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Monthly Meeting: Women in the NHS

For our February meeting we celebrated International Women’s Day by inviting a panel of women currently working the NHS to share their experiences and thoughts with us. 77% of NHS staff are women, yet only 41% of NHS board members are women. With the NHS recently turning 70 years old and an ambition for gender balanced boards by 2020, this was a good chance to learn more about the opportunities and challenges associated with being a woman in the NHS.

We were lucky enough to welcome three accomplished women from a range of backgrounds and roles which fuelled a very diverse and lively discussion and Q&A session with our members.

Dr Kirsten Walpole is a Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Medical Simulation at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and is the first person in the country to undertake this role, treating patients in Emergency Medicine alongside teaching medical students and other medical professionals. Kirsten shared with us her career progression to date, including taking a break from medical training to complete a Master’s in Medical Education which led her to her current combined role.

Emma Charnock shared her experiences in nursing, including time spent in Australia which opened her eyes to children’s cancer services. Now back in the UK, Emma is the Senior Oncology Research Nurse at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital; an incredibly challenging but rewarding role supporting children and their families to take part in life-saving research and throughout their cancer journey.

Bringing a management perspective to the panel was Jo Ellis, Director of Health and Care Transformation at Mace, a construction firm who now work with the NHS to explore the impact our towns and cities have on our health and wellbeing. Jo reflected on her varied NHS management career, from being a management trainee to running hospital departments to her new and exciting role.

Our panel shared their thoughts and experiences on a wide range of NHS related topics including their motivation for working in the NHS, the biggest challenges facing women in health, how we can achieve gender balance and having a work-life balance. All our panel members were unanimous in their strong sense of purpose and value working for the NHS, especially making services as good as possible for patients even in difficult times. Kirsten, Emma and Jo all agreed that finding a work-life balance can be very challenging and gave us some helpful tips on how to try and protect this. Finally, we asked our guests for some advice and had some thought-provoking discussions on staying true to your values and leadership behaviours.

Thank you to Kirsten, Emma and Jo for giving up their time and being so honest and open in our discussions.

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