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Meet Jo Nolan (née Evans, Pilgrims, 1980)

Date Posted: Tuesday 11 August 2020

We spoke with Jo Nolan (née Evans, Pilgrims, 1980) who is the Hospital Director for One Ashford Hospital. Since leaving Ashford and completing a degree in Biology, Jo has managed hospitals, worked in the NHS, in the pharmaceutical industry and worked in a range of business development roles.

What is your current role? How has it been affected over the past few months by the Coronavirus outbreak? 

  • I am the Hospital Director for One Ashford Hospital and during the Coronavirus outbreak we have been working directly with our local NHS Trust to operate on cancer and trauma patients. This has come about as part of the national NHS Mobilisation scheme and we stopped our regular work at the end of March to provide a Covid free site for treating the most vulnerable patients. To date we have treated over 300 patients and we have been very proud to be able to work in partnership with the NHS at this time. 

What has been most challenging for the Hospital?  

  •  Our most challenging part has been to maintain a Covid free hospital. We have adopted very strict infection control measures so we can protect the patients coming to One Ashford Hospital and to ensure our staff were also protected so we could continue with this valuable service we have been offering. 

What have you been doing to look after your wellbeing ? 

  • Working hours have been very long during the past few months, but my garden has been my outlet for relaxation. Also, keeping in touch with friends and family via Zoom, doing virtual pubs, virtual Sunday dinner and even virtual band practice as I play the saxophone with Ashford Concert Band. 

What positives will you take away from this  experience?  

  • We mobilised into this new way of working within 2 weeks and it shows how adaptable you can be when you need to in times of crisis. Communication with the whole hospital team was crucial so they understood all the steps we were taking and overall, we feel very proud we could support the NHS, in a small way, by treating cancer patients in our hospital. 

How do you think your time at Ashford School impacted you? 

  • Ashford School, even all those years ago, ensured girls were empoweredand were given confidence to question and debate ideas. We were taught to be respectful of other people’s opinions and to be able to form our own thoughts and notions. From the junior to the senior School it was a great environment to learn and work in teams, whether through sport or music and drama. The grounding I had at Ashford School has given me the confidence in what I do today 

Tell us about your favourite memory and/or favourite teacher at Ashford School.

  • During my Junior School days the swimming pool was outside and always very cold but the memory of having to change in the rose garden, and the challenge to be the first one to dive in still lives with me today and, despite all that, I still love swimming and am an avid scuba diver now! My favourite teacher was Mr Wordsworth, my maths teacher. His lessons were brilliant, fun and gave me a real love for maths, something I need when running the business side of the hospital. 

During your time at Ashford School, was there a  particular moment  or person that inspired you?  

  • I loved music and drama and performing on stage was important to me. As a shy young person
    singing on stage taught me to be confident, to be part of a group with a shared passion and enjoy those special moments. However, it also taught me to be very competitive. In the Prep School, we often took part and won many interschool singing competitions. I liked winning and I felt proud to win for Ashford School and for everyone in the choir (we were known as the Red Fire Engines due to the lovely red jumpers we wore). 

What made you choose your current career path?  

  • After leaving school, I did a degree in Biology, and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over 20 years in sales and marketing. During that time, I also did an Open University MBA and further developed into senior management positions. I joined the Healthcare industry about 15 years ago and have had the opportunity to work in both the NHS and the private sector. In private healthcare, not only are you running a hospital, with all the regulations and responsibilities that sit with that side of the organisation, but you are also running a business, and need to be accountable financially as well. Every day is a new challenge. 

What advice would you give to our current students?  

  •  You are the only person holding yourself back – take chances, and don’t be afraid to take roles that are outside of your comfort zone. I never knew what career my Biology Degree could lead to and have moved into new roles and new business sectors often by chance  

If you could give the UK general public one piece of advice right now what would it be? 

  • Wear a face mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands regularly.