Dirty laundry, Foundation Learning, and 147 slices of toast

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Category: Studying CIMA
Keywords: CIMA, students
Owen Watson's picture

I was hoping to do a weekly review of my Orientation but I was too busy last week, so here's two for the price of one...The life of a CIMA student!

My week kicked off with a day in the laundry department. There were a few things that struck me about the place, one was the absolutely mind-numbing nature of the work. The process is split down into simplistic tasks and most of the washing is done by huge machines.

So my day consisted of picking up washed clothes and placing them on hangers...they tried to break up the monotony for me by switching my tasks at points. This isn't a luxury 'normal workers' are afforded, unless there are staff shortages.

A sharp dose of perspective.

The next day saw me jump on an early train from Durham to Leeds (indebted to Natasha for keeping me company during the journey) for a four-day 'Foundation Learning' program. All the trainees from the Graduate program in the North attended, from every specialism (Finance, HR, etc.)

Our first day was dedicated to 'Action Learning'...which involves a group of people sitting around a table not doing much. I don't think the irony was intended.

Once that ordeal was over the next three days were Finance training from BPP. Everyone on the NHS scheme gets a brief introduction to each specialism, and we are expected to have a basic understanding of all aspects.

Something about whole-board governance and we won't be able to blame HR for people problems in the future...would I ever?!

I must say, the BPP training was outstanding. We were split into groups and spent our first day learning the ins-and-outs of finance. It was a fairly comprehensive look at the basics and our trainer, Andy Wilkes, kept it interesting, relevant, with a huge slice of fun.

The final two days involved a complicated simulation game, the five groups in the room were tasked with turning around the fortunes of a failing hospital with a view to achieving Foundation Trust status.

It's a challenging game and gives a good insight into some of the challenges we'll face as leaders in the future. The solutions are easier to implement than in real life, of course, but the game seems to be a pretty accurate (if simplified) representation of the problems the NHS faces.

Fast forward to this week and I've been to Therapy Services in my Hospital (Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Dietetics, and strangely Medical Photography)...that took two days and was all very interesting.

Wednesday saw me visit a surgical ward. For those of you that read my last blog you'll be disappointed to hear that I didn't get to see an operation this time. Let's just say that the anaesthetist wasn't fully satisfied my presence would provide any value.

I see a career with the United Nations in my future...

I was later offered a chance for a circumcision (to view, not partake in!) but I respectfully accountants need some kinds of limits after all!!!

Thursday was originally meant to be Trauma & Orthopaedics, but this had to be rescheduled...hopefully this will mean I get to see an operation in the future.

Instead, I spent my day at a Pharmacy for a Mental Health Trust in Newcastle. This was really interesting, and the Chief Pharmacist seemed like a guy with his head really screwed on. It was my first experience of mental health in the NHS, and it was an eye-opener.

Finally...I went to the catering department this morning. I had to wake up at 6am for a 7am start...the students among you probably just shuddered, while the commuters were wistfully unmoved.

Anyway, it was interesting seeing what happens to hospital food before it gets to the ward. You may be surprised to hear this, but the hospital uses exactly the same brands of food that you'd use at home.

So that rubbish about “hospital food is awful” is based completely on your own preconception. It's all Heinz beans, locally produced vegetables, and Hovis bread. So there.

I spent my morning with Tracey, who was a lovely if slightly hyperactive woman that served food to five wards, using specialised equipment. While she was heating the cooked breakfast I was ripping open loaves of bread and toasting 12 slices a time to hit the 147 required target.

Some might dislike Orientation, but I'm loving it...where else would you get a chance to spend nearly three months gaining insight from front-line staff before going into a leadership program?


Owen Watson is a CIMA student currently in the NHS Graduate Training Scheme. He is based in Sunderland, UK.