From Associate to Alumni – The Journey through NHS Horizons

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From Associate to Alumni – The journey through NHS Horizons

by Nina Jaspal

Hi readers, my name is Nina Jaspal a Cardiac Nurse by background and Clinical Associate for NHS Horizons soon to be alumni member as my secondment position comes to a close. I am so excited to bring you this blog as I take you through this whirlwind experience of working with NHS Horizons.

How it started…

Where to even start, let me take you back to the very beginning, it may get emotional. It all started in October 2021! I saw the job advertised via NHS England external vacancies, I had always been a person that enjoyed making improvements, even when I first qualified as a nurse in 2014. I love the thrill of seeing a process or problem and trying to figure out the best way in which to tackle it head on to ensure a desirable outcome for staff and also patients.

The job advert was looking for someone dynamic that had a real interest in quality improvement, someone that wanted to build their clinical transformational capabilities to make large scale change happen across health and care. I remember reading this and thinking WOW, I had to apply and put myself out there, I wasn’t sure I would even get shortlisted but we must have more fear of regret than failure.

I was over the moon when I received my notification for interview, the interview was set in two stages, the interview and a 1:1 with the director of NHS Horizons Kathryn Perera. I was so excited initially the idea of having a 1:1 with an NHS director didn’t even dawn on me! I remember being enriched in the fabulous social movement NHS Horizons is known for and resonating with their sketch notes, I just knew I had to bring my enthusiasm and passion for change to the forefront. Both parts of the interview felt like an informal discussion, I was put at ease, and encouraged to show the best of me, me as a QI enthusiast, an authentic inclusive leader, me as just me. They say that interviews are a great opportunity for the interviewee to assess whether this is a good fit for you and it couldn’t be more right, I knew I wanted to work in this team and it became a reality in August 2022.

What I’ve learnt…

My reflections over the last six months have been a bottomless pot of gold at the end of that rainbow in terms of learning, networking, coaching and creating social influence to motivate and mobilise urgency for change. Divergent thinking has unleashed unhidden talents and skills that have been transferable across the health and care sector.

The learning aspect of working for NHS Horizons has allowed me to think more broadly and creatively in terms of large-scale change and how important co -production is when facing a national issue. Its about bringing ‘experts’ together, across the field of health and care, in an open forum where we can learn, share and support one another as a community of change agents. A platform in which we listen to opinions and ideas from all our people, those that deliver care and those that receive it, our lived experience partners and it’s about being connected by that golden thread of our shared purpose. The value of co-production within healthcare allow us to deliver the outcomes that actually matter to our people, by connecting us as human beings working towards social justice and empowering our people and building capacity from start to finish. One such example of this concept is Solving Together, an initiative I have had the privilege of leading a project on. To find out more about this approach you can visit and register by clicking the link. Welcome (

I have also had the privilege of working with transformational improvement experts during my time at Horizons and can say I have learnt from some of the best in the world. As a clinician, I knew my value was in portraying my clinical views and judgement on specific pieces of work that Horizons led on. However my experience was so much more, I learnt the art of facilitation. The importance of bringing the right people together, enabling groups to discuss issues and opportunities around a shared objective and developing agreed strategies for a clear direction to move forward. I remember this concept being terrifying at the start, the thought of facilitating a session in which I was no expert, but the true value of facilitation comes from ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to be heard, setting boundaries and managing time and holding people to account towards that shared purpose. A skill that is so vital in any role in an organisation.


As part of my placement  with NHS Horizons, I had three dedicated sessions  with , Jude Goddard, who is a former NHS Director as well as a behavioural scientist and qualified coach. You can read more about coaching with Jude in her very own blog by clicking here. The idea of coaching being a key concept within my secondment allowed me to identify my learning objectives, what really matters to me, my goals for the future and a plan to lay foundations in order to meet set objectives. The concept of coaching is fairly new within health and social care, we see a shift from the previous mentoring model.

The idea behind coaching is to create that psychological safe space for open dialogue in which a coach probes questions to seek out answers that we all have within us. The approach is individualised to what you want to achieve from having a coach, whether this be career development, or self-development, the opportunity allows you to find your direction, reach your potential and keep you on track with your why. For me, it allowed me to target my efforts in gaining a permanent position in the world of improvement and following my NHS Horizons posting I will be joining the Kaizen Promotion Office at University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust as they continue to embark on their partnership with Virginia Mason Institute aiming toward lean healthcare.

Spreading your influence

The science behind social influencing and adapting this to healthcare is no myth, and something I will be taking forth in my quest to success. Believe it or not, people actually want to hear your opinion, and the power you can create through a visible platform is not to be underestimated. As social media guru Leigh Kendall has previously described social media nowadays represents a global shift in how people from all around the world can connect with one another. This shift is clearly apparent in the health and care system as it helps to break down traditional hierarchies, meaning patients, carers, health and care professionals have unprecedented opportunities to build networks, learn and share with one another – and influence positive change.

This has allowed for that old vs new power dynamic, which is discussed during the School for Change Agents to unleash opportunities for us as individuals to create a space in which we have influence to take charge of what matters most to us and by doing so creating an energy for change, building that momentum and creating a spectrum of allies through networks and connections via platforms such as twitter. By moving away from that top down hierarchical structure of power only being held by a few to engagement and empowerment of our staff at local level to be in the driver’s seat of testing and implementing continuous change as they see fit. Afterall those of us that do the work, know our work the best! You can read more about my journey with School by following the link. My journey with School! – NHS Horizons (

An example of this in action has been working in collaboration with British Sikh Nurses and the Resuscitation Council to deliver CPR workshops and cardiovascular health education to the Sikh community at local Gurdwaras to bridge the gap of health inequalities in a community that is adversely affected by cardiovascular disease. The social influence of this movement has allowed for local gurdwaras to get in touch and has spread the amazing work carried out by this organisation and with the power of social influence, this is just the beginning.

Working with NHS Horizons over the last six months on a part time basis has been a whistle stop tour in my continuous improvement journey. It has taught me how large-scale change can occur at pace in the improvement world. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity and this platform for which I have built up great networks, connections and relationships with some truly inspirational people.

The value of relationships when enacting change must never be forgotten and something I will always hold true to. Once you have found your power and have been given a platform, it’s your duty to pass that baton on to the next person. My blogs for socials of the week have highlighted my enthusiasm of just this, ensuring I give back to the world of health and social care by allowing others a platform to showcase their amazing work in improvement. One such example is Jessie Dhaliwal also known as @ThePaedsNurse with her amazing digital sketch notes that have given creativity a new meaning, they absolutely rock!

Over and Out…

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my journey from Associate to Alumni, a big thank you to all the team at NHS Horizons for the support and amazing experiences. This is just the beginning.  

Readers, please remember to always take the opportunities that present themselves, think about how you can do them later, because the only opportunities we regret, are the ones we didn’t take.

Horizons over and out!

Sketchnote by: Jessie Dhaliwal also known as @ThePaedsNurse depicting Nina’s time at NHS Horizons