It’s important to me that the work that I do every day contributes to society

by Rebecca Coldrick

02 May 2018

Rebecca Coldrick was elected as a student representative of the West Midlands branch committee in November last year. Since then she has implemented an online student network Linkedin group and came up with the idea for the first student committee event, where students will play the NHS Operating Game, and promoted it amongst her peers. Rebecca also initiated student committee meetings, which are held at a trust and opened with a talk by a director of finance. We caught up with her to find about the fantastic work that’s happening in the West Midlands and how students are supported by their local HFMA branch.

How did you start your NHS finance journey?

After a rewarding (but exhausting) 5 years spent teaching physics, I was ready for a change. It’s really important to me that the work that I do every day contributes to society and so I considered various public-sector roles. I decided that the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme sounded like an excellent opportunity that would allow me to change career, learn from talented leaders and earn new qualifications without amassing any more student debt. The finance stream offered two paid placements, a postgraduate certificate in healthcare leadership, and the CIPFA professional accountancy qualification paid for and with time for lectures.

I’ve since learnt about the HFMA NHS Finance Management Training Scheme which offers very similar benefits and I would like to highlight this as another excellent way of entering the industry. These schemes should not be dismissed by those already working in finance, they give so many opportunities that you may not be exposed to when working in a typical substantive role.

I’m currently on my first placement with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT). I have had such a wide variety of experiences and now have a great appreciation for the breadth of opportunities within finance. I’m lucky that my placement manager, Richard Sollars, is very experienced and I am learning so much from him. The wider finance team have been so welcoming and are keen to answer my questions and support my development.

Why did you get involved with the HFMA?

I was encouraged to join by my manager and also the scheme. Without that encouragement it’s unlikely that I would have joined straight away, but I have certainly reaped the benefits! I’ve attended several branch organised and national events such as the West Midlands branch conference, Autumn budget briefing, the Mental health workforce forum, and the Branches conference in London. I’ve also utilised my trust’s membership of the HFMA to access the Finance Skills Development events. I very quickly realised how much there was on offer to help me not only in my current role, but to develop skills and awareness that would help me in my future career. At each event I have attended, I have met more inspiring people and increased my network.

I am very lucky that BSMHFT is so forward looking and promotes opportunities for CPD. The deputy director of finance, Rob Pickup, has been involved in the branch since he was a graduate Trainee himself, and suggested that I apply to be the student representative for the West Midlands branch. I realise not all branches have a student rep, but it’s something that I think is important – as a branch we want to run events and build a network that is valuable to everyone at all stages of their career. I believe that I am helping to represent not just those who are studying, but also those who aren’t yet in management positions.

Tell us more about the student network in the West Midlands branch.

With support from our branch skills development co-ordinator, Rosie Gregory, we have started a student committee. The idea is to give the students a stronger voice to influence branch activities, and we have organised our first event – especially for students! It’s also allowed for us to network which is so important, not just for senior managers. I’d like to think that we would be happy to seek advice and improve collaborative working between each other and our organisations. One of the committee’s first actions was to build a LinkedIn group for those students in the West Midlands working in healthcare finance. We hope that this resource becomes a place for networking, sharing tips, job opportunities and highlighting CPD whether from HFMA or elsewhere. Soon we will be advertising some sports and social events too! We would hope that eventually we can build a network that all students in the West Midlands could benefit from!

What’s the most important HFMA member benefit for you?

The CPD and events are fantastic, but I would definitely say the chance to meet so many committed and passionate people, and learn from their experiences. It’s great to know people that can help you solve a problem – or even those who might one day let me know about career opportunities. I’ll be applying for jobs at the end of my scheme!

What piece of advice do you have for people who are starting their NHS finance journey now?

Make it your own! I’ve realised that we all have very different requirements and aspirations. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all approach or piece of advice. I’m very happy without a structured plan, and have no idea where I will be in 5 or 10 years time – I enjoy learning new things and hope that I am able to keep developing whilst building a broad experience. I’ll be taking each day as it comes and making the most of the opportunities that come my way. If you have a 5 or 10 year plan, then that’s awesome – let that guide you, seek out the experience that you need. Look at job descriptions and person specifications and target those areas that you need to develop. Ask for guidance and advice from those who can help you get where you want to be.

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