A truly unique learning experience: my reflections on studying

by Tracy Mayes

04 May 2021

Tracy Mayes, deputy chief finance officer at NHS East Riding CCG, was part of the first cohort of learners who completed both the HFMA advanced diploma in healthcare business and finance and the MBA in healthcare business and finance from the HFMA and BPP University. During her study, she won the HFMA Tony Whitfield Student of the Year award. In this blog, Tracy reflects on her experience.

As I look back on my study with the HFMA and with BPP University, there are a few things that stand out to me as particular highlights.

The content

I had been qualified as an accountant for ten years when I decided to enrol on the higher diploma. At the time, I worked for a Community Interest Company which provided NHS services. My finance director really valued a wider skillset beyond just accountancy and as someone who aspired to move to more senior roles, practical relevance in a qualification was massively important to me. This is what first appealed to me about the HFMA qualification, it offered something meaningful to me in my role and it meant I could gain further skills to underpin my core accountancy qualification. 

From the outset, I was impressed with the relevance of the content. The great thing was that it wasn’t just targeted at finance professionals. There are obviously finance modules, but it goes wider than that. We had a wide mix of people studying, and the level and variety of content reflected this. 

Beyond just the module content, the way it is delivered really made group discussion easy and allowed us to talk around issues and examples. The result was a learning experience that went well beyond just the content; it provided a cross-mix of views and perceptions and brought a wider understanding. It essentially readied us for system working and provided us with the skills and approach to contribute to it.

The versatility

Another thing that stood out to me as we progressed through our study was how we could all tailor our learning to what was relevant to us as individuals. 

For example, I did my MBA dissertation on integrated care systems and what their finance systems should look like. This has been extremely beneficial for me as I have been able to apply the research and the evidence I collected as part of my MBA to current real-life discussions about how our local ICS finance function should look. That is a unique thing about these qualifications I think; they enable you to not only focus on your personal development (although that is obviously a big part of it) but to take away learnings and insight that can actively benefit your local healthcare system.

As another example, in October last year, I was appointed to be the Humber Coast and Vale Partnership vaccination programme director. For me, that was the first real chance to apply my learnings and approach to large-scale challenges. Seeing the results of the programme now, I feel a real level of pride in what we achieved. As finance professionals we’re obviously removed from the front-line, but leading a programme like that, which had such real, tangible outcomes was special, and I honestly feel like I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the learnings and skills I gained through qualifications. 

The relationships

One highlight that I perhaps hadn’t anticipated when I enrolled was the people I studied with and the friendships I’ve managed to gain. While it’s not a feature of the qualification obviously, the way the course is delivered encourages you to build that rapport with others through the group discussions, and the cohorts are small enough that you can get to know people and support each other. We have kept that support network going since finishing our study and, throughout the past 12 months especially, it has been invaluable, and will continue to be so as we all progress in our careers. 

This is only a brief overview of my experience and overall my time studying was filled with highlights. Of course, there were challenges, there were times where I wanted to stop, and I’m sure my husband was absolutely sick of me complaining at times. However, the support from the HFMA, from the tutors and your fellow learners is second to none and I am so glad and so grateful that I continued. If I could give just one piece of advice to anyone thinking of enrolling, it would be to just do it. You won’t regret it, and if I can do it, anyone can do it.

The next intake or the HFMA qualifications in healthcare business and finance starts in May. Click here for more information and for details on how to apply.

Click here for more information on the MBA in healthcare finance programme.
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