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60 seconds with Public Health England nurse consultant Michele Lawrence

'Public health action in response to an outbreak has to be timely,' says Public Health England nurse consultant Michele Lawrence

'Public health action in response to an outbreak has to be timely,' says Public Health England nurse consultant Michele Lawrence 

After qualifying as a nurse in 1992 in Walsall, West Midlands, Michele Lawrence spent more than 25 years working for the NHS. Her previous roles include consultant nurse in health protection at Sandwell Primary Care Trust, now Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group, where she was responsible for implementing national immunisation policy and supporting an improvement in immunisation uptake. She has been in her current role as nurse consultant for Public Health England (PHE) (West Midlands) since 2013. 


'No two days are the same', says nurse consultant Michele Lawrence 

What are your main work responsibilities?  
I lead on quality and governance for the West Midlands PHE, ensuring we have quality systems and processes in place. I am also the named safeguarding lead for the centre and work in health protection by responding to incidents and outbreak.

How did you get your job?  
When health services were reorganised after the implementation of the Health and Social Care Act, my role at the primary care trust was going to be moved to the local authority. The Health Protection Agency – as PHE was then known – had a senior nurse consultant role so I applied. 

Who are your clients/patients?
The 5.7 million people living in the West Midlands who may require public health intervention. 

What do you love about your job? 
No two days are the same. As well as improving the quality of the services we deliver as part of PHE, my role involves responding to high-profile situations, such as the Ebola epidemic and the recent national measles outbreak where we have seen 116 confirmed cases in the West Midlands. 

What do you find most difficult? 
Public health action in response to an outbreak has to be timely. We can advise on this and offer support and guidance, but the organisations we rely on to complete the actions often have their own challenges regarding capacity. 

What is your top priority at work?
Embedding our quality standards and obtaining assurance, particularly learning lessons from mistakes and disseminating learning throughout the organisation. 

How have you developed your skills in this role? 
I have received excellent coaching and mentoring and have pushed myself to be the incident manager when responding to public health incidents. Being part of the senior executive group at PHE West Midlands has enabled me to focus my decision-making skills and work more strategically. 

What has been your most formative career experience? 
Going from a band 7 straight to an 8C. It was a big leap in terms of leadership and expectations of myself and others. It was a steep learning curve. 

What will be your next career move? 
I would like to be in a national role focusing on the workforce development of nurses and midwives in PHE. 

What is the best lesson nursing has taught you? 
There is a continuous pace of change in healthcare. As a profession, we have to ensure we are flexible and manage change well. 

What career advice would you give your younger self? 
Build a good network of people who will help you accomplish your goals. Travel and see the world and consider nursing or voluntary roles in other countries. 

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