Ashford and St Peter's Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Suzanne holds a qualification in nursing. Before joining Ashford and St Peter’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as chief executive, Suzanne worked in nursing and management roles in the Royal Navy including senior nursing officer at NATO headquarters in Lisbon. She has also worked in the Surgeon General’s Department at the Ministry of Defence and has been deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf War.
Q: Was there a particular job, opportunity or experience which convinced you to apply for the chief executive role?
There are four factors which contributed to me becoming a trust chief executive. First, my experience and training in the military - I always wanted to be the ‘commanding officer’, it was what I was trained to do. Second, being the chief nurse in the hospital enabled me to develop a bird's eye view of what the role would entail. Third, I knew I was able to develop relationships, credibility and trust - all of which I knew would be key to future success. Finally, my colleagues (especially the clinicians) very much encouraged me to apply for the chief executive role.
Q: How does your clinical background help you to perform effectively as a trust chief executive?
Having clinical credibility and a track record within the organisation of professionalism, dedication to the patient need and a deep understanding of the nature of clinical care delivery has enabled me to develop trusting and effective critical friend relationships with the key clinical and operational leaders in the organisation. Being able to effectively challenge clinical practice and cultures is essential to being a successful chief executive and I am certain that being a clinician is deeply enabling to this.
Having clinical credibility and a track record within the organisation of professionalism, dedication to the patient need and a deep understanding of the nature of clinical care delivery has enabled me to develop trusting and effective critical friend relationships with the key clinical and operational leaders in the organisation.
Q: What do you think is more important for your performance as a trust chief executive – the background you have or the person you are? Why?
The person and chief executive I am now is a result of my background and experience – I can’t separate the two. Being a nurse is very beneficial and important to me and enabling of my ability to influence and lead clinicians. I think it would be possible to be an effective chief executive if I was not a clinician but the following five characteristics are very important in both cases; resilience, optimism, passion, a sense of purpose or having a mission, and integrity.
Q: "If I knew then what I know now…" - your advice for clinicians thinking about stepping in to a chief executive role?
Your commitment to the values of ethical and good clinical practice will be tested (and potentially used against you). The need to deliver on the full spectrum of financial and performance requirements will be challenged by clinicians who may well suggest that you have lost your moral compass and that the money and the performance are (becoming) more important that the quality of patient care. My view is that I always seek to do the right thing for all the patients and all the team and the decisions made will be the right ones, but not everyone will agree and some people will use this argument to avoid changing their way of working or practice.
Q: Have you considered maintaining clinical practice alongside your chief executive responsibilities? And why/why not?
Yes. I worked hard for my qualification, it is an important part of my credibility and so I am determined not to lapse my registration.