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11 February 2021
Leadership
Patient services

Every year, people come together to recognise the United Nations’ International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The global event celebrates women and girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, and advocates for their better representation.

This year’s event, taking place on Thursday 11 February, is dedicated to the women scientists at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.

To honour the incredible women in our industry, we speak to three of The London Clinic’s scientists about their career journey so far and their advice for the next generation following in their footsteps.

JENNIFER MCDONNELL, LEAD PHARMACIST - GOVERNANCE

Jennifer works as a Lead Pharmacist at The London Clinic’s pharmacy, which amongst other duties, is responsible for the safe use of medicines at the hospital.

When did you know you wanted to work in healthcare?

I’ve always been interested in and had a natural aptitude for science, and more specifically healthcare as my mum is a nurse. 

Through volunteer work at school I was exposed to various healthcare environments, which is where I realised I wanted to do something that allowed me to help others. 

As I grew older, pharmacy stood out as a practical career choice that would allow me to both study my interests and pursue a career that enabled me to help others.  

How did you get to where you are in your career today?

There are various career routes in pharmacy but throughout university I knew hospital pharmacy was where my real passion was due to the clinical environment, the opportunity to work in larger multi-disciplinary teams and the focus on continuous learning. 

After university I finished my training at a large teaching hospital in London. I stayed on after my pre-registration year in a rotational post while undertaking further postgraduate study, and eventually began to specialise in acute and elderly medicine. 

As well as enjoying the constant learning, I thrived on the fast-paced nature of it. What’s more, the strong foundation I gained was easily transferable into other areas. 

I then took a career break to travel, which was a risk at the time as I left a job I loved in a hospital where I made some of my best friends. But looking back now with everything that has happened during the pandemic, I’m so grateful that I took the opportunity while I could. 

After I came back I did a few months of bank work and then came to The London Clinic, initially on a temporary contract until my current role came up. As it was a brand new role, I was allowed to shape it and develop into it, which was really exciting. 

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

The short answer is that every day is different. I start my mornings with a team huddle, so we all know what we are focusing on for the day and can pre-empt any potential problems before they develop.  

Some days I am a ward pharmacist, seeing new patients, screening prescriptions and answering medication-related queries from the multi-disciplinary team.

At other times I work in the pharmacy dispensary, screening, dispensing and checking prescriptions and counselling patients on how to get the most out of their medicines. 

I also work closely with several teams across the hospital to improve safety with regards to medicines, through activities such as clinical audits. Some days I also deal with stock issues, or work with a consultant to get a new drug onto the formulary. 

Right now I’m working with the The London Clinic’s HR team to ensure our staff are informed about the COVID-19 vaccine. I’m also involved in improvement projects such as the discharge improvement project, which is designed to enhance the quality of information we give patients and increase efficiency. 

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?

I don’t think I’ve ever done anything rewarding without a great team, and most recently I’ve been incredibly proud of how my team and our organisation have responded to the pandemic. 

I’m amazed at the selfless way people have carried on and continued to put our patients first. We are all only human, and yet our staff have put their own fears aside and have done what was needed. 

Along with supporting the NHS Nightingale Hospital and working alongside the national vaccine programme, we continue to work collaboratively with the NHS to look after patients who need urgent surgeries.

What advice would you give a young girl who is interested in following in your footsteps?

First, choose a career in something that you are passionate about. Science is developing every day so there is something for everyone. 

Secondly, don’t be too fixated on where you want to end up further down the line, as something even better might come up along the way. 

The key to success is also about establishing and maintaining good working relationships, so take the time to foster those and collaborate with the people around you.

EMMA SPELLMAN, HEAD OF IMAGING

Emma recently joined The London Clinic’s Imaging and Nuclear Medicine department, which uses medical imaging techniques such as x-rays to diagnose and treat diseases and injuries.

Emma now leads a team of 60 radiographers, nuclear medicine technicians, nurses and healthcare assistants.

When did you know you wanted to work in medicine?

