Parenting and Leadership in the NHS

I’m Maxine Foster, the Chief Pharmacist at Northampton General Hospital. I’m also mummy to Harry, 5 and Ruby, 2. When the RPS team asked me to write a blog as a role model for working flexibly as a parent, as usual, I felt like a fraud. Does anyone think they have this nailed?  I imagine not. We’re all on a journey and here is a little bit about mine.

Flexible working makes all the difference

I found out I was pregnant with Harry about a week after I accepted the job as a Chief Pharmacist. I believe I would not have accepted the role had I known, but once I was committed, there was no turning back. The Trust I work for and my team have been incredibly supportive. I know I am very lucky. I’ve tried to spread a little of that ethos in our department and many of us have flexible working arrangements, which everyone values as enabling them to achieve a better work/life balance. We’re each a small part of a bigger operation. None of us can cover all the hours of a 24/7 service so we concentrate on good communication, building resilience into the structure and giving autonomy to act.

I try to focus on what is important to me at work and at home. Then I prioritise those things. Everything does not get done but I try to make time for leadership and engagement. It is easy to get bogged down in transactional activities and that is not what I believe will make us the best that we can be.

Go easy on yourself

At times it has been difficult. My husband and I have experienced baby loss. We’ve picked ourselves up and put ourselves back together. My biggest critic has always been me. Working mums (and probably dads too) are conflicted. In the early days I always felt that I should be somewhere else. If I was at work I felt I should be at home, and vice-versa. I had to find a way to be enough in both places and I keep revisiting that. I know that I’m hard working and dedicated but my kids come first.

You can progress in your career

I’ve seen examples of people treated poorly as a working parent. However, I’ve seen more cases of people not putting themselves forward or believing they aren’t able to develop as a professional and be a parent. Don’t count yourself out just because you’ve had children. It’s possible to progress but it’s hard and the challenge is not for everyone. My only guidance is to look inside yourself. If you’re clear on what is right for you and for the health and happiness of you and your family, you are in a great position. Then it’s a case of self-belief, tenacity, and a sprinkling of good fortune.

As for me, my gratitude goes to Nicola Bryan and Rachel Westwood, my incredible deputies and to Gianni Facchiano, our Chief Pharmacy Technician. Without them it would not be possible for me to have the privilege of leading such an incredible pharmacy team.

We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.


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