Creating a caring & compassionate space for healing to occur

Julia Maria Tovey, Chief Operating Officer – American Mission Hospital

Julia left home town in Wales to attend nursing school in the oldest and most respected hospital in London called St Bartholomew’s. She found everything about healthcare and hospitals exciting, as a young nurse, as it was all about hands on and being available to care for patients at the bedside. Julia feels this art is being lost today with emphasis on charting and documentation which takes nurses away from the bedside.

Her passion in creating a caring and compassionate space where healing can occur is what keeps her motivated at the American Mission Hospital at Bahrain. “There is only so much medicine can do the rest is left to our minds in how we deal with disease and how it impacts the individual and the family unit” says Julia.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Dundee and MBA from the University in Hull and a certificate in Healthcare leadership from Harvard Business School. From having worked in large tertiary hospitals, her journey led her to the American Mission hospital – a small hospital where her passion and years of experience were channeled in modernizing and turning around a hospital that was over a century old and which needed more than a make-over.

Being one of the oldest hospitals in the GCC, the American Mission Hospital has been caring for the local population for over 120 years and is the only not-for profit private hospital in Bahrain.

Team ABT reached out to Ms. Julia to know more about her journey as a healthcare professional.

Who inspires you the most? Why?
I have worked with wonderful people all my life and the difference great teams bring to bear is both powerful and transformational. There is no one person that inspires me but often it is the unseen diligent worker that inspires me to give more and maintain the level of commitment in a profession that has multiple challenges and where burn out is very high.

Tell us briefly about your journey as a Healthcare Professional
My career spans from being a bedside nurse to being in the boardroom. My early training was in teaching hospitals in London where I trained to be a pediatric nurse with specialized training in neonatology at Cambridge and in Cardio-thoracic nursing at the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street in London. In addition I was trained in aero-medical transport medicine at Houston in the USA and at Cranfield University in London. It was for this expertise I came to Saudi Aramco for a year to set up a aero-medical transport service to transport sick babies from Saudi Aramco to London and Houston. This assignment however extended to 15 years during which time I moved through various stages of nursing leadership and was the section head of 8 intensive care units and 450 nurses under me.

What is your philosophy when it comes to managing a Healthcare business?
My philosophy is simple put people before profits. If we look after our employees they in turn will give their best to make patient experience great, safe and rewarding. Rigorous attention to details through meaningful polices that are patient centric and realistic are key to maintain a robust and reliable healthcare system.

What was the most cherished moment in your career?
I think one of the most memorable moments in my professional career was being able to both design and develop Pediatric Treatment Units in all our Ambulatory Care Centers. Children are not little people and I believe in providing an environment that meets the needs of a child and is also family Centered therefore providing holistic care for the whole family.

Do you feel privileged as a Woman Leader? What’s your leadership style?
Nursing traditionally over the last decades has always taken a backseat when it came to policy making and leadership. But this has changed during my career in nursing. Increasingly nurses are taken over as healthcare executives, and have a distinct advantage of knowing what really happens in the frontlines and behind the scenes. The largest group of employees in a hospital system is nurses and hence knowing what their problems are makes a big difference. I do not feel privileged as a woman leader but on the contrary I feel privileged to be in a leadership role where I can make a difference. It is about giving to create value in all that I do. I build effective teams and allow them to execute and improve on the deliverables.

What would you like to achieve in the coming years?
Continue to help build healthcare systems that are patient responsive that is affordable and of high quality. Healthcare systems are complex, and working with people in such a complex environment needs both patience and resilience in an ever changing healthcare landscape. One model does not fit the needs of everyone, and hence adapting to local needs is essential for planning healthcare into the future.

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