Anne Marie Duffy: Board member, member of the Education, Training and Standards Committee and the Fitness to Practise Committee (2011)
Could you tell our readers a bit about your background?
I started my career in teaching and then moved into the area of examinations and assessment, finally holding the role of Director of Qualifications for the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment in Northern Ireland (CCEA). In this role, I led the development of examination specifications, writing and grading of public examinations, and held the role of Responsible Officer. I represented the Awarding Body on a three-country regulatory Maintenance of Standards committee alongside colleagues from England and Wales, and represented CCEA on the Joint Council for Qualifications in London. I also led CCEA’s digital transformation programme which earned the organisation a NextGen UK Public Service Transformation award in 2017. As director of CCEA, I worked within a highly regulated sector and was involved in the investigation and imposition of sanctions for teacher, student and centre malpractice. I also worked on curriculum projects at European level and currently serve as a non-Executive Director at Qualifications Wales' regulatory body and as a school governor.
When did you join the Board of NMBI and why?
I joined the Board of NMBI in January 2020. The work of the NMBI interested me from two perspectives – firstly, having a background in education, regulation and governance I felt that I could make a positive contribution to the work of the Board and its Education, Training and Standards Committee. Secondly, the position focused on experience of digital transformation which is an area within my sphere of expertise. I led internal staff teams through a very creative and challenging transformation process, building capacity, capability and confidence among service users. These projects enabled my organisation to gain useful candidate and system performance data which fed into greater effectiveness, efficiency and improvements in outcomes. The work of the NMBI is crucial in maintaining a high-quality nursing and midwifery service and helping this in any way is a very worthy public service. Although not coming from a nursing or midwifery background, I felt that my skillset and experience would complement the work of the Board and provide an objective view on education and change from a neutral vantage point.
You are also a member of the Education, Training and Standards Committee and the Fitness to Practise Committee (2011). Can you tell our readers about the important work of these committees?
Firstly, it is important to state that the work of both committees is to carry out certain aspects of the Board’s delegated functions and to make recommendations to the Board when required. The Board then decides whether or not to accept any recommendation proposed.
The key focus of the Education, Training and Standards Committee is to advise the Board on nursing and midwifery education standards and their implementations, including adherence to relevant legislation. The committee makes recommendations to the Board on the approval of education programmes, outcomes of the monitoring of regulatory compliance, setting educational standards for registration and advising on ethical standards and guidance. An important aspect of the committee’s work is to set out standards of practice to prepare nurses and midwives for the future. I believe that having a diverse committee promotes more informed discussions in this area.
The Fitness to Practise Committee (2011) hears inquiries into complaints made against registrants through a formal inquiry process. I believe the work is a vital aspect of the role of every professional regulator, ensuring that complaints are given due consideration and that the public is assured of the knowledge, competence and professionalism of nurses and midwives. While the Fitness to Practice Committee itself is large with 33 members, it carries out its core work in groups of three persons at inquiries, with one of the three a nurse or midwife representing the division of the Register relevant to the registrant subject to the complaint. The entire committee meets twice per year where it deals with routine matters, undertakes training and also reflects on its work.
There is a synergy between Fitness to Practise and Education, Training and Standards committees in the feedback and data sharing which influences change to the content of nursing and midwifery education programmes. This also influences changes and provisions to the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics and the Scope of Practice for both nurses and midwives.
What have been your biggest achievements as a Board member?
I have learned an amazing amount about the nursing and midwifery professions, much of which is reflective of the teaching profession’s standards and ethics. I have also learned about the detailed and technical approach taken within NMBI to complaints management. Some of these complaints end in Fitness to Practise Inquiries and, as a Board member, I am provided with high-quality information that enables me to exercise balanced judgment and provide robust rationale, taking all factors into account. I hope that I have made a positive and constructive contribution to the Board’s continual drive for improvement through attention to detail and process and look forward to future achievements.
What challenges have you faced during your time on the Board?
Working within a quasi-judicial framework in relation to Fitness to Practise Inquiries, particularly within the past year with remote and hybrid hearings, has been challenging. To effectively make informed recommendations to the Board, there is a large amount of reading required and considerations to be taken and both can be demanding. As a lay member of the Board, becoming familiar with the technical and medical vocabulary has also been challenging but this has also presented many new learning opportunities.
Being part of the Board requires a lot of commitment. How do you find a balance between your work on the Board and Committees, your career and your home life?
As a self-employed consultant, I have more flexibility to balance the competing aspects of my personal and professional life and voluntary commitments. This flexibility enables me to accommodate the needs and requirements of the Board and the two committees on which I sit. Planning and scheduling are key so that I can allocate appropriate time to read and consider papers, prepare for meetings and accommodate Fitness to Practise Inquiries.
Finally, what advice would you give someone who is interested in joining the NMBI Board or one of the NMBI Committees?
Firstly, I would say that the work is hugely rewarding. Knowing that you are supporting continuous improvement and ensuring the highest standard of patient care and nursing and midwifery competence is very motivating. My advice would be to research the work of the NMBI and ensure that it is something that you would be interested in contributing to. Avail of all the induction and training opportunities that will be presented to you. More experienced Board and committee members will be there to answer any queries that you may have, especially during your first few months. As we emerge from this very unprecedented time of restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, attend as many meetings as possible in person to form positive and effective working relationships with Board members and the executive team.