Governance Leadership in the Healthcare world

Hear from a director of nursing & quality governance on her experience of the Governance Leadership Programme

Christine Etherington, Director of Nursing & Quality Governance at NMC Healthcare, undertook the Governance Leadership Programme in 2018. A year on, she shares her experience on how the programme has benefited her and how she is applying what she has learnt to her role in the Health sector.


I’m a registered nurse by background, with a career spanning critical care, paediatrics and adult care. As I’ve moved up the management ranks, I’ve started to focus more on project and operational management, including in my current role where I oversee nursing, clinical services and governance.

 Although governance has always been a big part of the healthcare world, it wasn’t something I was expected to lead on earlier in my career. As soon as it began to feature more heavily in my day job, I decided to discover and learn more about it. I was attracted to ICSA’s Governance Leadership Programme (GLP) because it’s about leadership in governance, and I hadn’t appreciated that aspect before; people perhaps associate governance purely with keeping things safe and secure.

I chose the residential GLP option. I liked the idea of having time to explore the topics in more detail, and the opportunity to build deeper relationships with the other participants. In fact, the relationship-building was a key benefit as a group of us are still in touch today, continuing to support one another.

 The variety in the group was really good. It wasn’t just UK-centric; it included people from Japan, Malaysia, Ireland and Scandinavian countries too. There were only about 16 of us, which was the perfect number for getting to know everyone really well, and it also gave everybody the chance to contribute.

 It was also really beneficial that we came from a mix of backgrounds. There were people from universities, government organisations, charities, the commercial sector. I think the diversity is in some ways what made the course so absorbing; when you’re from one specific type of organisation – especially healthcare – the majority of concerns can be very similar. So the organisational diversity was great, and because we had people from all over the world, we also learned a lot about different cultures and work ethics.

 Another positive feature was being partnered with different participants for one-to-one sessions. We’d take a problem or issue we were facing and talk it through with a peer. It was fascinating to hear so many different perspectives and ideas, and it has led to a couple of new approaches I’ve introduced back at work – including the one-to-one process itself.

 One of the fundamental takeaways was how overarching governance is – or should be – within an organisation. Because you wear the governance badge, that doesn’t mean it’s your sole responsibility. The GLP gives you the leadership tools to ‘sell’ governance more to other people; to help them understand that they share the accountability and responsibility. The way it has worked best for me is as part of a process we call ‘Shared Governance’. Four times a year, we hold a Quality Governance session where Corporate informs the organisation leads about the latest developments and practices for them to implement. The new bit – developed from my GLP learning – is that we now also hold a further eight meetings a year where each service has their own scorecard and they feed back to us in Corporate how things are in their areas. This new approach means NMC teams now ‘own’ their complaints and incidents – and it has really helped embed the notion that governance is everyone’s job.

 I’d say the GLP is one of the best things I’ve done professionally, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

If you're a senior governance professional looking to transform your performance from excellent to outstanding, discover more about the Governance Leadership Programme.

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