For In Conversation With… this week we spoke to Ljiljana Maljenovic, our interim Head of Quality and Safety, where she tells us a bit more about how our first Kitchen Table Week, part of the national Sign up to Safety Initiative, went.
Ljiljana worked her way up from a nurse on our children’s ward to our Interim Head of Quality and Safety in ten years at our Trust – which is amazing considering after she moved to the UK from Croatia at just 17, married her childhood sweetheart and had her two children, she thought her dream of becoming a nurse may never happen!
Lives: In Collier Row with husband Dalibor, 41, a painter and decorator, and kids Petar, 17, and Vanja, 15.
And: Ljiljana always wanted to be a nurse and originally started her training in Croatia at just 14! She’s also experienced quite the career trajectory at our Trust, from band five nurse to interim Head of Quality and Safety in just ten years.
This was our first ever Kitchen Table Week to discuss patient safety, tell us more about it and how it went.
The national campaign is all about improving patient safety. For our events we invited staff to come and have a cup of tea and a cake, and chat with us about their views. We spoke about how they’re feeling, what bothers them, and what they’re most proud of.
We heard some really useful comments and got some great feedback. Colleagues told us they really felt they were being listened to, and they appreciated a little time out to chat - the cakes were very popular too!
The comments were quite varied, however, we did hear some similar themes, including concerns about the pressure we are under and that workloads are increasing.
We’re now reviewing all the feedback so we can share what we learned in the next edition of our quality and safety newsletter. And we’re planning to make it an annual event now.
What does your role as interim Head of Quality and Safety involve?
I only took this role on in February on a six month secondment. I’m responsible for having an oversight of quality and safety across our Trust, including monitoring incidents and serious incidents, ensuring compliance with our policies and NICE guidelines, and managing our Corporate Quality and Safety team. Overall, it’s ensuring we’re providing the safest care possible for our patients.
At first I had doubts about taking on this role, as it’s a huge step up, and I have a lot going on – including my masters in advanced healthcare practice. With that and my home life I wondered if it would be too much, however, I love a challenge and I’m really enjoying it so far.
Tell us a bit more about your career and how you ended up moving into quality and safety.
I’d always wanted to be a nurse right from when I was a little girl. It’s a well-respected career, I also love to help people and it’s really lovely when patients are grateful for the care you’ve provided.
I grew up in Croatia when you’re in primary school until 14 then decide on your career, so I started my nurse training then.
However, Dalibor and I decided there wasn’t much for us as a young couple in Croatia and moved to London when I was 17, before I finished my training.
When I was first here I worked in a hotel, then I had my children. I did think for a while that I might not achieve my dream of being a nurse, however, when my youngest was two I was keen to get back to work and was able to start nurse training at London’s Southbank University.
I was so excited to start training, and found there was so much choice. In Croatia I could only do general nursing or midwifery, whereas there were more options here, so I went into children’s nursing.
I did most of my placements here at both Queen’s and King George hospitals and really enjoyed it. English was my second language so that was a bit of a challenge, however, I was well supported and soon overcame it.
My first nursing job was on Clover ward at King George Hospital, I was so proud. Then I moved to Tropical Lagoon ward at Queen’s. It was there that the quality and safety advisor role for child health came up. It was a dilemma whether to do it as I really enjoyed nursing and being hands on with my patients, however, I fell in love with it and felt it was right for me.
My next step was becoming quality and safety lead nurse for our Trust. That was really exciting as, along with the team, I had the opportunity to make changes to improve patient safety, giving our patients a better experience and better outcomes.
Tell us more about how you and Dalibor met and decided to move to another country together so young…
We grew up in the same village and I knew him for a long time. I never thought he would become my husband! We got together when I was 16.
We married once we moved here when I was 17 and he was 21. It seems crazy now that we left our families and came here so young; however, I didn’t see it like that at the time, it was like a school trip. The main reason we came was for a better future.
My family are very proud of everything I’ve achieved and we go home to visit our parents every two to three months, we’re actually about to go there for the Easter break.
What do you do to relax?
I like to listen to music and read. I also love a beach holiday! We’ll visit Croatia again this summer but we’ll also make sure we get away to a nice sunny beach somewhere.
And I love spending time with my children, they’re older now so I can have serious conversations with them, and I find myself learning from them. Petar is interested in sport and exercise so wants to do something related to that, Vanja is not so sure but is interested in the pharmacy route. They actually quite like having a young mum, and sometimes I don’t feel old enough to have two teenage kids!
My husband is often the stricter parent so I have to remind him we were young once, not too long ago…