With almost four decades of experience in the NHS, Tracy Myhill was a transformative force for change during her time as Chief Executive for the Welsh Ambulance Service and a stable, resilient leader as Chief Executive for Swansea Bay University Health Board during the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Now the director of Tracy Myhill Associates Ltd, Tracy reveals all about working her way up to Chief Executive from failed A Levels, transforming the Welsh Ambulance Service and being unapologetically herself. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming and early career?

“I was brought up in Tonypandy in the Rhondda Valley. I certainly didn’t reach my educational potential, but, someone took a chance and gave me a job as a clerical officer/receptionist at Cardiff Dental Hospital. I quickly gained promotions that took me to the University Hospital of Wales and then to Llandough Hospital, where I was supported to go back to college. I gained my professional qualification to become a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and subsequently obtained my MBA.

That led to a successful Human Resources career where I held many Director posts in Welsh NHS organisations and the Welsh Government. Finally, at age 50, I plucked up the courage to become a Chief Executive – first for the Welsh Ambulance Service and then CEO at Swansea Bay University Health Board.”

Credit: Tracy Myhill

Receiving an OBE is a significant recognition of your contributions. What does this mean to you personally and professionally?

“I was truly humbled to be awarded the OBE for services to the NHS in the Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours List. The OBE represents so much to my family, my friends and me. Without the love and support I received, I could not have achieved all that I have throughout my professional and personal life. This honour is as much for all of them as it is for me.

When I received my OBE, I remember saying, “To every receptionist out there, you too can achieve anything you dare to dream of!” I hope I’ve inspired others to achieve their dreams.”

Your commitment to improving NHS care and encouraging staff has been praised. Could you share some specific initiatives or approaches you took to foster a positive and motivated work environment?

“My approach has always been one of humility and authenticity. I have always been open about my life, falling in love with my wife Dee (who was my personal assistant at the time) and being open about our journey. It’s exhausting trying to be someone you are not. Being my authentic self even when I struggled, particularly after my father’s death and when my son was ill, shows people it is okay to be you and it’s okay not to always be okay.

I have always been a very visible leader. Spending time on the road with ambulance crews, visiting wards, spending time with nurses and members of staff from all parts of the NHS, and much more, has been a privilege. My approach was to do all I could to enable them to be the best they could be.”

Credit: Tracy Myhill

Reflecting on your career, what are some key moments or achievements that stand out to you as particularly rewarding or impactful?

“Being the Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service is probably the highlight of my career. I joined the organisation at a very difficult time. Response times to ambulance calls were deteriorating, and staff (who were working incredibly hard) were disillusioned and working in a challenging culture. I’m very proud of the work we did with the support of the Welsh Government to transform the organisation.

I will also never forget my time leading Swansea Bay University Health Board through COVID-19 in 2020. As CEO, you have to give confidence and direction and acknowledge the realities of the many ‘unknowns’. I’m proud of the way everyone responded, despite their anxieties about their families, friends and themselves. It was a monumental team effort in extremely challenging circumstances.”

What advice would you give to individuals starting their careers in the healthcare sector, especially those aspiring to leadership roles?

“My advice to those starting their careers or aspiring to be leaders would be to stay true to yourself, trust your instincts and seize the opportunities that come your way. It’s also important to have support around you from mentors and coaches and to keep developing all the time. Learn from your leaders, both the good and bad things. I’ve learned so much from my leaders over the years and on occasions when things were tough, I would try to be calm and take the lessons. As hard as it was at times, it made me a better leader, and I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Author WCS

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