What does it feel like to be a woman transforming health and care in 2022?

Barbara Chidgey

Published:

In recognition of International Women’s Day, the Bevan Commission would like to share three personal blogs written by three very different and inspiring women involved in transforming health and social care services in Wales

I am honoured to be asked to contribute a short blog for International Woman’s Day 2022 and I sincerely hope that I am indeed contributing to the transformation of health and care, through my various roles and responsibilities.

That transformation will only happen by us working together: individuals with ‘patient experience’ with charities and not for profits who work in the health and care sector, with Higher Education and of course with all the members of the NHS Wales family of public bodies.

Does being a woman make a difference? Does it add to or hinder my motivation, involvement or using my voice to help promote transformation? Actually, I am going to say my gender is not relevant really (other than I do have personal gender-related medical experiences such as pregnancy and childbirth)!

For me having founded and being heavily engaged with driving forward a charity (Daring to Dream), that supports the emotional health & wellbeing of patients in Wales is really important. We are a charity that works collaboratively with its stakeholders including clinical directorates, other charities, and organisations as well as patients and their families. Being inclusive, diverse, and promoting equity for all, irrespective of health is a core value of mine that is ingrained in all that I do, irrespective of my gender.

My doctoral academic research entitled ‘A conversational leadership-based approach to enhance the quality of the clinician – patient communications underpinning patient-centred care’ is driven by my motivation to use my particular skills, experience, and expertise to contribute (if only in a very small way) to transforming health and care services. This grew out of my appreciation of the clinical care (at times life-saving clinical care) I have received across so many specialities. Achieving that is independent of my gender.

I thoroughly enjoy my involvement too with the Bevan Commission, its Advocates, and various projects. Again, it is a space of learning, diversity and much more – but is my gender relevant really?

Across all of the conversations of my different areas of involvement linked with bringing ‘A Healthier Wales’ to reality, they have and continue to provide me with real learning. My engagement has helped me reflect as I listen to personal stories of others from across Wales who, even when suffering from illness and its treatments, also achieve so much. I meet and hear more and more personal stories and experiences too from health professionals and clinicians (not only patients or their families), gaining insight from them also.

It is all those people (patients, their families and healthcare professionals) and their personal stories that inspire and motivate me to contribute.

I do know that in this health context, I have been referred to as ‘unusual’ ‘different’ and more. I am a highly activated patient (i.e I have developed the knowledge, skills and confidence to be in the driving seat of managing my health). I am well-informed. I am articulate. I use my voice.

I am unique (aren’t we all?) – not different, or unusual.

I literally don’t see ‘glass ceilings’ and I never have …….. why should I let something I can see through hold me back? I try and avoid ‘labels’ since labels can limit me too.

My gender is only one strand of the rich, colourful tapestry that is ‘me’. It is part of me, but not figural. I don’t want to be in a situation where ‘being a woman’ could become a label that limits me. For me what matters is using my energy to help make a difference in the evolving transformation of health and care in Wales.

A brief synopsis of Barbara’s roles:

 

  • A previous secondary headteacher in Merthyr Tydfil to end of 2003
  • A hugely experienced coach, facilitator, and designer of bespoke leadership development programmes
  • Executive Chair of the Leading Wales Awards from inception in 2004 to their conclusion in 2019
  • a part time professional doctoral student at Cardiff Met University since 2018
  • Founder, Chair, and voluntary COO of Daring to Dream and producer of Lleswyl
  • Bevan Advocate since 2019
  • Chair and programme coordinator of Engage for Success Wales