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A journey to becoming Noah's Ark Director of Care

12 NOVEMBER 2019

What does it take to become Director of Care? Julie Quinn takes a look back at the key themes that have shaped her career.


When I started my career, as a speech and language therapist in 1988, I was interested in patients becoming conscious collaborators, taking a share in the responsibility for their own health and wellbeing. Medicine doesn’t get done to people, they need to buy into it and feel accountability towards making the most of their lives.

I primed that ideology in an NHS setting, promoting the empowerment of people with chronic and irreversible disabilities. I did lots of support groups for people post-laryngectomy, enabling those patients to move on from their dependency mind-set. The emphasis on empowerment has served me well throughout my career, never more than in my current role supporting very unwell children at Noah’s Ark.

Glass Ceiling

From early in my career I was determined to puncture the glass ceiling that so many women and mothers face. Being a mother of three and an Allied Health Professional are both inhibitors of one’s ability to secure a seat on the Board. So I made myself as competitive as I could, investing heavily in my professional development, with three Masters Degrees, including an MBA. These qualifications enabled me to diversify my professional portfolio as my career progressed, moving from clinical roles to more strategic roles which enable me to have greater impact. My breakthrough into senior management came via two roles in the Midlands, first as Operational Director Medicine at Burton Hospital NHS Trust and then as Director for Children’s Services in Leicester. I believe education is the key to one’s own and one’s team’s development.

Breadth of Experience

Having a broad range of professional experiences has enabled me to challenge the norm whenever I’ve gone into a new setting. I’ve worked in private, charity, NHS and education sectors. There’s a common misconception, particularly within the NHS, that if something works in one place, it should work elsewhere. But you have to understand why something works or doesn’t work - what are the prevailing conditions - before bringing a new idea to a new setting. So often people have initiative rollout fatigue so you must think carefully and strategically about new innovations; having that breadth of experience has enabled me to understand and adapt my experiences to new and different settings.

One thing that’s been universal throughout my career is that wherever I’ve been, I’ve seen that the greater the opportunity given to team members, the more likely they are to thrive. By extending practitioner roles, people push their boundaries, with almost universally positive consequences.

Noah’s Ark Children's Hospice

In a way, my whole career has been preparing me for this role at Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice  - aside, perhaps, from my six month stint in the early 1980s as a trainee commodity broker trading in sugar, coffee and cocoa with South America! Noah’s Ark provides practical and emotional support to children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. We have a wonderful new facility, The Ark in North London, which is so much more than the common misconception of a children’s hospice as simply a place for children to die. It’s about empowering and enabling people to get the most out of what people have, be that time or function.

Throughout my career, I’ve learnt to look holistically at people’s situations, which is why Noah’s Ark’s work chimes perfectly with my own. We might support a mum who just wants a couple of hours’ respite at home to grab a coffee with a friend, whilst simultaneously supporting another family who might require services as diverse as legal advice, support for the ill child’s siblings or a volunteer to mow the lawn. Tailoring our support to the particular needs of each family means that they get exactly what they need and looking at the family holistically enables a broader approach than just supporting the ill child.

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