Lorraine Whitehead started her career NHS career in the 1980s as an admin trainee as a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) trainee, the equivalent of an apprenticeship today.   

She is now director of estates, facilities and PFI at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM) which covers Royal Stoke and County Hospital in Stafford.   

Lorraine said: “When I was in my final year at school, I didn’t really have a plan, but I just knew I wanted to work rather than go to college.  I left school with a handful of GCSEs and a belly full of passion to work hard and make a difference in life.  The NHS was a perfect fit for me in this regard.   

“I was inspired and supported by amazing colleagues and secured my first managerial role five years later as trust residences manager.   This introduced me to the world of estates/facilities management, and I fell in love with the staff and the profession.  I managed all estates/facilities management departments over the next 15 years, and then secured the deputy director role in 2005 and the director role in 2017. 

“I enjoy all aspects of my job, the wide scope and varied nature of the role and the fact that no two days are ever the same.  There are some amazing, talented people in estates and facilities management, the unsung heroes of the NHS in my view. 

“I love the difference we make through the delivery of our services to patients.  There are so many touch points with patients as soon as they arrive on site.  We can make such a difference to their care journey and experience, and that makes me feel so proud.   I am passionate about UHNM’s success, and it has been said that if you cut me in half, you would see UHNM straight through the middle!” 

“I try not to dwell too much on the past but there are things I would have done differently.   I struggled with self-confidence, and imposter syndrome in the early stages of my career.  I was constantly comparing myself with others and placed too much pressure on myself to be super-human.  Professional studies and qualifications were a challenge, but I am proud of completing two degrees and a masters on a part-time basis over many years, juggling the competing priorities of work, family and studies.   

“We have amazing staff at UHNM who continue to inspire me every day with the support they provide to one another through small acts of kindness and sharing of personal stories.  I have also been very fortunate to have met some brilliant leaders over the years, inspiring me to achieve my best. 

“I still pinch myself some days when thinking about what I have achieved in my career, and I am living proof that you can start as an apprentice (in my case YTS trainee), and you can reach the top of your organisation.  My top tips for anyone considering an apprenticeship would be: 

  • Don’t doubt yourself – if others say you are good, that’s probably because you are. 
  • Be authentic – treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself and the rest will follow. 
  • Maximise opportunities – be brave and courageous and embrace the unknown.   
  • Enjoy, have fun and don’t take life too seriously – your enjoyment will be infectious to others.   
  • Be kind – starting with being kind to you.  
  • Reach for the stars – you never know what you will find up there. “