In Conversation With...Julie Prior
We know there are lots of very interesting people in our Trust, whether through your work, your interests or your hobbies outside work. We want to get to know you and share your story.
This week we spoke to Julie Prior, our KPO (Kaizen Promotion Office) Lead. A big part of the work of Julie and her team is embedding The Pride Way across our hospitals and in August this year she completed her training to become a ‘Lean Certification Trainer.’ She tells us more about what that means for our Trust later.
Lives: In Witham with boyfriend Tony.
And: Julie is expecting their first baby, a son, which is due next month – Julie starts her maternity leave this Friday (1 November)!
Congratulations on getting certified! Can you tell us more about the benefits it brings to our Trust?
It means I can teach Advanced Lean Training (ALT) in-house, which we’ve not been able to do before. ALT was introduced to our Trust as part of The Pride Way, through our partnership with the Virginia Mason Institute (VMI) in Seattle.
ALT provides us with the toolkit to make improvements across our Trust, and run our services more efficiently by eliminating waste.
I’m really proud as it’s been a long road to get here - it’s taken three years and been a rollercoaster of emotions, but’s it’s been completely worth it! Now I’m qualified to ‘coach the coach’, which means I can certify colleagues to act as team and workshop leads, running their own Rapid Process Improvement Workshops (RPIW). This gives us the scope to make changes much quicker.
It’s great for our Trust as it means we’re no longer reliant on VMI, and we can also become less reliant on the KPO team. The long-term vision is that our role in the KPO team will be as advisors as more colleagues are able to do their own RPIWs.
It’s very transferable too – I used the skills (concept of 5S – for those in the know!) I learned to sort out our kitchen when Tony and I moved in together, as we had two of everything!
You’ve had quite a varied career path…
When I was little I wanted to be a nurse, then I wanted to be a hairdresser. I decided I wanted to work in hospital admin when I was doing work experience at 14 in the Outpatients department at Colchester Hospital. I really enjoyed it.
I did a diploma in admin and business, and took a medical secretarial course, at the Colchester Institute, then went straight to work at a private hospital, The Oaks. I was a secretary, however, as a temp I found myself doing lots of different things. I wanted a permanent role so moved to Colchester Hospital as a radiology secretary in 2001.
Then I worked for the University of Essex as an administrator. After three years I missed the NHS, so I re-joined Colchester Hospital as PA to the Chief Operating Officer.
After that I got my first secretarial post in A&E and I loved it. It was really busy and there was such a buzz. I was working with nurses, doctors, patients and dealing with complaints. I knew it was where I wanted to be.
I worked my way up to admin manager, then deputy service manager. After ten years I wanted to try a different trust – so I moved to our Trust as A&E service manager in 2016.
What led your move from A&E to the KPO team?
I was interested in getting more involved in improvement; however, in A&E I was always so busy I didn’t have the time to do it. So when I saw the KPO specialist role, and it was all about improvement, it was a great opportunity.
I’d never done anything like it before so it was quite daunting. On my first day I was on a flight to Seattle to learn advanced lean training at VMI.
I found their hospital very different; it was quiet and calm and everyone was very respectful; I spent two hours in A&E and not one patient came in!
My biggest challenge when I joined the KPO team was that I couldn’t face speaking to a crowd of people. I had to get over that quickly as there’s lots of public speaking involved in teaching!
The team has grown in my time, it was just me and Alf when I joined, now there are eight of us. Our role is to support and teach our staff to improve. It’s important we remember that The Pride Way is not an add on, it’s part of our everyday work.
What are you most proud of?
Working my way up from admin roles, to service manager, and now KPO Lead. I’m also really proud of some of the RPIWs I’ve been involved in. I worked closely with our Pharmacy team on discharge planning. We reduced the time it took to dispense prescriptions for patients to take away from hours to minutes and cut the time it took to get patients home to improve flow.
When I was in A&E I spent a lot of time firefighting, and when you get through the day you feel like a superhero, then it starts all over again the next day. However, being proactive rather than reactive is a huge part of The PRIDE Way and by running RPIWs, we’re empowering our own teams to put measures in place to solve issues so they don’t repeat day after day.
I love it when people are sceptical at the start, and then become really passionate, or start off reserved and then become really confident in report outs. It’s a really proud moment to see teams you’ve trained grow in confidence.
How are you feeling about your imminent arrival?
Really excited, he’ll be the first grandson in the family on my side. I’m taking a year’s maternity leave which will be a big change for me, I’ve been working full time for 20 years. The team is in a great place to manage without me, and I’m 100 per cent coming back!
And our favourite question of In Conversation With…do you have any pets?
I have a cat called Chilie, a ginger tom. He’s 11 and follows me everywhere. He’s mostly well behaved but he’s a hungry boy and he’ll often pretend he’s not had dinner to get more food!