‘Magical Meander’: What made me a medical manager?

The pressures and demands that the COVID pandemic has placed on health and care are unprecedented. Amid the suffering and loss, health and care professionals’ responses to the demands are heart-warming. Clinicians, managers, academics and policy makers joined up with thousands of volunteers to provide timely, compassionate care as a priority above all else. Team bonding, flattened hierarchy, agile training and virtual working became “normal”. While we all try to return calmer times, there is general agreement that some changes should be maintained.

Among the things we keep should be a shared purpose, real teamwork and open communication between clinicians and managers. Managers and clinicians often have different perspectives and are seen inhabiting separate “camps”. Perhaps perspectives and intentions are now more aligned, perhaps not.

BMJ Leader is launching a new blog series written anonymously by “Magical Meander”, a medical manager working in the NHS, to help align perspectives and build understanding of medical management across these two professions.

BMJ Leader Blog Editor Aoife Molloy and BMJ Leader Editor in Chief James Mountford


What made me a medical manager?

At the end of fun college conference (where I might even have learnt the odd thing) alongside the crucial catch up with old friends, I was running late. I was stuck in a long queue to handover my bag. Idle chitter chatter barely assuaged my growing irritation. As rumblings of discontent grew in the queue I found myself walking to the head of the line and offering the cloakroom attendant help. She willingly accepted and between us we created a system that had conference attendees whizzing into the conference plenary.

The first questions that are asked of MBA students are usually some variation on: “Is management and leadership the same? And are leaders born or made?” Designed to put the student into a perpetual spin of self-reflective angst; the questions rarely enable clarity on the topic. But there is a kernel of truth in these questions. What made me cease being a passive recipient and move to taking control. I think that for me the niggle and irritation was too overwhelming and it drove me to “manage the situation”. I don’t think I was born this way. Rather that I have been exposed to enough brilliant examples of improvement to absorb this active way of thinking and convert it into change in all sorts of parts of my life. I’m known to stand in coffee shop queues muttering to myself about how to improve processes. I find myself organising my spice racks alphabetically. I’m not sure, I’m proud of all of this or that this is a great trait but I know my brain is wired slightly differently now.

So I accept I like to manage. But do I like to lead? I don’t’ consider myself a leader. I do consider myself passionate about getting things done and if that means stepping up so be it. But I don’t want to lead. If truth be told if people tell me they do – I start to question their motives.

So following in a long line of my literary heroes, I am intending to write this blog under a pseudonym to allow me to be brutally honest about the challenges of working in a medical management role. I am medical manager with a passion for changing systems, who desperately wants to make things better and so occasionally has to charge to the front to make this happen. I hope others will find these reflections useful, or maybe even challenging – feel free to disagree and let me know why.

Magical Meander

Magical meander is an anonymous blog written by a medical manager working in the NHS and published every six weeks on BMJ Leader Blog.

Declaration of interests

I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare the following interests: none.

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