.”
Odeth also attended an experience based co-design workshop within her organisation and continues to use this experience to ensure as far as possible that patients are included in the way services are designed. She continues working with various departments to effect change through peer collaboration and co-consulting.
Thanks to EGA, Odeth understands how her leadership behaviours impact her staff, along with the changes she must make within herself as a leader; she is more attuned to the benefits of collaborative leadership and the importance of empowering staff to lead. She also states that, “The golden threads of patient-centred care, quality, equality and diversity have been ingrained in my thinking. I strive to ensure these are incorporated in my interactions within my immediate team, department and the wider organisation.”
Going forward, Odeth is keen to use what she learned on EGA to impact changes at an organisational level. “This programme gave me the skills to maximise my impact as a leader,” declares Odeth. “I’m planning to try different ways of working within my team as a starting point and later on move to a more strategic role where I can affect system wide change.”