Reflections – From a leadership fellowship: Belonging, Being valued, Beginning anew
by Michelle Horridge
Bossy. Confident. Self-Assured.
Words I’d heard used to describe me throughout my childhood and adolescence. School hockey captain, prefect, managing director of our Young Enterprise company, I was always drawn to leadership roles. Then; Medical School, Foundation Training, followed by Core Surgical Training interspersed with three periods of maternity leave, and despite trying to desperately maintain the “inner steel,” I felt as though that Bossy, Confident, Self-Assured teenager had all but gone.
How had this happened and, more importantly, was she ever coming back?
Working Less Than Full Time in a competitive surgical specialty as a non-trainee desperately trying to gain the elusive “National Training Number” whilst looking after three small children, keeping my portfolio up-to-date and up to scratch was exhausting. After a while, it felt like treading water. Everything was focussed on improving my CV and securing points for the application process. There was no scope or encouragement for personal development. I once arranged a study day to shadow the medical director, which was met with disbelief and outrage that I had organised something so “far ahead of my station” by both consultants and senior trainees alike. In comparison to my experience within the fellowship, where all opportunities for personal and professional development are recognised, shared and actively encouraged.
As someone who spent much of my formative years in positions of leadership, I had forgotten what it felt like to be given time to develop and be entrusted with responsibility. It is a sad reflection of a training system, where incredibly talented individuals, are too often made to “wait” to take on any substantive leadership roles, until their training is complete, when we could be nurturing the next generation of NHS leaders, preparing them for these roles and developing their capabilities alongside training
For me, the Fellowship year has been life-changing. And that is by no means hyperbolic prose.
My confidence grew, my sense of self and purpose returned with a bang. For the first time, in a very long time, I felt as though I was “good” at something and that my work and efforts were valued. I felt valued. I felt a sense of belonging. I was able to spend time with the team of people for longer than 6 months at a time; able to build relationships and work on projects together, to demonstrate what I was capable of.The kind of work I was doing was project based. I loved the whole process – Big picture thinking, planning, bringing people along and sharing my vision.
As part of the programme, we were encouraged to undertake coaching. These sessions were invaluable and ultimately led me down a new and exciting path. When looking at what motivates me, what I enjoy and what I want from my work and life, working with my coach we directed these efforts into looking at what job I may find most fulfilling. This allowed me time and space to dig deep into what my personal values are and complete a fair amount of “homework” set. This ranged from working my way through all the medical specialties to looking at other public sector opportunities. After much soul searching, talking to people and some fantastic taster days, my mind was made up – Public Health – Big picture thinking, project planning, working with a range of different people, building relationships, making a difference to lots of people.
With the support and encouragement from my team I worked my way through the application process and was appointed to a national training number starting in August 2020.
Even from the relatively small interactions I had within public health I could see a world similar to that in the fellowship, where ideas and personal development were given space and encouragement to flourish, as opposed to my experience of surgical training, which was the acquisition of skills alongside the need to constantly fulfil ARCP requirements that you were rarely given time or space for. Two days after I accepted the offer, I was contacted by the Training Programme Director over the phone. She congratulated me then wanted to hear all about me; what was my background, what was my home situation, where did I live – thinking ahead to training placements. In direct comparison to my previous training programmes, I instantly felt this sense of belonging and being part of the team, as opposed to a random number that will be assigned to where we put you and not complain about it. There was also a discussion about the flexibility of the programme and how many trainees spend time working from home.
My year in Leadership has given me so many wonderful opportunities and experiences, but for me, the best thing it has given me is myself. I feel like the “old” me again, that confident, self-assured, and let’s go with assertive rather than bossy, teenager came back.
Michelle Horridge is currently working as a Leadership Fellow based at The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, as part of the Health Education England Future Leaders Programme. She will commence Public Health training in August 2020 and currently undertaking a Masters degree in Education. Her interests are flexible working, Trauma Resilience Management (TRIM) support, education and breastfeeding awareness and the development of networks to support these. She was also named as one of the Top 100 Women in Healthcare Leadership 2020.