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Hospice Leadership graduates share their research findings at first Learning Forum

Author: Rosie Brown, ehospice
12 December 2013
  • Sally Watson, MA Hospice Leadership Programme Director at Lancaster University, welcomed delegates to the first Learning Forum

More than 60 experts from the world of palliative and hospice care gathered at Lancaster University earlier this week to take part in the inaugural Hospice Leadership Learning Forum.

The concept has been developed to enable recent graduates from the MA in Hospice Leadership course to share their final research projects with peers, as well as influential leaders from the sector.

The atmosphere was one of excitement and anticipation in the modern, open-plan Management School, as graduates from previous courses were reunited over a networking lunch of hot soup and sandwiches.

Programme Director, Sally Watson, opened proceedings and welcomed delegates to the one-day event.

She said: "Cohort 3 will be sharing their research findings with you today ... what we're looking for is a forum where we really start to converse. And start to understand what the findings could mean."

"People might say: why are you only doing this now? Well it comes down to one thing. We are building a critical mass of people in the sector who are thinking about leadership and how they help other people to lead. And it looks like it is becoming a pretty critical issue."

'Finding a voice'

She went on to reiterate findings from the Commission in to the Future of Hospice Care, which said that hospice care needs to "find a strong voice, individually and collectively."

She continued: "This is a voice today. This is a time when we can make a voice."

David Praill, CEO of Help the Hospices, then took to the stage to congratulate Cohort 3 on their successful graduation.

He also referenced the Commission and highlighted the need for training and education for 'middle managers' in the sector. He encouraged delegates to continue the conversations after the event:

"It is important that the learning that you have experienced here doesn't end here and goes back into our hospice communities and into the way we work.

"I really encourage you to keep your conversations going with each other, keep your communication alive and allow the leadership story and dialogue to continue."

The 12 research projects presented by graduates varied greatly, from hospice culture and strategic planning, to the role of volunteering and the 'tyranny of niceness.' But the afternoon was split into three main sections: Leadership, Culture and Service, and delegates chose which session they wanted to attend within each category.

At the end of each session, all the the delegates came together to share the key points of each conversation with the rest of the group.

'Having a conversation'

The purpose was very much about 'having a conversation' rather than critiquing the research and lively discussions ensued as individuals were quick to offer their own personal experiences for debate.

One such conversation was a presentation by Jason Davidson, a senior social worker from St Josephs Hospice.

His research questioned: Does the culture of modern day palliative care social work leave room for leadership?

The work explored the major challenges facing the profession at a time of great change in end of life care and a small group of six (50% who were social workers) passionately debated the issue.

Dr Sam Kyeremateng, the Medical Director at St Luke's Hospice in Sheffield, found himself as the sole medic in the group and said he "had an education." The issue of social workers as leaders in palliative care was a key topic for discussion, as was interdisciplinary working.

Dr Kyreremateng concluded that "we need to give space to other professional groups to step forward and take leadership. We need to make the opportunities for that to happen."

But the age-old debate about a social model versus a medical model of care recurred frequently throughout the 30-minute discussion.

Jason said the question he was left with at the end of dissertation was: "If the future of hospice care is a social model, where is the social work voice going to come from?"

"One for the next course," he laughed.

Success stories

There were some real success stories in the group, with previous graduate, Linda Hewitt, now leading the team as the CEO at Hospice at Home West Cumbria.

She said there was "absolutely no way" she would have gained the senior role without the MA in Hospice Leadership course. "I never would have had the confidence," she said.

And Karen Higgens, who works at St Andrews Hospice in Grimsby leading the children's side of the hospice, said her knowledge gained on the course has enabled her to directly influence the development of the hospice building.

Her research into the provision of care for young adults gave her the confidence to recommend changes at St Andrews, something she never thought she would be able to do.

"I was quiet before," she said. "The hospice didn't know what had hit it when I came back after the first module!"

Take practical action

Sally Watson said she hoped that following the forum, people will be able to go back to their own hospice and share the knowledge they have gained and begin to take very practical action.

She added: "I'd like people to think that they've made an important contact with somebody today, that this knowledge can be shared in some form in their own organisation and that people are able to go back and do something differently. To make those first few steps."

You can see a short video summarising the events of the day on YouTube. 

This article was updated on 22 January 2014.

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