What do you actually do?! Episode 5: Kate Pyle, Compliance and Corporate Services Manager

Today’s episode of What Do You Actually Do!? explores working in health care. Kate Pyle is Compliance and Corporate Services Manager at St Leonard’s Hospice in York.

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Hello and welcome to this episode of What Do You Actually Do!? My name is Kate Morris and I’ll be your host today. In today’s episode we’ll be talking about the healthcare sector. Today we’re joined by Kate Pyle who works in St Leonard’s Hospice as Compliance and Corporate Services Manager.

KM: So Kate, what do you actually do?

KP: Hi, Kate. I am responsible for managing the non-clinical functions in the hospice that keep us safe. So I matron in high-vis, I manage health and safety, the facilities team… the housekeeping team and catering.

KM: What are the key elements of your role, then? You manage lots of different teams…

KP: Problem solving, probably, and keeping an overview of everything, and making sure that we maintain compliance with the statutory requirements we’ve got, that we can evidence that we’re compliant when we have CQC inspections who are the OFSTED of the healthcare world. So when they come in for an inspection we need to prove that we’re doing the checks on water hygiene, that we are keeping patient bedrooms clean, that our building is safe, and all of that sort of thing.

KM: So you did your undergraduate degree in English… so where did your interest in healthcare and all this health and safety stuff come from?

KP: I fell into it, really. After graduation I was working in event production for eight years which was just fun, but that gave me the ability to project manage, to plan, to work to schedules, to manage a budget, and then various other industries that I worked in until I was temping in Leeds and I was put forward for a role as a project manager for a new hospital that was being built in the centre of Leeds for the commissioning of it. I was supposed to be on a five-week contract and I was there sixteen years… So I think healthcare is just fundamentally important for everybody and to be able to work within it and make a difference for people is really important.

KM: You’ve mentioned that a lot of the transferable skills that you gained from events and maybe from English as well helped you break into that, but what other personal strengths or qualities as a person do you think you need to have, to work in that kind of role that does involve so much problem solving and overseeing so many different teams?

KP: I think the main thing is being able to deal with the emotional side of things. The hospice that I work in now obviously is end of life care, it’s palliative care… and to be able to deal with that on a daily basis… I’m pretty far removed from it, I don’t have much interaction with the patients or their families but what I do, makes it easier for the clinical staff to focus on what they do. But it’s taken me quite a while to “man up”, to be able to deal with that sort of thing. I think a sense of humor is critical, resourcefulness, quick-thinking, and the ability to change your priorities at the drop of a hat, but that’s what I love about it, that’s the unpredictability of my working day which is really enjoyable rather than having a job where you know exactly what you’re going to be facing on a daily basis.

KM: Is there anything that you find challenging about the job? Anything you don’t like about it..?

KP: There’s nothing I don’t like about it. The things I find challenging are the management kind of things, and this has always been the case where I’ll have difficult situations to manage with performance or behaviors that aren’t as they should be, but the best approach for dealing with that is just honesty and straight-forwardness, and no judgement, which I’m developing. Sometimes you can have multiple things happening at once, and it’s just a case of taking a step back and going “actually, what is the priority I need to deal with now?”. And that’s… again, you learn as you go along.

KM: Can you give me an example of what kind of things can go wrong?

KP: You could be in a situation where, in my previous role, I had numerous elements to my role. So I was in charge of procurement, I could be dealing with month-end reporting or a stock-take which requires detailed concentration, when health and safety incidents happen at the same time. Then you’ve got reporting time pressure plus immediate health and safety incidents: patients just trip down the stairs, something has happened that needs attending to, so it’s that sort of thing – just being able to juggle that. And it genuinely comes down to common sense, what’s the important thing to deal with first.

KM: Also the ability to work under pressure and not be swayed by who’s shouting the loudest, being able to think clearly…

KP: Retaining calm under pressure is really key, I find it exhausting to deal with people who don’t remain calm, it adds to the adrenaline and in those situations you do need to have a bit of distance, a bit of calm, and just get things done quickly.

KM: So what do you think a key challenge will be for the sector over the next few years? I’m thinking of students who might want to break into the sector, what should they be thinking about in terms of how to prepare and what might be coming up that they could be anticipating?

KP: I think the main thing that keeps cropping up in our discussions at the hospice is the ageing population and the impact that that has, we know that people are living longer, that this is unprecedented, so we don’t actually know what the health requirements will be of people as they live up to their 90s or into their 100s, and then the pull on resources as a result of that, we know the NHS is massively stretched, the way that gets funded and managed I think that’s a massive issue that needs resolving, and I’m not sure that anyone’s got a clear idea on how to do it. It’s such an immensely rewarding field to work in, and having gone from the shiny event production and advertising world where everything was fabulous and to go to something that’s fundamentally making a difference to people’s lives is really gratifying.

KM: Any sort of final advice for students who might want to break into this sector? Any tips for getting in?

KP: I think any volunteering you can do, any work experience you can do, I don’t know how the NHS postgraduate management scheme works, ’cause I’ve fallen into the job that I’ve done… But just having good transferable skills, being open, being honest, being kind, and having a sense of humor.

KM: We’ll put details of the NHS graduate scheme on our website, but to get into that it would just sort of be a case of writing speculative applications to a hospice or charity..?

KP: The jobs are advertised online on St Leonard’s website, I think for the more senior positions there are recruitment firms that are used as well. Mine was advertised on Facebook, the job was advertised earlier this year (2018), so they use social media to advertise their jobs as well, but there’s a volunteer workforce of about a thousand across all the different areas of St Leonard’s, and I know there’s been people who have been volunteers who then progressed onto having a paid position.

KM: So that’s a good way to check out and that could lead to other things…

KP: It gives you a good taste for what it is that we do, and I think that just generally having that open approach to speculative inquiries, when I first heard about the job I contacted them and said “can I come for an informal visit?” and then you spend time having a look around the site and meeting the key people and just getting a feel for it, ’cause it has to be right for them and it has to be right for you as well.

KM: That’s really helpful, thank you so much for sharing your story today, and see you next time!

KP: Thank you very much.

Thanks for joining us this week on What do you actually do? This episode was hosted by myself, Kate Morris, and edited by Stephen Furlong and produced by both of us. If you loved this podcast, spread the word and subscribe.

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This has been produced at the University of York Careers and Placements. For more information visit york.ac.uk/careers