Working as a Project Manager in the NHS
A Project Manager role within the NHS requires a combination of skills including strategic thinking, planning, negotiation and general management skills. Each professional has their own path and one is different from another. However, the best way to learn about the profession is to speak to some of its representatives. We have contacted a project manager at a prominent NHS Trust and asked him to explain his career path and his views on working within the NHS.
When did you first come to work within the NHS?
I began my first role as an administrator within the Appointment Services after studing a BA (Hons) at university. My sister worked in the NHS and advised me to apply for a summer job on a fixed term contract. I was given an interview by two department managers and asked whether I could go through training prior to starting. After passing the training course I was qualified to start my first administrative job within the NHS.
And moving forwards....
I then went to work for a second NHS trust, which was running a computer deployment programme and upgrading all the computers in all the offices around the county. They needed an engineer to come and to do this work for them and I qualified for this position.
Have you worked as a contractor since then?
Yes, I work for myself as self-employed. I’m on a 3 month contract and I tell any organisation that I work for: “once you feel that I’m not giving you value for money, ask me to stop. I will shake your hand and terminate the contract so that the organisations can save money. The basic terms that I negotiate with any agency are the notice period and my rates. I work on a daily rate and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid - as simple as that.
Once you become a contractor, it gives you a lot of self-confidence in your job and your abilities. This is because in the NHS contractors are subject to commercial laws and rules, which means that if we do something incorrect on purpose we can be dismissed quickly. That, for me, is actually an advantage of being a contractor - having a knife hanging over your head! However, I have a high standard of work that I want to maintain and I don’t compromise on the amount of work that I do. I work hard and managers notice this.
How many hours do you work per day?
I work from 8.30am to 5pm. However, it’s not the number of hours you work; it’s what you can pack into these hours that is important. The way I use my time most productively is by building personal relationships with a lot of key people in the organisation who influence what happens. It’s not political manoeuvring at work; it’s speaking to people and treating them with the understanding and respect that they desire. It should be the same approach regardless of their position; you form friendly and professional relationships with everybody.
What does a regular day look like? How many people do you communicate within a day?
It depends on what needs to be done. I work with several different departments in a day and what I am currently working on is opening a new ward. I have to get all the internal telephone equipment installed, and so I’ll speak to the relevant people regarding this. I will also speak to the IT support desk and a security company in regards to CCTV. That will be my morning. In the afternoon I will be more of a facilitator and make sure that things are done correctly. I will also check that everyone is happy to do the work that they’re doing and action any problems if they occur.
Do you have a team you work with, or do you work on your own?
We primarily work on our own, however our teams become the people in different departments. It would be nice to have one team that you work with all the time, as that would allow the operation to run much smoother.
What are the positives of working within the NHS?
There are many positive sides to working for the NHS, as ultimately this is an organisation committed to working for the greater good of society. Currently I work in a trust where I can see the results of our work; it helps to keep the non-medial aspects of the Doctors/Nurses/Surgeons etc, jobs functioning correctly.
What are the downsides of working within the NHS?
My mentality is to do the work as best as possible, as quickly as possible. To succeed in this you have to work with the majority of people at the same pace. However, the NHS is so bogged-down in bureaucracy, processes and people who work in a different way, that a task that could be completed in one morning or afternoon, can take two to three weeks to even get actioned!
Another downside of working in the NHS is the lack of expertise in some jobs. Certain people are promoted because of their longevity and not ability.
Would you like to continue working within the NHS in the future?
Yes, I’d like to because morally I don’t want to work for a company that doesn't contribute to society in an altruistic way. Work is more of a moral question for myself and in all honesty, I would rather be unemployed than not work for a company with high morals. Furthermore, when you work in an environment that you enjoy, you work harder and you don’t think of it so much as' a job', but as a passion.
Have you seen a lot of changes in the NHS after Brexit?
Within the hospital I haven’t, because London has a different culture to the rest of England; it is basically a place where people come from all parts of the world to work. In the hospitals, for example there are specialists from all around the world, and they are specialists for a reason; they are the best. Everybody in the hospital knows this.
We have had several meetings regarding our organisation trying to speak to ministers and to Parliament, so whoever has concerns about being European and working in the UK can come for reassurance and advice. The organisation that I currently work for is trying to assure all employees that they won’t be affected and is doing everything to keep them happy, because they are valued.
If you feel that a Project Manager role is your dream career, then check available opportunities here. If you are not sure that a Project Manager role is right for you, take a look at our quick test to find out if you are suited for this role.
Written by Tatiana Prichislenko, Marketing Manager at GoToJobBoard