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This Doctor Can: Encouraging doctors to become leaders

This month, This Doctor Can focuses on the ‘Springboard to Leadership: Supporting diversity’ programme from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

Senior educationalists Ruth Slater and Michael Walsh discuss the programme and their visions for its future.

Michael: Ruth, what were your first thoughts on hearing that the RCP wanted to support diversity in leadership with a structured programme?

Ruth: Can I be honest?

Michael: Yes!

Ruth: At first, I wasn’t quite sure what the title meant, but I was intrigued by it. I knew that Dr Emma Vaux (RCP’s former vice president of education and training) had proposed the idea and really wanted us to do more to promote diversity and inclusion in senior roles and that was a cause I felt we could really use our skills to get behind. I was interested as to how it would be received by a wider audience and whether it would be popular. I was also thinking, ‘should we be creating a specific programme to support diversity and inclusion or supporting this through our existing programmes?’ It sort of raised more questions than it answered. What did you think?

Michael: I agree! The Emerging Women Leader’s programme was a great success and had a real sense of community and peer support. This felt like a great opportunity to build and support other people from a range of diverse backgrounds and those that see themselves as allies. Did you have any worries or concerns when we were setting up the programme?

Ruth: I think there is always a bit of trepidation when planning programmes to support sensitive issues. I suppose I was concerned that we didn’t want to speak on behalf of people with protected characteristics.

Michael: What sort of things did you think were particularly important to alleviate those concerns that we had?

Ruth: Speaking to people. Engaging with our rich network of clinical faculty. Working with people like Mumtaz (Dr Mumtaz Patel, RCP’s vice president of Global) who could share their experiences and insight with us. Listening well; I remember a mentoring workshop I ran in Stockport with SAS doctors and listening to their stories it made me think that there was something we could do that would make a meaningful difference.

Michael: Absolutely. It felt important that we engaged with the right people to help design the programme and let their voices be heard. How do you feel now we’ve had the first programme day?

Ruth: Obviously it’s still in its early stages but it was a great first day. A small group but really engaged. It felt like a really open, safe space where people were able to share their experiences, beliefs and support one another. It also felt like a very developmental day as well; this is about supporting individuals on their leadership journey and I think people made big strides. Our speakers, Hannah (Dr Hannah Barham-Brown) and Mumtaz were really engaging and thought-provoking. Just hearing their stories, acknowledging the issues out there and being able to give them a platform was excellent.

Michael: My last question now; what do you think longer term success for the Springboard to Leadership programme looks like?

Ruth: For it to become established, for ideas that are generated as part of it to become part of our everyday practice. I hope the programme provides increased visibility for the cause and that it gets people talking. I hope that over the years we will grow a strong alumni network that continue to support both people on the programme and others more widely.

Michael: Definitely. For me I think it’ll be how we can start to use the programme to actively shape ideas and practice around diversity and inclusion by feeding back into the system. I hope it becomes a hotbed of ideas that our alumni can use to start changing the face of leadership within the NHS. I think if we can keep engaging with the right people and make sure we’re listening to the voices of change, then we will achieve that. 

For more information on the Springboard to Leadership Programme click here.

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