Clinical leadership case study: occupational therapist and director of AHP and psychology professions

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Clare Boobyer-Jones, Director of AHP and Psychology Professions, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, on becoming a clinical leader.

My journey

I started as an occupational therapist in 1990, after which I became Head Occupational Therapist, then Head of Therapies in an acute trust. I moved temporarily into a directorate Operational Manager role and finally had the opportunity to act as Deputy Director of Nursing for the trust. I believe that stepping into these roles allowed me to develop both clinical and operational credibility and raise the profile of allied health professions within an acute, medically driven environment.

The acute trust is currently working in an alliance with the community, mental health and learning difficulties trust, working towards a merger and already have a joint executive board. My role sits under the Chief Nurse for the allied trusts and covers all allied health professionals (AHPs) and psychologies. I sit within the Chief Nurse’s care directors team and work alongside the patient care directors for each trust. I am co-located with the executive team, which affords many opportunities for discussion and influence.

On starting in her new role, the Chief Nurse spent six months seeking out all professions within the alliance to understand their roles and the services they provide. She has a good of understanding of the breadth of services AHPs provide. With this knowledge, she ensures that there is a voice at the board and advocates for the services.

The turning point

In the acute trust, therapies have played a key part in reducing delayed transfers of care and introducing enablement as an approach to improving patient outcomes. Along with the alliance of the trusts, this meant that there was a good understanding of the value AHPs could bring. The limitation of not having a seat at board is that although others have an understanding of the profession, we are not always at the right forums to influence direction of services and decisions about workforce and patient care delivery. The Chief Nurse is very good at bringing me into appropriate discussions.

Key barriers/challenges and how I worked through these

The key barriers and challenges are the expectations of others of the role. Many see it as just occupational therapy and physiotherapy. There could also be a tendency in one of the trusts to think the role is just for professional leadership and as such a reticence about including the post-holder in operational delivery decisions. Representing the full range of AHPs in a strategic way is helping to overcome this.

Organisational support to make this happen

It is essential that AHP professions are represented at the right forums in the organisation. Executive and senior clinical leaders need to understand the impact these professions have on patient outcomes, experience and patient flow and it is our job as AHPs to help them develop that understanding.

My top tips

  • Be bold and gatecrash politely.
  • Approach with solutions to system-wide issues. Work alongside the powerful and large groups, ie nurses and doctors.

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