Hannah Burd

Business Improvement Manager, Surrey

Human Resources Scheme

I recommended a change to the way a department communicates and watched as it saved people from kidney disease. Where else is HR a matter of life and death?

I was most ‘wowed’ when I finished plugging the results of a post-project audit into Excel. It sounds dull, but the project had been all about improving the quality of care received by patients with a particular kidney disease on one of the hospital’s acute wards.

When I joined it was a struggling hospital – ranked one of the worst. I helped identify that patients weren’t getting treatment because the team didn’t have the chance to communicate to each other about patients. This was real HR in action – no bureaucracy or moving papers around a desk, just pure human interactions that had the potential to save or lose patient lives.

We created a simple patient notes’ sticker that could collect communication about a patient’s kidney health into one place. We measured the impact on patient outcomes before and after and the after results showed a really positive step in the right direction.

I wanted to make a real difference to people in a way that truly matters, and by helping to provide better health care it would enable people to experience all the other things that are important in life.

I believe that jobs are about more than exchanging time and effort for money. Jobs are important to people – they define them, give them identity, purpose and passion. Our organisations leave tangible imprints on their communities and our society as a whole. I wanted to be responsible for giving people livelihoods they could be proud of. I knew it would be hard and unglamorous, but you get a real sense of being a lifesaver when you work in acute healthcare!

There’s no denying it’s tough. But to me it’s totally worth it!

Day-to-day you’re always confronted with new challenges and new problems to find solutions to. But that’s what makes it so rewarding. There are so many people who have inspired me with their commitment to patients that it makes you want to be better at everything you do – to provide the best level of care you possibly can.

It’s been fascinating to see so many pieces of the jigsaw and to understand more about how people end up using our health system.

I’ve been lucky to see and do so much! I’ve experienced all facets of HR in a struggling acute hospital in a deprived part of the UK; a life-changing placement in the Department of Health’s Behavioural Insights Team where I learnt about behavioural economics and how this could be applied to the world of health; and a truly eye-opening placement in the ambulance service.

To be part of the teams that help save people’s lives has given me a real buzz. I’ve learnt a massive amount of new skills as a result and I’ve loved coming face-to-face with the inspiring midwives, nurses, porters, junior doctors and others who give so much to improve patient experiences.

Helping to change the actual processes patients go through has been incredibly rewarding.

To have helped lay the groundwork for the management of patients with kidney problems right across the hospital, which ultimately and measurably impacted the ‘business’ of making people better, has been a truly rewarding experience.

I realised that so much of what I do effects patient outcomes in terms of experience and even (indirectly) mortality.

I never lose sight of the fact that doing something well or poorly could have a positive or negative effect on patients and tax payers.

My ability to keep focus on the big picture gives me a level of personal integrity which drives me to do a good job, even when the chips are down. I convince people to work hard to improve things through my own enthusiasm and willingness to ‘get stuck in’ to projects.

I’ve learnt lots of new things about myself. I can be quite task focussed, but will take initiative and exceed expectations when it’s a project that could really benefit patients or staff. So lots and lots more personal awareness than I had at first!

It’s not an easy ride, but where else do you get to save lives, reunite loved ones and relieve pain every day?

No one is ever going to say this is an easy job. But the fact is, despite any hurdles, obstacles or challenges that get in your way, there really is no other job that can provide you with the sense of such achievement when you’ve helped to improve someone’s life.