Improvement advisors play an important role in raising the standard of health and social care. Here, Improvement Advisor Adeline Tan gives us an insight into a typical day.

As an Improvement Advisor working in the Primary Care Improvement Portfolio, I have responsibility for the Scottish Patient Safety Programme Medicines and Dentistry programmes. I also help improve Anticipatory Care Planning across Scotland. Working with senior leadership teams in NHS health boards and nationally with clinicians, administrators and patient representatives, I look at the gaps in the service and how to improve them using a Quality Improvement (QI) structured approach. A lot of this work is about creating the environment for change, developing the ideas for actions that will lead to improvement and enable local health and social care systems to develop the capacity and capability to implement improvement ideas.

From physio to facilitator – and beyond

My background is in physiotherapy and I am a registered musculoskeletal physiotherapist with over 20 years of clinical experience in Singapore and Scotland across acute and primary care settings. I wanted to be able to make an impact on programme management in national improvement programmes so I made the transition to a Quality Improvement Facilitator in NHS Lothian working in adverse events, primary care and acute care before joining Healthcare Improvement Scotland. Coming from a clinical perspective and having worked across secondary, primary care and private sector in both Singapore and UK, I have a deep understanding of the clinical landscape.  The relationship skills I’m trained in are transferable from interacting with patients to interacting with clinicians. This enhances my work as an improvement advisor when building networks. Completing the NHS Education for Scotland’s Scottish Improvement Foundation Skills (SIFS) Programme and Scottish Improvement Leader (ScIL) Programme, gave me the QI technical skills and leadership skills to enable me to work as an improvement advisor.

No two days the same – especially in lockdown

My work day and week varies. No two days are the same. I can be engaging with internal staff like our communications team or with external partners from Scottish Government, social care and Health Boards. I might be working with my team on project management for programme planning one day and then delivering and facilitating face to face learning sessions to external partners and their teams the next. I have to be quick in responding to the fast changing needs of Primary Care services.  I used to travel all over Scotland to support and facilitate learning workshops before the lockdown, but that had changed to virtual learning workshops since. 

During lockdown, I had to rapidly develop my IT skills to allow us to move into the virtual working as well as delivering our improvement support to the healthcare teams in Primary Care. That meant training in virtual facilitation to support my colleagues and the healthcare teams. Planning a virtual facilitation session consists of communicating and negotiating with all internal and external staff involved and lots of practice with my project team to get it working seamlessly. During learning sessions, I use skills like QI technical tools like Driver Diagrams, process mapping and fishbone diagram and Liberating Structure facilitation tools as a form of communication with the participants to make them fun and interactive.

The aspect of my job that I thrive in is interacting with different clinicians and management staff to develop programmes. I also enjoy coaching and mentoring people from NHS or third sector organisations on quality improvement methodology.

Fast paced and making a difference

Working in Healthcare Improvement Scotland is fast-paced and exciting. I’m part of the team that supports continuous improvement and re-design services for the better in healthcare settings. My training with patients and clinicians gave me transferable skills in negotiation and communication so I can engage in discussions with the same clinicians I am working with now. The training, coaching and mentoring support that I have received since I started has been invaluable and it has helped me become more confident in my role. If you want to work in a fast-paced and exciting team where you can make a huge difference in improving healthcare services, becoming an improvement advisor is the first step towards that goal.

Adeline Tan is an Improvement Advisor in Primary Care Improvement Portfolio.

More information

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