Shifting perceptions and balancing priorities

by Gianluca Paderi

15 June 2021

Gianluca Paderi, finance business partner at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust was one of the first learners to complete both the advanced diploma in healthcare business and finance and the MBA in healthcare in healthcare finance. In this blog he discusses how the qualification changed his perception of what a masters was, and the challenges he faced in balancing study with changing personal circumstances.

Towards the end of 2017, while enjoying a relatively peaceful part of my life after my 40th birthday, my idea of an MBA was that it was an extremely intense programme for young high-flyers who want to become executive directors. The main reason I joined the NHS was to achieve gratification from my working life after a career in finance working for large international organisations, so when the opportunity to join the HFMA/BPP MBA in Healthcare Finance was presented to me, my initial reaction was to consider it but I assumed I would probably dismiss it. 

Having come from the private sector straight into a relatively senior finance role at NUH, I was aware of my knowledge gap around healthcare finance. However, when I read the qualification programme in detail I realised the knowledge gap was much bigger than I had realised. At that time, even though I was working for one of the largest acute providers in the country, my on-the-job learning was focused only around a small component of the wider healthcare system. 

Once I realised this, my idea of the higher diploma and MBA quickly changed, and I saw it as an opportunity to substantially increase my knowledge and make a positive contribution to the wider healthcare system. After discussing the implication of the additional workload with my partner and my son, we agreed as a family that while it would be challenging, it would be possible as long as we supported each other while I completed my study, so I applied for the next student intake. However, as is sometimes the case with these things, all the discussion and assumptions we made prior to applying soon became invalid as, after just one month on the diploma, we had a newborn girl placed under our care and my father was diagnosed with dementia. 

With these significant and unplanned life developments, I had to make another assessment and consider the additional life commitments we were taking on. It was about understanding if there were enough hours in a day to perform all my duties to an acceptable level, but after some more thought and consideration, I decided to carry on with my study. 

I knew it would be difficult studying to the required level under the new circumstances, but I was confident it would still be possible as long as I had the necessary support. After the first few sessions I realised that I had made the right choice. The tutors were very responsive and always happy to help. Communication with the other students was also great and we were able to help each other with our work and converse in the discussion forums. The first module of the MBA qualification was Comparative Healthcare Systems taught by Letsie Tilley and Chris Butler, who both brought to the sessions precious insight from many years of experience as directors of healthcare organisations. Alongside the knowledge of the tutors, the HFMA academy portal provided a well-structured approach to learning for each topic, with an abundance of links to external resources. 

As I progressed with my study, my ability to get through the weekly workload and achieve the learning objectives became easier, but one thing I found particularly challenging to start with was the academic writing for the assignments. I found the standard required was much higher than it had been for previous qualifications such as my university degree and CIMA qualification. But again, I had extremely valuable support from the tutors and, despite having to resubmit the first module, was able to overcome this challenge.

For my final research project, I applied my learning and understanding to study the real-life challenges my ICS is facing as it moves towards integration. While being able to apply my learning to a real-life example was extremely beneficial to me, with hindsight I should have started planning for the research project earlier to allow me to assess the data requirements as soon as possible. This would be one piece of advice I would give to future learners: information governance, especially if data is required from an external organisation, could be a bottle neck for the whole project, so make sure to plan ahead.
With regards to career progression I feel much more comfortable  being involved in wider initiatives. While I am still constantly learning, I no longer see myself as having a knowledge gap due to my non-NHS background, and I have much greater system awareness and ability to deliver tangible value with my contribution. 

Overall, it has been a journey that required strong diligence and commitment but I am very happy that I invested two years of my life for it and I would strongly recommend it to people, no matter what level they are at in their career journey.
The next intake or the HFMA qualifications in healthcare business and finance starts in September. 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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