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NATIONAL APPRENTICESHIP WEEK 2022: Investing in patient safety

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Published on 10 February 2022

Ashleigh Jack
Ashleigh Jack

Ashleigh Jack plays an integral role when it comes to patient safety in the NHS and since graduating from a University of Sunderland apprenticeship she now has the knowledge and skills to help develop the service further.

As one of the Patient Safety Managers at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) Ashleigh’s job is about maximising the things that go right and minimizing the things that go wrong for patients in the Trust.

Starting the role just over a year ago, the 38-year-old works alongside colleagues to investigate patient safety incidents in the Trust, as a learning tool so that they can understand how they can improve the safety and effectiveness of care for their patients. This also involves learning from what goes well.

Ashleigh began her Senior Leader Apprenticeship with a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2019, as she enjoys learning and to help progress in her career. She says from the very first module in Leadership Identity she knew she’d chosen the right course and was able to apply what she was learning directly to her job role, maximising her contribution to the team.

“The first module really took a deep dive into who you are in your role and how you impact others, as well as how you contribute to the strategic intent of the wider organisation,” says Ashleigh.

“It changed how I think and operate, giving me the confidence to speak up and to make important changes at work.

“Each module assignment directly related to my work, which not only benefited myself, but also my team in terms of projects and workstreams. Everything you learn is absolutely applicable and relatable. The theory and research made me think critically and writing academically at that level has certainly helped with report writing in my role.

“Recommendations I made in my Dissertation are now being implemented in the organisation as part of our implementation of the new Patient Safety Strategy.”

The Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme explores leadership and leader identity and what that means to each individual in the context of their organisation. The programme incorporates a Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Jillian Bailey, CDDFT Training and Development Co-ordinator, said: “It is wonderful to be able to work with the University of Sunderland and to invest in our staff with high-quality, recognised and credible vocational qualifications. Supporting our staff to complete the Senior Leadership Apprenticeship has really help us to develop and retain our talent and support their career progression into senior leadership roles within our organisation.”

She added: “It’s also been fantastic to see Ashleigh develop her role as Patient Safety Manager drawing on the skills she has developed during her apprenticeship, which is benefiting the wider service.”

Ashleigh has worked for CDDFT for 18 years, and joined the NHS after deciding to have a year out of education following A-levels.

She explained: “I applied for a job as a trainee medical secretary in the Trust in 2004 and undertook some secondments before moving into clinical governance permanently a few years later, where I discovered my passion for patient safety and quality improvement, as well as organisational development.

“CDDFT has given me lots of opportunities to move around and held my interest, as well as undertake several formal qualifications which is why I haven’t needed to move on. I also love working in the NHS and in a hospital environment.”

Keen to continue her education, Ashleigh, from Durham, achieved a First-Class degree in Business Administration with the Open University, and was determined to complete a Masters degree when the opportunity arose.

She says: “When I found out about the apprenticeship with the MBA, it was too good an opportunity to miss, undertaking some of the learning within work time, especially with a young family at home, was perfect for me. Quite a few colleagues have done it or are doing it, encouraged by the Trust, and like them I jumped at the chance.”

She added: “It wasn’t always easy, managing a full-time job and a young family, with a new job and house move thrown in for good measure! But this was something just for me as an individual, and now I’ve finished it I miss it.”

Ashleigh says not only did the experience increase her confidence, motivation and key skills in her job, she also gained some life-long friendships. Adding: “I would recommend an apprenticeship to anyone if you want to develop yourself both professionally and personally; you really have nothing to lose!”

David Pearson, Programme Leader for the Senior Leader Apprenticeship at Sunderland, said: “Ashleigh achieved a distinction for her MBA along with a merit at apprenticeship End Point assessment which was a remarkable achievement while working full-time in the NHS and having to deal with a global pandemic mid-way through her programme. Feedback from both Ashleigh’s tutors and her employer has shown that the apprenticeship programme has helped to increase Ashleigh’s confidence while transitioning into a different role and the strategic thinking from the programme has supported this transition.

“We are very proud that we have been a part of Ashleigh’s journey, she has been really excelled.”