An NHS Wales programme is setting a standard in health informatics management training, explain Jackie Barker and colleagues

NHS Wales is the first UK organisation to offer a management traineeship in health informatics. As part of a suite of programmes the organisation is using to develop leadership talent across several senior management professions, Gareth O'Gorman is following a two-year graduate traineeship.

The new traineeship is provided by the National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare in NHS Wales and is a new stream of its Gateway to NHS Wales management training programmes. It is designed to develop trainees' management skills and experience, while building their academic education through an MSc in health informatics.

Mr O'Gorman's programme is structured through a series of placements covering a wide range of NHS Wales settings. Each placement is different and can include experience in areas such as clinical coding, clinical governance, information management and technology, project management and health records management.

An induction period in September 2006 allowed the trainees to become rapidly familiar with the core business of NHS Wales. This allowed Mr O'Gorman to observe patient journeys while building an appreciation of how informatics supports the delivery of patient care.

He also receives regular mentorship from Jackie Barker, head of health informatics professional development at Informing Healthcare, a national programme to develop new methods, tools and information technologies to transform health services in Wales, along with coaching from an external personal development adviser.

Peer support comes through relationships with other management trainees on the cohort, who meet for the programme's action learning sets and practical skills training in leadership and management.

The Gateway programmes have evolved from an established and successful series of graduate management training schemes. Participants form one talent pipeline into a broader framework for health service leadership designed to make NHS Wales' future executive directors and chief executives.

The programmes are adaptable. Host employers can tailor the training to align closely with their corporate requirements. Mr O'Gorman's employer, Informing Healthcare, has chosen to train him as a PRINCE2 practitioner, equipping him with key project management skills for trainee placements and his future career.

Placement organisations can agree work objectives between the local line manager and the trainee. This ensures work benefits the placement organisation while developing the trainee's competencies, which are periodically assessed.

The aims of the Welsh health informatics professional development programme are to:

  • improve health informatics talent management in Wales, including career progression, leadership and succession planning;

  • develop and apply health informatics professional standards;

  • provide and increase uptake of education, training and continuing development opportunities;

  • identify and share the knowledge base of health informatics;

  • promote the health informatics function, providing a recognisable professional identity and community to health informatics staff and increasing appreciation of the health informatics function by other healthcare professionals, patients and the public.

The mentorship relationship with Mr O'Gorman allows the programme head to explore all these elements in a single trainee. Mr O'Gorman receives educational and vocational support and mentoring, which give him a safe, open, and trusting environment in which to explore and reflect on his experiences and interpersonal relationships, so crucial in leadership today.

Mentoring Mr O'Gorman gives Ms Barker insights into the mind of an aspiring new leader, which can be fed into the leadership programmes' developement. The mentor benefits personally from the challenge this fresh view of the world brings and the discipline of reflecting on the trainee’s perceptions.

The traineeship is proving a good example of personal and professional development for health informatics, with a high level of co-ordination and communication between all parties. Those involved are keen to drive the programme forward.

As Mr O'Gorman continues to develop his career, the traineeship will benefit the health informatics professional community, NHS Wales and the public.