Angela McNab: From clinician to chief executive

Angela McNab profile picture

31 October 2018

Angela McNab
Chief executive
Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust


Q: Was there a particular job, opportunity or experience which convinced you to apply for the chief executive role?

I first began to think of applying for a chief executive role when I was offered the chance to attend The King's Fund top manager programme. Meeting people on that programme who gave me informal support, encouragement and feedback that this was a role I should consider, played the next part in my career journey. Finally a close peer signposted some chief executive roles coming up and I then became, convinced, if not persuaded, to put a toe in the water.

Q: As a clinician, what makes the trust chief executive job rewarding for you?

As a paediatric clinician what I enjoyed most was working with my team to assess where individual patient's strengths were as well as the areas where skills were not developed. I loved jointly planning with families and providing clinical interventions to enable them to acquire those skills. It always felt like a creative problem-solving task. Being a chief executive I feel I do likewise - assess an organisation's strengths and its areas of limitation and then plan with people and teams to take actions that address those gaps.  I find the joint assessment and problem solving and the successful development in areas that were difficult really rewarding.

I think my experience as a clinician means I more easily see things from all angles – staff, patients, carers and managers and I remember the frustrations as a clinician which disengaged me and I try hard in this role to ensure we prevent those frustrations or at least acknowledge them and share solutions.

Angela McNab    Chief executive

Q: How does your clinical background help you to perform effectively as a trust chief executive?

I believe my clinical background helps me perform as a trust chief executive in many ways. Firstly it helps to keep my focus always on patient care and the quality of services which as a clinician was all I cared about. I think my experience as a clinician means I more easily see things from all angles – staff, patients, carers and managers and I remember the frustrations as a clinician which disengaged me and I try hard in this role to ensure we prevent those frustrations or at least acknowledge them and share solutions. I know I also learned a great deal about communicating and building good relationships when I was a clinician and that is absolutely key to leadership.
 

Q: What do you think is more important for your performance as a trust chief executive?

The values I hold are I believe most important for my performance as a trust chief executive. These values were to some extent grown and strengthened through my clinical experiences. However the person I was initially with the values and motivations that led me to clinical roles is the person I still am. I may no longer practice as a clinician but I have never stopped feeling that is a key part of my identity and I cannot separate out the clinical background from the values within me.
 

Q: What support have you had along the way to get to where you are?

I have had enormous support from a range of individuals along my career journey. Perhaps I recall most critically my peer directors in my first trust director post when I was definitely the new and green member of the team. I had lots of encouragement, informal mentoring and coaching and endless goodwill as I asked questions. The director of nursing in this team was amazing and as well as offering lots of her own experience and calm take on situations she also kept up my resilience with her wonderful sense of humour. This helped me learn the benefits of a team around you, whatever role you are in.

About the author

Angela McNab profile picture

Angela McNab
Chief executive

Angela holds a qualification in speech and language therapy. Before her current chief executive role at Camden and Islington Foundation Trust, Angela was director of public health, delivery and performance at the Department of Health and once led the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority. She has also been the chief executive of Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, NHS Luton and NHS Bedfordshire.

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