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'I never thought I would be where I am now. You get out of it what you put in'

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From healthcare assistant to director, Susan Jones has leapt up the career ladder - and she’s not finished yet.

“I had the education bug, and I knew I wanted to keep on learning,” says BMI’s director of clinical services Susan Jones.

“My nursing education was absolutely fantastic.

It was very structured and formal. The ward sisters ruled the wards back in the 1980s with a rod of iron.”

Nurse training wasn’t Ms Jones’ first encounter with the world of healthcare. She started her career as a healthcare assistant on an outpatient unit in Sunderland Royal Infirmary, and was tempted to study to become a nurse. “I loved the healthcare assistant job. I think at the time, just being able to do the nursing without the total responsibility was great.

“But nursing was what I wanted to do and being a healthcare assistant was my step in the door.”

Her initial passion was born from visiting a relative who worked as a nurse on a special baby care unit. “I thought to myself, ‘I want to be like her’. She was my role model. I was definitely inspired by my aunt Molly who was a nurse all her life.”

As a newly qualified enrolled nurse, Ms Jones discovered a love of surgery. “I wanted to work with people and get them better. I always knew surgery was my passion. It gave me a real sense of satisfaction to see patients come into hospital and, on the whole, going home with their problem corrected.”

But she left the NHS when Agenda for Change and its new grading was introduced. She relocated south and joined a private BMI hospital, Fawkham Manor in Kent. And to her delight, after a series of promotions from senior staff nurse to ward manager, was pushed to continue her education. 

“It was always thought that if you went private you wouldn’t get any training but I’ve found it nothing but the contrary. BMI Healthcare has greatly contributed to my education,” she says.

Ms Jones undertook a distance-learning course, gaining a certificate in Managing Health Services. And completed a diploma in Pain Management and a Critical Care level 2 course, all funded by her hospital. 

And soon she was cherry picked by the corporate team to become the clinical lead tendering for NHS work. “It was a huge learning curve, very different from hands-on nursing. It was all about telling trusts how we would deliver healthcare in the private sector if we were fortunate enough to get their contract.”

But she missed being part of a hospital team and soon returned to work first as director of clinical services at BMI Chelsfield Park Hospital and then director of clinical services at BMI’s The Blackheath Hospital, where she still works today.

Despite her upward journey, management was never her ultimate goal. “I never envisaged becoming a manager. That came in much later. I suppose I just wanted the ability to help influence patient care. From the moment a patient comes into hospital, you want their journey to be ultimately safe but also a quality experience.”

And she still has her ear to the ground. “I’d be very sad if I didn’t go and visit the ward to see what they had to say. Every day I do a round of the hospital and I pop in on the odd patient and get a feel from them of their experiences.”

Ms Jones is thankful for all the roles she’s undertaken. “My job history gives me a better understanding of different roles - they were all favourite at that time. If I look back to being an HCA I was brand new and inexperienced, it was a great big opening for the future.

“I never thought I would be where I am now. You get out of it what you put in.”

Her journey in education may be slowing down, but she isn’t ruling anything out. “I think I’ve found the job that I’m really happy in. It’s very challenging and I see myself in this role for years. But I’m always up for an opportunity. Never say never.”

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