As part of our Sector Spotlight on NHS Orkney, we have spoken to Karen Spence, Public Health Administration Manager. Karen joined NHS Orkney in 2010 in a role in the Switchboard. She has undertake various roles in the organisation, developing her skills and undertaking additional qualifications. She is currently studying for a Graduate Apprenticeship in Business Management.
Can you describe a typical day as Public Health Administration Manager?
No day in my job is ‘typical’.
My role can change dramatically depending on what comes in. For example, there can be an outbreak in the community, cruise ships, care homes, etc, and I am responsible for supporting the Consultant in Public Health with managing the situation by taking minutes of meetings, updating the surveillance system, etc.
I manage the admin team which supports Health Protection, Child Health, Health Improvement, Vaccination Transformation Programme, and general admin duties.
How did you end up in your current role?
I started with NHS Orkney in 2010 on Switchboard and applied for various roles since. I undertook a secondment in Medical Records, then became a Team Secretary in the Medical Secretaries team, I was successful at being appointed as PA to Director of Finance and Director of Public Health before starting in my current role in October 2015.
I have gained an SVQ3 whilst working for NHS Orkney and I am currently working towards my Graduate Apprenticeship in Business Management. Both of these courses where supported and funded by NHS Orkney.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is the unpredictability. You never really know how your day is going to go. The next phone call could change all plans for the day and possibly the week. Health Protection is interesting and I am always learning.
What is the worst thing about your job?
Often just trying to fit everything in. If there is a Health Protection issue this can take up most of my time and therefore other tasks are less priority but they still need to be done. Prioritisation and being organised is the key.
What skills do you need to be a Public Health Administration Manager?
Team working and communication skills are essential. You also have to be organised and able to delegate. It took me a while to realise that I cannot do everything and therefore I needed to rely on my team to support me.
What qualifications do you have?
I never went to University or College after secondary school so I only had my Standard Grades and a couple of Highers. Since starting with NHS Orkney I have gained my SVQ3 in Business & Administration and I'm now working towards my Degree in Business Management.
Would you recommend a career with the NHS?
I would highly recommend this job and my employer to young people. There are various roles within NHS Orkney and lots of opportunity for further study whilst working full/part time. Public Health is a fascinating department to work in and there are many different roles within it. You are guaranteed to never be bored!
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