Maria O’Brien tells Sydney Tomlinson about her role at Central and North West London Foundation Trust and what attracted her to a career in nursing
What is your role?
“Currently I’m the deputy chief operating officer and executive director for community services for Central and North West London Foundation Trust. In August, I’ll be moving into the role of chief nurse.”
How would you describe your current role?
“My role has a lot to do with the clinical day-to-day operations around nursing and quality across the organisation. I have responsibility for the strategic operations of our community health services across the organisation, so my role is to make sure we’ve got a clear strategy, a clear plan, for how these services should work. I’m also responsible for directly managing a number of other services within the organisation.
“My new role will still have a lot to do with the services I’m currently involved with, but much wider and in a completely different context.”
What is a typical work day for you?
“Part of the reason we all work in the NHS is that no two days are the same, are they? And that will be the same when I move into the new role.
“Currently, I do anything from meeting with people I manage directly to check in with how they’re getting on, to going straight out and visiting a service and talking to staff, patients and carers in that service. It could be meeting with another organisation to talk about how we work in partnership and how we can improve care together. It’s a really diverse role, no two days are the same, and I know as the chief nurse that’s going to be exactly the same.”
What attracted you to your role?
“I’m a nurse and that’s something I always wanted to do from a young age. I know that sounds a bit of a cliché – my parents kind of laughed at me, but I always said that’s what I wanted to do. I don’t know why, but I just stuck with it. I think it was something about working with others and trying to provide support and care.
As my career’s gone on, I’ve worked in lots of different types of roles but I’ve always stayed very close to clinical care, because that’s what matters – that’s what motivates me. I need to feel like what I do is making a difference.
“We have the privilege, working in health services, of looking after people often in their worst possible moments. Having that privilege of going into someone’s home and supporting them – there’s something about that that’s incredibly rewarding and that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
What was a stand-out career moment?
“When you look after people, there are some that really stick with you. I can remember a really young lad who became very unwell very suddenly. He ended up needing a heart transplant— such a tragic story, only 19. He really stuck with me because it was so touch and go and we all thought we’d lose him, but he got his transplant and he survived and thrived. Those sorts of personal stories stick with you.
“There are bigger things, too. For example, in the last year I’ve had the absolute pleasure of being able to commission and open our first inpatient adolescent unit for children with mental health challenges in North West London. Previously, we had children and young people travelling all over the country to have inpatient care. Talking to parents and children, it has made a huge difference for people.”