When I was 15 and studying History of Medicine at school, I was fascinated by old and new techniques in diagnosing and treating diseases. 

I then knew I wanted to work in healthcare and explored the various options for career opportunities. Radiography appealed to me as it was a combination of healthcare and technology. 

How did you get to where you are in your career today?

I got to where I am today by working hard. Although I set my own individual goals in line with my personal values, I took opportunities when they came along.

I was also inspired by organisations, and the commitment, energy and positivity shown by those around me. I think it’s important for women in management to set an example for younger colleagues. For me, this means demonstrating that femininity is compatible with holding senior roles.

What does a typical day at work look like for you? 

Since my team and I are assigned various projects that require collaboration, my first job of a typical day is to plan and prioritise tasks depending on their urgency and importance – this way I can be more productive throughout the day. 

As a team leader, I then ensure that I am visible and available throughout the day and keep in touch with the wider management team to provide updates on the progress of projects, performance and departmental statistics.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far? 

Creating a team with a leadership style based on my authentic self and providing a safe and creative environment where we can learn from others and seek feedback. 

I also think it’s imperative to create an environment in which my team can succeed - if I show that I trust them to do their best work and give them what they need to do it, they come up with awesome solutions.

What advice would you give a young girl who is interested in following in your footsteps?

I’d say stay focused; there will be bumps along the way, but don't get distracted. This fits with my belief that if you believe in something passionately and have a clear vision, other people will too. 

It’s also important to be yourself, never give up, work hard, and stay positive and motivated. Always have good energy and positive thinking in times of change. You need to know who you are and what's important to you, what you'll tolerate and what you won't, where you can say yes and where you can never compromise. 

It also goes without saying that you should learn as much as you can about your chosen field from every perspective. Take on jobs or responsibilities that you're not crazy about for the learning experience. 

The better-rounded you are in your field, the more effective you will be at work and the more attractive you will be to prospective employers. As a leader, I am most interested in the results people have produced rather than the hours they’ve worked.

DR STEPHANIE KAYE-BARRETT, CONSULTANT RHEUMATOLOGIST AND GENERAL PHYSICIAN

Dr Kaye-Barrett is a consultant rheumatologist with over 16 years of consultant grade experience.
 

She treats all aspects of painful rheumatology conditions including gout, neck/back pain, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

View her profile

WHEN DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO WORK IN MEDICINE?

I was aged 13 and inspired by my aunt, a paediatrician, and my grandfather, a GP. I really admired my aunt as she was clever, in control of her life and influential.

It was a little unusual for a woman to have such an important career and be equal to professional men in those days.

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE IN YOUR CAREER TODAY?

By working extremely hard and never giving up, even when things have been really challenging. It’s about remembering “this too will pass” and the next day will be better!

Medicine is an endurance course and doctors need to be willing to stay the course. It’s very tough, but so rewarding; making someone else’s life better is incredible, even now.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY AT WORK LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? 

I get up with a positive attitude and ready to do the best I can. Then breakfast, porridge, a mug of Earl Grey tea and into work to meet the first patient of the day at The London Clinic.

If I'm meeting with a new patient, I'll talk to and examine them and sometimes provide them treatment with an injection, to relieve pain or control inflammation, as necessary.

Patients come and go, but with the 'follow up' patients who have been returning to the Clinic for a few years, it feels like seeing old friends.

There is also paperwork and dictation to get through (which isn’t my favourite thing) but my secretary helps to make things straightforward and to organise my day.

Finally, speaking to colleagues, GPs and other specialists, bouncing ideas off each other, which is always great and affirming.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?

My first day as a consultant rheumatologist and general physician, at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital – what a thrill!

I knew my aunt and grandfather would have been so proud of my achievement. It was a big breakthrough and I was so grateful to those who helped me along the way.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE A YOUNG GIRL WHO IS INTERESTED IN FOLLOWING IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS?

Don’t give up and don’t be put off. If this is really something you want to do, do it. It’s not easy but so rewarding when you get there.

Find mentors and good role models, female or male. Don’t be afraid to ask and reach out.

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