Clinical leadership case study: physiotherapist and group deputy chief executive officer

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Shane DeGaris, Group Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Barts Health NHS Trust, on becoming a clinical leader.

My journey

My clinical background was as a physiotherapist although I am no longer Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered. Following this, my line manager’s manager went on maternity leave and so my line manager acted up to cover that role and I was asked to cover the head of therapies role (I was previously working as superintendent physiotherapist).

An opportunity arose to cover another maternity leave role as general manager in the Medical Directorate. I then progressed to Assistant Director of Operations, Director of Operations, Chief Operating Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and then before my current role at Barts, was the Chief Executive at Hillingdon Hospitals. 

The turning point

I made decisions to move laterally/diagonally, sometimes at a lower or protected grade, to continue to make a difference for many more patients than the ones I treated individually as a physiotherapist.

The key to my success was that I sought out and needed support from within my trust(s) to do this (which I had). While I have not worked clinically for a number of years, my clinical background is a very important part of my journey and the leader I am today. 

Key barriers/challenges and how I worked through these

There is a challenge in that there is normally only one route to the board of an acute trust for AHPs, compared to nurses and doctors. To work through this, it has been critical that I have moved towards the operational board roles through positions that offered significant operational and general management experience. 

Organisational support to make this happen

Trusts need to ensure there is a good system of talent management in place that helps identify and support future leaders from right across the clinical and non-clinical spectrum.

My top tips

  • Ensure you gain operational experience.
  • Talk to key/influential people within the organisation and tell them your ambitions (CEO/COO, etc).
  • Seek out and find others who have followed a similar path to the one you want to embark on.
  • Try to get onto one of the mainstream programmes (eg Aspiring COO programme etc).

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