The ambulance service prides itself on providing a first-class service whatever the circumstances. Leadership is key to this process, and the service has turned to private sector training to help meet the needs of a changing professional world.
The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is using an innovative leadership development programme to help modernise the way its paramedics react to emergencies and deliver patient care.
The newly-formed NEAS NHS Trust is undergoing a period of real change after several different areas merged to form a much larger organisation, which employs more than 1,750 staff and serves a population of around 2.6 million.
The service, which was formed in July, covers an area of more than 3,000 miles, taking in the counties of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Teesside.
Bosses at the service decided on the training after introducing a new A&E team leader role, in a bid to change the structure and culture of management within the organisation.
Colin Cessford, director of clinical standards and quality at the NEAS, believes that leadership is now crucial in making the service more patient-focused.
“We want to move away from the old-fashioned workplace idea of employing supervisors towards an approach where we employ leaders of staff. Leaders use creative thinking and their own initiative to solve complex problems rather than simply following policies and procedures,” he explains.
Excite and inspire
In the first phase of training, 65 A&E team leaders completed a five-day leadership development programme, designed by training consultants Righttrack.
It had to design a programme that would not only instil leadership traits and knowledge but also excite and inspire the participants – working paramedics.
The course comprised structured sessions in different areas of leadership, which were designed to stretch vision as well as challenge and motivate them into effective people managers. Topics covered included problem solving, teambuilding and motivation.
John Freshney, lead training consultant on the project, says the course had a competitive edge and was designed to help the participants grow as leaders and learn more about building a successful team.
“We were looking to expose them to a range of ideas and issues around motivation, leadership, teambuilding and problem solving. They looked at all the growth stages of a developing team and experienced both sides of the equation – being a leader and being led,” he says.
The exercises were also designed to help draw out individual strengths and weaknesses and analyse how people work as part of a team.
“A lot of this is about helping them recognise their strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as part of a team,” he adds.
One of the key challenges in training these type of workers is making the course inspirational enough. By its nature, the everyday work is so high octane – NEA’s crews deal with around 900 urgent calls every day – that it can be difficult to sustain their interest, but Freshney was very impressed with the reaction.
“They showed such incredible commitment to their personal development that the NEAS should be extremely proud of the way the team leaders approached this new venture,” he adds.
NEAS training and development manager Susan Richardson is also delighted with the results of the course, which will form the starting point of a continuing programme of professional development for the team leaders.
“This organisation now has a cohort of emerging leaders with a set of skills that will enable them to help modernise the North East Ambulance Service.”
Craig Stockdale, a team leader at the Wallsend Ambulance station in North Tyneside, was in the first cadre of staff to complete the leadership development course and believes the skills he learned are invaluable to the future of the NEAS.
“It provided us with a lot of new workplace knowledge and underpinned many other skills that were already there. It’s really good to have a look at your own personal management style and find out what type of leader you are. There was also lots of stuff in there to help us develop teams within the service,” he says.
The move into a new type of training that was not based on the clinical element of the job was something that really excited and motivated the A&E team leaders on the course.
“It was very new to us and the ambulance service as we hadn’t tried anything like that before. Traditionally, it’s mainly clinical training we do, but this was also far more commercial in style than most of the other development we get,” he adds.
“Leadership, teambuilding and decision making are all absolutely vital in our job, and although a lot of these skills are intrinsic to most staff, training and development in this area will help make us operate better.”