Jodie Church, Quality & Improvement Lead for Herts and West Essex, shares her enriching experience of growth in the organisation

Like many young people, Jodie had assumed that when she finished her schooling, she’d take up a place at college.

Well that was the plan. Until she landed a holiday job, anyway.

Jodie, who is now a Quality & Improvement Lead, says of that time, “Like many things in life, it’s all about taking the plunge into the unknown but as soon as I started working, I just knew I didn’t want to spend the next few years in full-time education.”

“I enjoy learning, but I also loved being part of what felt like the real world, being trusted to deal with real-life challenges, feeling part of things, trying out new skills – and well, if I’m really honest, having my own income was really satisfying too!”

For several years, Jodie worked mainly in call-centres, thriving on “team spirit and the buzz, and let’s not forget if you are dealing with the general public, no two days are ever the same.”

After the birth of her first child, Jodie decided to take some time out of the workplace to be a full-time mum. “I think it was when my daughter was about three, that I started to think about the possibility of returning to work,” she recalls.

“Like all parents, I was concerned about juggling family life with work, but I saw that HUC were looking for part-time call handlers. I’d never worked in the healthcare sector, but there seemed to be a lot of cross-over with my previous experience, so I decided to apply.”

“In the interview, I remember being quizzed about how I’d deal with a number of scenarios and I must have done ok, as soon after I was offered the job and was working a couple of evening and weekend shifts. This was great, as it fitted perfectly around my other commitments.”

“In those days, it was Herts Urgent Care the out of hours GP service, but it was when we were awarded the NHS 111 contract, that things really took off.”

Over the last 10 years’ or so, the NHS 111 service has established itself as a critical part of the NHS and patient care. NHS 111 is often the first point of call for members of the public who need urgent healthcare advice, either on the phones or online.

“The NHS like all other organisations, has undergone a lot of changes, and as a partner we are there to support them and their patients. More and more patients now want real-time help and advice and turn to us as opposed to waiting for a GP appointment.”

Jodie remembers back to that time, “I think as HUC grew, so did we as employees. It sounds like a cliché, but if you’re a call handler there really is never a dull moment.”
“You never know who your next caller is going to be – it could be older person who has just had a fall, or a new parent who’s panicking about a sick baby and isn’t sure what to do.”

“It can be fast, furious and it can feel like a lot of responsibility at times, but it’s certainly exciting and rewarding in many, many ways. You are never alone, and though there’s always a lot to learn, I’ve benefitted from really great training.”

“Yes, you do often have to think on your feet, but during my time here I’ve been lucky to work with some fantastic people, many of whom are great role models and mentors. In fact, I’ve learned a lot just by modeling the behaviour of colleagues.”

After a couple of years, Jodie and some of her co-workers, became the first Pathways Trainers at HUC and before long were leading sessions for new starters themselves. “It was extremely satisfying to learn some new skills, but I think we all loved being given an opportunity to support our new colleagues and nurture them with the same encouragement as we had been given.”

So, what’s Jodie up to these days?

“Twelve years, two more daughters later, and stacks of projects under my belt, I am now the 111 Quality & Improvement Lead for Herts and West Essex.”

“As you can imagine, there is always new information coming through about how care for patients can be improved. Because we are trusted to deliver around the clock assistance as well as advice and signposting services for the NHS, we are closely monitored to make sure that the patient receives excellent care. I can spend a lot of time auditing the services our patients receive, which could mean to listening to calls and looking at how standards can be improved across the patient journey.”

Sounds a bit like trouble shooting? “There’s a culture around here of continual improvement and I genuinely feel that there’s an appetite to deliver great patient care,” explains Jodie. “That’s why so many of us come and end up in healthcare! Yes, feedback is an essential part of that process, but not just when there’s ‘trouble’ or things go wrong.”

“For me, there’s something really satisfying about listening to a call and suddenly I hear something that makes me think, wow, that was really well handled. If I can I’ll ty to find a way to let the advisor know and hopefully they’ll grow in confidence and do more of the same and inspire others too.”

“Like I said, I think I’ve learnt a lot from those who lead by example.”