How Did I Get Here? Dr Judith Ellis, Director of Workforce Development at Great Ormond Street

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Dr Judith Ellis admits how being bullied by a direct line manager destroyed her self-confidence and why this had the biggest influence on her career – here’s her story.

1. What is your current job title? Briefly describe your current role.
Chief Nurse and Director of Workforce Development at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Trust. I am an Executive Director of this NHS Trust with lead responsibility for HR, Education and Training, Workforce Development and professional lead for Nursing and Child Protection.

2. What challenges do you come across?
My greatest challenge is guiding the Trust through the complex intricacies of a constantly changing agenda in the NHS, whilst balancing freedom of development and workforce innovation, with risk management and integrated governance.
A real challenge is ensuring the HR function is recognised as an essential integrated part of providing high-quality clinical care to the children and families.

3. What activities do you spend most of your time on?
Most time is spent on leadership activity, empowering and sometimes directing others in taking forward different priority areas of activity – “spinning plates.”

4. Describe your initial training within the profession
Leading and managing an interdisciplinary ward team – attending small local education and training sessions on HR issues and processes and a vast amount of “on the job” experience.

5. What positions have you held?
Nurse up to Ward Sister, Service Manager, Principal Lecturer HEI, Civil Servant, and policy work.

6. Is there a significant event you can tell us about which had an impact on your career?
I experienced bullying from a direct line manager and I’m amazed how this changed me from a highly confident, competent individual to a “self questioning, distressed wreck” with the situation only resolved due to support from an excellent senior manager and a realisation that others had suffered the same treatment.

7. What has been your greatest achievement?
Helping to “get the basics right” for NHS patients through developing a quality improvement approach that demands ownership and commitment from front-line staff.

8. What has been your biggest career mistake?
Following a manager’s instruction to discipline an ineffective staff member when I knew this was the wrong approach and what was needed was supportive development.

9. Which of your colleagues played the biggest role in you getting where you are today?
A vast number of colleagues played a positive role but probably the biggest role was played by those who were poor at HR management and unwilling to change, as frustration spurred me to try and “get it right.”

10. What influences do you think have had the greatest impact on the HR sector in recent years?
Awareness of “rights” and raised public expectations, increase in litigation; shortage of workforce.

11. What advice would you give to someone thinking of entering the profession?
Find people a fascination. Keep a sense of humour. Honesty and compassion will serve you well. Never compromise your own beliefs on the instruction of another - “to yourself be true”.

12. What are your plans for the future?
Perhaps a Chief Executive post.

Previous career profiles can be seen on the How Did I Get Here? page.

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