Using the skills and experience she gained abroad, Debbee Walker now works in the NHS helping to improve services for patients.
My journey to become a service manager in the NHS was certainly a varied one!
After graduating from university in 1998, I spent some time travelling and settled in the Netherlands for a few years. I started off as a business development secretary working for an American oil and gas company. International speakers were highly sought after, so when I’d picked up the language I was headhunted to work for a Dutch company that also worked in the industry drilling oil from the sea bed. I supported the business development team and was the personal assistant to the company president before moving back to England in 2004.
After returning I spent a short time working for a local industrial auctioneer; it could be quite contentious and was certainly hard work. When I became pregnant with my first child it was an opportunity to rethink my career and consider what I really wanted from a job. I didn’t want to work for the ‘fat cats’, but I wanted job satisfaction of a different kind.
My first taste of the NHS was in the radiology department of the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital working as a part-time secretary. I was fortunate to be put on the medical terminology course which allowed me to progress into the role of a medical secretary for an orthopaedic consultant. From there I was promoted to service manager for the Head and Neck Unit and a restructure in 2011 led me to become a business manager for the Surgery and Critical Care Department.
At this stage there was very little I could learn about operational management and I was keen to become more involved in service redesign, which was a small element of the job that I really enjoyed.
Funnily enough at the time a role came up in the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as a service manager within the service planning and redesign team. For the last 8 months I’ve been working on the other side of the fence looking at ways to improve care for people in the local area through the care we commission from hospitals, community services etc.
I’ve always been mentored and had the opportunity to go on training courses which has enabled me to grow my career. This year I’ll be taking part in an NHS Leadership Programme which is supported by the CCG.
If you work in the NHS you have to be prepared to change; I went through three restructures during my time at Grimsby hospital and the political landscape always affects how we work. But now I’ve got the job satisfaction I’ve always wanted. After living and working in a country where there is no NHS, I’m proud to be part of it.