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From PM to Thornfields Trainer - Maria's Story

Like many people I’ve worked alongside for years, I was a hard-working, increasingly busy and challenged practice manager. What made me decide that I should change my working hours to four days per week from five (with the same workload!) I’ll never know.

But that’s what I did when I saw an FPM advert in 2016, asking for people who would be interested in becoming self-employed Thornfields Associate Trainers. 

From PM to trainer

My dad had been a college lecturer and teaching had been my ‘original dream’ when I was at school, but it never came to fruition. Maybe this was my chance to achieve the dream. I’ve always enjoyed sharing the knowledge, methods and tools I have acquired and developed. I like helping people and seeing them flourish. I wrote the application.

A few weeks later, I went to Leeds for a two-day induction. There I met Charan and Gerry – our ‘to be’ line managers. We listened, learned and then had an opportunity to showcase our presentation skills. I remember feeling as though my slides and notes were fairly basic, especially when I listened to the other people’s. Some were teachers already, some from government bodies and others were from private industry. A real mixed bag! I hoped my first attempt at ‘pretend training’ would be good enough. I received a warm round of applause, a clearly honest accolade from the audience which reassured me that ‘you can do this’! Charan said that my method of sharing information was genuine and believable. I was accepted into the ranks of Thornfields! 

Time is precious

The first piece of advice I was given at Induction stuck with me... get one area of knowledge under your belt before moving on to another. Build your confidence and competence. I did this – delivering Signposting and Correspondence Management in those early days – great was the demand! Now, when I look back, it feels so long ago as I’m now delivering over 20 different subject areas and learning more each month. I still design and deliver straight-forward, easy to understand, honest training – I have the benefit of years of experience in primary care, so I know what it’s like and how important it is to fully understand processes and to gain as much relevant training as you can, when you can. Time is precious for NHS staff.

A couple of years ago, just before Covid-19 set in, I found myself inspired to write and talk about Social Prescribing. Having worked in primary care for so many years, I could see and almost ‘feel’ the difference that non-medical, personalised and socially-focused support could make to people’s lives, particularly the most vulnerable and isolated in our communities. I asked Thornfields if I could write a course for them. They said ‘yes’! Six months later, there were two and a half full days of training in Social Prescribing. My baby! I was delighted. The course was made available to clients. 

Since then, I have written and updated several courses for Thornfields. I work closely with Gerry and Charan on course content and I make sure my offerings reflect the professional, client-focused services that Thornfields is known for.

Building rapport between tutor and candidates

The rapport I have built with my delegates is greater than in any training I have ever delivered; I feel like I have entered each person’s life in a meaningful way that I had never anticipated. I talk to them in their busy offices and in their living rooms (with cat/dog alongside often). I have met pets, children and partners and we have shared some challenging experiences from technical difficulties resolved by a tech-savvy spouse appearing from nowhere to ‘save the day’ to sudden calls from school saying that a child is sick and they need to collecting without delay! Nothing has stopped us from getting through this. The dedication and devotion to ILM has been incredible and very humbling.

Expect the unexpected…the show must go on!

I wasn’t expecting to have to spend several hours doing ‘mop up’ of a half day’s training because a delegate had to attend an unavoidable hospital appointment – but I have done, several times! I wasn’t expecting to have to send through PDFs of slides to support somebody’s need for ‘visual guidance’ due to their specific communication needs – but I did. I wasn’t expecting a delegate to ask to attend sessions without camera use ‘because I don’t like being on camera’ – but they did ask, and I did say ‘No’ - and they did come on camera!

Mother’s pride..

Emotionally, the feeling of delight when a great draft comes through—or when a final submission arrives that hits all the right notes—makes me feel like a proud mother! Similarly, I feel deflated when they miss the mark and send through a half-hearted effort. To write the word ‘referral’ is a challenging but necessary downside to the job.

I get the teeth-clenching frustration of those who send through part-finished drafts asking, ‘am I on the right track?’ Honest answer: ‘No! finish it then ask..!’ Actual answer: ‘Yes, but here’s a bit of guidance that will help you. Please send it to me again when you’ve finished the draft’.

I have had the joy of sending out congratulatory emails to those who have passed the ILM Qualification without question. I have also had the disappointment and sadness associated with telling those who have had multiple referrals that they have not been successful on this occasion.

Why we do it

The money? No. The kudos? No. The experience? No. Because I care! I love to help people and to see them achieve great things. ILM is a great achievement. It’s a journey for everyone—full of surprises and challenges—that I would recommend to anybody with a taste for adventure and advancement. 

Long live ILM!

To find out more about our ILM courses and awards, and to book yourself a place, please visit our ILM training pages or contacts us on 0333 240 4055.


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