Marion’s Blog: Deputy Medical Director and Leadership Consultant

Marion Lynch, Deputy Medical Director at NHS England and NHS Improvement South East and Leadership Consultant at NHS Leadership Academy, shares her story.

Why I wanted to become a nurse

You could say I come from a nursing dynasty. Five of my aunties were nurses working across the world. I saw the difference they made to people’s health and wellbeing, and the career opportunities nursing gave them. I have been nursing for 37 years, so it was the right choice.

How my career has developed

I trained in Oxford in the 1980s and my first job was on a Haematology Unit. It was there that I realised how important mental health was, so I went on to train as a psychiatric nurse. At 24 I left the UK and went to travel across the world taking on different nursing roles. 

When I returned to England I completed two masters degrees, a doctorate in medical education and had a family. I worked as a Public Health Specialist for HIV, female health and mental health; in NHS management; and then moved into medical education, becoming Associate GP Dean and teaching general practice. 

The experience and expertise I gained from these roles helped me secure the post of Deputy Medical Director when NHS England was formed in 2013, to lead on revalidation and appraisal locally. This academic ability, system thinking and leadership skills have enabled me to expand my work and become a visiting professor in dementia, a charity trustee and also set up my own charity.

I’ve recently returned from a six month career break volunteering as a global health fellow with the Ministry of Health in Zambia, supporting them to introduce a nationwide approach to improving quality. I have also worked in the Middle East helping a country implement guidelines to manage non communicable diseases, and in Kenya to support the role of nurses in universal health coverage in the community.

All of these roles highlight the changing needs of patients; creating greater opportunities for nurses to adapt their skills and expand their scope of practice – just as I have done – and will continue to do so as needs and services change.

On a typical day

Nursing has enabled me to have a dynamic career; there’s never a typical day for me. I might be working in the office at NHS England and NHS Improvement; teaching and supervising students in my role as a Visiting Professor in Dementia Care with a London university; guest speaking at a conference or event, in the UK and abroad; or volunteering with a charity like Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, which I joined in 2018 as a medical cover, taking children with cancer on four-day sailing adventures. I also have my own charity set up in the name of my sister and this keeps me connected to the issues facing the most vulnerable in our community.

Current project – DRY

One of my roles with the NHS is to ensure that the voices and views of service users are listened to when we create services.  There are many ways to do this and some work, some don’t, but we are always looking for new ways to engage with the community in public health.

One of the biggest challenges to health, hidden away behind our age and class prejudices, is alcoholism. One of the biggest problems is denial in families and communities and the damage this does to lives not livers. We drink to remember, to forget, to celebrate, to commiserate. It has an emotional and social element to it and so any intervention to change behaviour needs to have these aspects too.

I partnered with Human Story Theatre and provided a tiny grant and commissioned them to write the play that discusses alcoholism, called DRY. I contributed to the clinical content and some of the jokes – it is funny too. I am also one of the panel on the Q&A panel after many of the shows. You can find out more about the play on the Human Story Theatre website. 

How I’ve made a difference as a nurse

My holistic approach to nursing, and the skills and learning I have gained from studying, from volunteering and the experiences I have had, has helped me to make a difference –to the people I have cared for, to the profession and to the systems we work in.  Human connection is the root of all healthcare which is why I see my most important work as connecting individuals, groups and countries for the ultimate benefit of us all.

What would you say to someone interested in a career in nursing?

If I can share one thing with young people who are considering career options, it would be to choose nursing. It is a hugely fulfilling career with many diverse opportunities. Nurse training sets you up for life so that every day you can make a difference to another life. The joy of being a nurse and helping others is phenomenal.