Leading the way for women in healthcare science

Jo Horne

Jo Horne is a healthcare scientist in a developing leadership role at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

I’m passionate about my profession – although most people don’t know what healthcare scientists do, and certainly not that we contribute to 80 per cent of decisions about patient treatment.

I work in histopathology, where we analyse tissue samples to diagnose diseases such as cancer, providing diagnostic and prognostic information to our clinicians. I was the first person in the UK to gain a new national qualification which allows me to independently report samples from the gut, and as a result have found myself at the forefront of an exciting area of workforce transformation within the NHS.

In the last few years, I’ve become very frustrated by the slow progress of workforce transformation in my field due to numerous professional and political barriers. Here was I, armed with the knowledge of a fantastic opportunity that could improve histopathology services and career options for scientists, with the added benefit of delivering financial savings - yet I was struggling to gain traction and engagement.

I needed to do something different, and I knew that it lied within me. So, I applied for the post of lead healthcare scientist within my trust, and a Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Fellowship via NHS England. I was awarded both, and the platform and associated opportunities have been amazing.

As part of the fellowship I undertook a four-day leadership development programme which has changed the way I think and behave. It taught me how, as women, we can inadvertently hold ourselves back, by apologising, asking for permission and not having faith in our abilities – and how this prevents us from seeking new opportunities if we don’t feel entirely ready for them.  I have been guilty of all three in the past. I’ve stopped the first two, and am definitely working on the third!

The fellowship programme also includes coaching and mentoring by senior leaders, plus speaking and ambassadorial opportunities. I’m grabbing every opportunity because it’s giving me a platform to engage with people and organisations who can help drive forward the transformation needed within my profession.

I’ve been reflecting on what leadership really is. I know it isn’t the same as management. I think it’s about inspiring people to do better and to feel valued in the process. Great leaders create time and space and support people to do great things, irrespective of where they are in the managerial hierarchy.

It’s also about collaborating, listening, and developing emotional intelligence - all things I am working on. Leadership and enabling change isn’t just about rocking the boat – it’s about not falling out of it when doing so! I learnt that from Twitter, which can be a powerful tool for creating online networks to share knowledge and ideas. If you don’t believe me, why not try it and follow me @hornej13? The power to be brave, speak out and rock the boat is within all of us. We all just need to find the right platform.

Find out more about healthcare science and the activities taking place during Healthcare Science Week 9 - 18 March. #HCSWeek18

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