Building a Better Health Service

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A Day in the Life of a HSE Project Manager

Pursuing the large amount of change going on within the health service while at the same time dealing with significant operational issues is a real challenge for staff and managers on the frontline, according to a project manager with the Programme for Health Service Improvement (PHSI).

Seamus Woods, a Projects Director, has worked as a project manager for over 25 years and now runs a Programme Office in the Mid West.

“A key significant role for me is helping the local teams get consensus on what projects will have the greatest impact in the midst of all demands coming at them to deliver on service improvements,” Seamus explains.

“People have only so much time to give and whilst all the suggested projects have good intentions, it is important that we identify the projects that will have the greatest benefit for the public.”

He believes that one of our other biggest challenges in the health service is around change management.

“Everyone will react differently to change. In the work we’re involved with as project managers with the Programme for Health Service Improvement, it can be very challenging trying to get people to buy into change so they, whether they are managers or frontline staff, can see real value from the perspective of delivering the service on the ground,” he says.

“A person is likely to go that extra mile if they have a belief in what is proposed and we, as project managers, need to harness that belief.

“I always say to our project managers that it’s about building relationships, understanding people, and working well with people.  As well as the technical skills, a project manager with the Programme for Health Service Improvement needs that ability to work with all stakeholders. We need to get buy-in so our project managers need to negotiate in terms of making changes. They need to be that independent voice both for the service, across services and for the people using our services.”

He reveals that he doesn’t have an average working day as such – every day is different but some aspects are consistent. “A lot of my time is taken up running workshops for project managers to look at new initiatives and improvements to services. Part of my job is working out what a project is really about and what we are trying to achieve,” says Seamus.

“The key thing with any project is to work out what’s the problem that we’re trying to solve, looking at the options, coming up with a plan and similar to a pilot with a flight plan, have some touch points to review how you are getting on. I spend a lot of time running workshops with new project managers because a lot of the project managers in the health services do a day job as well as doing a project manager role. They are learning a new skill-set.

Over the past two and a half years, the Programme for Health Service Improvement has implemented a strategic approach to delivering tangible change across the health service. 

You can contact the PSHI at programmefor.healthserviceimprovement@hse.ie 

Seamus says that, ultimately, this is about improving services on the ground and we need to be able to give confidence to local teams that we can help them achieve that. “Project management is about solving problems and working with people to solve these problems. There’s a start and a finish and you can actually see the outcomes of what you are trying to achieve. It’s about finding new ways of working and measuring how we are successful,” he says.