I’m Andrew Hodge, I’m a paramedic and the Director of Allied Health Professions at Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. This was a new post starting in April this year as the agenda to strengthen the professional leadership of AHPs has been rapidly developing across the country.
The main aim of this role is to provide a voice for, and represent the Allied Health Professionals across our organisation, much in the same way that the nursing and medical professions do. The role focuses on the strategic development of our different Allied Health Professions, providing a collective voice amongst the Trust’s senior management teams, and working to develop the contribution that AHP’s can make to patient care and service delivery. Without this voice, AHP’s have traditionally been at risk of being omitted in developments such as service planning and redesign.
Having a career as a paramedic has provided me with the opportunities to develop into advanced clinical practice, non-medical prescribing and 6 years as a consultant paramedic in an ambulance service. Developing into the consultant paramedic role’s 4 capabilities of leading on research & service improvement, teaching & practice education, clinical leadership, and clinical practice enabled me to develop the skills I needed for my current role. I enjoyed the professional leadership aspects of the consultant role, engaging in national forums to represent the profession while also being part of regional groups which included the AHP Council where I started to understand the issues and developments related to the broader AHP community.
Leading on research and publications became a particular focus of my work that I could see was important to our profession in demonstrating our impact on current and future service models. Developing our profession’s clinical career framework around specialist and advanced practice required the delivery of many pilots such as primary care rotations and advanced practice schemes to develop the evidence to argue the case for the framework.
The role of the consultant paramedic is also to represent the profession and provide a clinical voice amongst our operational management colleagues, contributing to senior management discussions through a clinical lens, and providing the vital clinical opinion that contributes to informed decision making.
These experiences, amongst others, enabled me to develop in a way that prepared me for my current opportunity, after having a few unsuccessful interviews for other roles along the way of course.
Now, working in a Trust that provides both Acute care and Community Services has been both a culture shock and presents new challenges in adapting to the complexity of the services delivered. But the learning and opportunity to work in a different part of the healthcare system is invaluable. Extending my experiences as a paramedic into professional leadership of AHPs is both an advantage and a challenge. An advantage because being a paramedic means that I’m an AHP without any particular bias towards the AHPs normally employed in the organisation, and a challenge as it feels like it’ll take years to understand the nuances of each of the different professions within our collective group.
For those paramedics who are interested in doing so, pursuing a professional leadership career outside of our own profession’s traditional environment can be interesting, fulfilling and rewarding. Many years ago I spent two years working in commissioning and a further 5 years in community urgent care services in advanced practice, and while I missed working for an ambulance service I also knew that I was gaining experience in ways that I couldn’t necessarily get in one organisation. It all builds upon your knowledge base.
Now, I’m currently going through the transition again; in leaving an ambulance service where my paramedic identity fits most easily and into another part of the system traditionally occupied by other healthcare professionals. However, my observation over the years of working in different organisations, is that the value the paramedic can bring to what are currently (although increasingly less so) non-traditional environments for the profession, is unique and valuable. We bring with us a different perspective, shaped by our clinical responsibilities and experiences, and this enables us to contribute in a different way that adds value through our distinct perspective not easily found in other professions.
Just as the profession develops more into advanced practice and can be increasingly found in advanced clinical practice roles across primary, community and acute care, it’s important that we take the opportunities to develop into senior leadership roles. Partly, for this to happen we need more opportunities in ambulance services for those of us who don’t necessarily want to pursue solely operational management careers more consultant paramedic roles for our clinicians to develop into and more paramedics sitting on ambulance service boards to influence our profession’s and the organisation’s direction. It will also create more opportunities for those clinicians who are interested to develop in these roles, gaining skills and experiences that are transferrable across the health and social care system.
We also need to develop leadership programmes and fellowships with opportunities for exposure in a range of different environments. Where I’ve seen this happen, I’ve observed those involved to become inspired and pursue careers in ways that they probably couldn’t previously have imagined.
Looking back over the past few decades, our profession has developed quickly and continues to do so. As the NHS looks for new ways of working, our profession can, and is, starting to play a valuable and larger role in addressing some of the challenges. With this comes more opportunities, which we must be aware of and grasp with both hands, even if we don’t feel fully prepared we should trust the process and if appointable then believe in what you’ve learnt so far and enjoy the development journey offered.