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Wendy Matthews OBE tells graduates: communication is the key to success


Wendy, speaking at UEL’s graduation ceremony on 18 July, stressed how important it is to work together. “As you go forward from today into your chosen areas of work, always remember to support one another, look after each other, work collaboratively, embrace diversity and check in frequently with one another.”

Shabir Randeree, chancellor of UEL, conferred the title of Honorary Doctorate of Science upon Wendy Matthews at the ceremony, held at ExCeL London, Docklands.

Wendy told graduates during the ceremony that communication is the key to success and it is vital to listen and engage, never taking anything for granted. She said, “Pressures at work and home are huge in today’s society, affecting not only physical but mental health also. The power of psychological wellbeing can never be underestimated in improving health.”

Wendy was awarded an OBE for services to midwifery in May 2018, in recognition of her leadership in making huge improvements to the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust’s maternity department, where she was deputy chief nurse, lead for patient experience and engagement director of midwifery.

Wendy encourage students to never give up, regardless of what life throws at them.

She said, “I was diagnosed with breast cancer, just after I had been successful in getting a new job as director of nursing. I wasn’t going to give up and after receiving six months’ worth of treatment, which included a lengthy surgery and radiotherapy, I was back into work.”

Passionate about excellent patient care, her professional journey is a great example of drive and motivation. Wendy was born in Rochford, Essex in 1963 and attended Ursuline Grammar School in Brentwood. Even at a young age Wendy knew that a 9 to 5 office job wasn’t for her.

In 1984 Wendy qualified as a nurse and spent six months as a surgical nurse and then six months as a medical nurse. She soon moved to St Margaret’s Hospital in Epping, Essex. Wendy says she gained real hands-on experience at St Margaret’s, which helped her make the decision to pursue midwifery.

Wendy later took a position as a qualified midwife at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow. She quickly worked her way up the ladder and in 1997 became director of women and children services.

Seeking another challenge, Wendy took a job in 2012 at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust as director of midwifery. At the time, the Trust was delivering 10,000 babies each year between two hospital sites and was one of the worst maternity units in the country. Wendy’s friends and colleagues thought she was “mad” for wanting to work there, but Wendy was excited.

She says, “I couldn’t wait. I wanted a challenge. Putting patients at the centre of everything we do has always been the ethos of my practice as a nurse and midwife. I was determined to make a change.”

Within three years, Wendy and her team helped create a much safer maternity unit, transforming a service criticised as ‘failing’ by the Care Quality Commission into a service rated as ‘good’. Wendy worked closely with commissioners and neighbouring providers and reconfigured inpatient maternity services into one hospital site.

Wendy was delighted to be receiving an Honorary Doctorate and ended her speech by paying tribute to the families and friends who had supported the graduates throughout their journey.

Finally she reminded the audience to always treat people with kindness.

She said, “I feel so honored to be here today and to have been awarded this Honorary Doctorate by UEL. Remember to always treat your clients/patients as individuals, with care and compassion.”

Photo credit UEL for all photos