As we celebrate Nurses Day 2020, we spoke to Annie Webber, Senior Director of Care and Quality at Gracewell Healthcare, about her nursing career.
Annie started her career in nursing in the late 1970s, first training in NHS Wales and then qualifying as a State Registered nurse. After two years of consolidating her general nurse training, she then started a qualification in Midwifery.
After completing her training, Annie joined the Army as a dual qualified nurse and was commissioned into the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nurse Corps.
While in the Army, Annie had the opportunity to enhance her academic qualifications and undertook various courses, including a Teaching Diploma, a Masters in Midwifery and a Diploma in Occupational Health. After some Distance Learning modules, she was then able to top-up her qualifications to earn a BSc in nursing.
Annie says that the Army were keen to formalise her Leadership Training, so she took the opportunity to do both a Diploma in Management Studies as well as a Level 7 NVQ in Leadership. This was also supported by attending the Army’s Senior Leadership and Development courses for Captains to Majors and then Majors to Colonels.
During the course of 20 years of service, she delivered over 2,000 babies working in peacetime, humanitarian and operational roles. And, as part of her long service, she continued to take advantage of the numerous learning opportunities given to her.
For example, while in Hong Kong, Annie studied for a Diploma in Acupuncture and Moxibustion at the local university. She also undertook adventure training and provided medical support in numerous countries around the world, including the Philippines, Guam, New Zealand, Thailand, India and Nepal.
She also says that as the Army considered “rest and relaxation” as the key to the health and wellbeing of its troops, she was also able to travel extensively in the Far East.
As Annie got more senior from Major and above, she held roles such as Clinical Governance Lead, Quality Assurance Office and Superintendent Midwife. Alongside these roles, Annie also held titles such as Member of a Courts Martial Board and posts like Treasurer and President Member of the Officer’s Mess.
Speaking of her time in the military, Annie said that is was “varied and exciting. It was a way of life, not just a job!”
“I loved being part of a team”
What Annie treasured about being a nurse was the one-to-one relationship with patients and the ability to help make people feel better, or be there to support them and their families in their last hours.
She continued, “I loved being part of a team and later discovered I had a natural affinity to lead others and became a Ward Sister, Unit Manager, Matron and much later, a Director with responsibility in nursing across all arms of the Military. This included supporting Directors of Tri-service nursing with my colleagues in the Royal Navy and the RAF and Ministry of Defence Nursing Services.”
Why the care sector?
Speaking of why she wanted to work in the care sector, Annie said, “When I left the Military I worked for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) military charity, for 11 years both in Germany and Cyprus. I was so grateful to them as they sponsored my MBA at the London Business School, again extending my lifetime of learning.
“But after 30 years travelling the world, I felt I needed to return home to keep an eye on my aging mother and support my daughter at University. So, when I returned to the UK, I looked at many career options but, with my new found business learning, I wanted to work somewhere where I could use put my commercial skills to the test. I also wanted to make a significant impact in an environment where other people could learn from my wealth of experience and give back to the wider community.”
Annie says she saw this as her “payback time” after all the great opportunities afforded to her.
After her long career at SSAFA, Annie joined care provider, MHA, originally as the Director of Governance and Service Improvement. However, Annie says that it soon became apparent that the role needed to be reviewed as she was taking on numerous responsibilities. So, her role developed and became all inclusive, eventually working as the Director of Quality.
Speaking of this role, Annie said, “It was a newly established post, set following an external inquiry by the Board so I had the exciting duty of setting up a new Directorate. This Directorate carried out a strategic review and went on to implement a Quality Operational structure, fit to support the 90 Care Homes and 67 Retirement Living sites.
“My accountabilities included all the compliance, quality improvement and assurance, health & safety, operational training, management of complaints, hospitality, infection prevention and control, information management, safeguarding, managing legal claims and coroner’s cases, and latterly, GDPR implementation.”
After working in the care charity sector and managing to make a real difference at MHA, Annie set her sights on a new challenge.
“Our CEO really appreciates the value nurses can bring”
We then asked her why she wanted to take on her next opportunity at Gracewell, Annie said, “When my current post became available, I looked at the opportunity closely, because I needed to know if I was going to be the ‘right fit’ and if I could make a difference. Once I had done my research and spent time with Natalie-Jane (UK CEO) and Nick Crossland (Senior Director of Operations and Sales), I was really excited.
“We are so fortunate at Gracewell. Our CEO is a Doctor and really appreciates the value nurses can bring to the business. I immediately felt that nurses were highly regarded and a valued commodity, which is sadly not always the case in the care sector.”
Annie’s priorities at Gracewell
“First and foremost, I want to ensure that our team members feel valued and supported to be the best they can be at all levels, in all disciplines. I want them to feel a sense of pride and joy at work.
“I also want us to regroup after the current pandemic, support the Executive Leadership Team in refocusing our energies on a new way forward, where we take all the learnings and create an exciting place to work. I hope that in the ‘New World’, we can instil our worth in the care sector so that the general public and authorities do not question whether or not our team members are ‘skilled workers’!”
Why is Gracewell a great place to work as a nurse?
“There is no doubt that as an organisation we recognise the value of everyone’s contribution to the business, but that the clinical work to support the business is fundamental to safety, regulation, compliance, effectiveness and promotion of health and wellbeing. This is where the nurses can steer and direct Gracewell to help us achieve success. We also invest heavily in our nurses, ensuring that training and clinical supervision is high on the agenda, as well as regular one-to-ones.
“The Quality Business Partners, our most senior nurses and clinicians, are also there to support all the nurses through their revalidation process. I like to think that our Gracewell nurses feel supported, valued, have extensive training opportunities, and most importantly, feel they can fulfil their vocation and make a real difference.
“We offer a fulfilling career which is full of learning and development opportunities, including in leadership and management. We also equally value those wish to remain very able and caring clinicians!”
Annie has the following advice for newly qualified nurses and for nurses looking to join the care sector: “Nursing is not just a job - it offers you an amazing career where every day is different.
“You will see and learn that each and every person you meet is a learning opportunity, including working, observing and listening to your senior colleagues and dealing with relatives.
“The learning and development opportunities are also immense, with the real chance to progress throughout your career. Put simply, it is just the best job.”
“Never give up”
Annie wanted to share the following advice to nurses currently working long and testing shifts due to the current Covid-19 pandemic.
“Hang on in there! Don’t despair and never give up, this may seem like it will never end but it will.
“Things may never be the same but you will all have learned new skills, learned a lot about yourself and as a team, your clinical knowledge, skills and competence will have been tested to the hilt and you will have grown exponentially for it.
"In the end, it will have been worth the long hours, dedication and resilience because you will have made a difference.”
As you might expect, Annie has a very supportive and proud family around her. Annie’s daughter, Amelia, said: “I’m so proud of my mum and everything she’s achieved. I am so grateful to have her as an amazing inspirational role model.”
For more information about Gracewell, click here.