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by Valeria Fiore
26 February 2018

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How firefighting helps me run my practice

About six years ago, Ryan Smith was told that the closest fire station to his Stafforshire village Eccleshall was ten miles away.

As Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service were looking for personnel, his curiosity sparked and he did not hesitate to join the retained on-call firefighter scheme.

Today, as a practice manager at Abbey Medical Centre in Kenilworth, he continues to fight fires both outside and – metaphorically – inside his practice.

Starting out

‘I never thought I would become a firefighter. I didn’t think I had the physical attributes to become one, but I did the training, some testing and I got on the 12-week-long course,’ recalls Ryan, who shares his free time between firefighting and his three children.

Ryan has not been a practice manager for as long as he has been a firefighter. After years spent working for a corporate business, his first encounter with general practice started when he got a position as an operation manager.

Two years ago, he began his career as a practice manager for a sole GP provider. Despite being fairly new to the job, Ryan believes that being a firefighter helps him as a practice manager.

‘As Staffordshire fire and rescue firefighters, we receive a lot of clinical input. We are trained by the ambulance service to give casualty care at road traffic accidents or fires. We give oxygen, check pulse rates. If there is any bleeding or burns we can help with that.

‘This really helps me as a practice manager, as it gives me the authority to deal with clinical people. Traditionally, practice managers are entirely non-clinical,’ Ryan said.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Apart from having gained clinical knowledge, Ryan found that training as a firefighter really helped him improve his problem-solving skills – an asset to have as a practice manager.

Ryan tries to address some of the current hot topics in general practice with enthusiasm. He acknowledges that as a practice manager he has to cope with limited funding and recruitment issues but his experience as firefighter comes in handy even with these issues.

‘As a firefighter, going through such horrific incidents puts everything into perspective,’ he says. ‘So if we are one nurse or one GP down on one day, it’s not that bad. It’s manageable.’

‘An excellent practice manager’

After a CQC inspection in 2016, Abbey Medical Centre was rated outstanding. But this is not the only reason why Ryan makes an excellent practice manager, in his colleague’s opinion.

GP partner at Abbey Medical Centre Dr Larvinder Madan said: ‘Ryan is an excellent practice manager and the best practice manager we have ever had.

‘He is extremely hard-working and has outstanding communication skills. He effectively bridges the gap between the partners and all the staff as he has an excellent relationship with all the partners and the practice staff.

‘He deals very well with pressure and stress and remains good humoured and optimistic at all times.

He often represents the practice at CCG and federation meetings and has the full confidence of the partners when he does so.

Ryan Smith was rated number 11 on the MiP list, Management in Practice’s list of 25 outstanding practice managers.