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What’s it like being a... practice manager in an NHS practice? Sheena McCormick

Blog Author Sheena McCormick

Blog Date 04/10/2019

Sheena McCormick is a practice manager for a busy NHS mixed dental practice in Buckinghamshire, based over two sites. She tells us how she manages to juggle managing a large team, as well as working on NHS procurement tenders, to ensure the business continues to thrive. 



My alarm goes off….

As a bit of an insomniac my wake-up time varies, but it's usually around 6am. I potter about the house multi-tasking (un-loading dishwasher, loading the washing machine) then walking the dog (a 12-year old border terrier named Ruby) before I leave to drive to work.

I like to arrive before most of the team to get myself organised and help last minute prep for the day ahead.


I'm responsible for…

Two practices and a huge team: 43 people including all our employed staff and self- employed associates.

We have three NHS contracts between the practices (two specialist orthodontic contracts and a small NHS dental contract). We also have a large proportion of private clients too.

Our two practices are only five-miles apart, so commuting is relatively easy, outside of the Milton Keynes rush hour!


I got the job

As a dental-phobe in my younger days, I would never have imagined I would end up working in a dental practice.

I am a qualified HR Manager and Business Consultant and learned my skills in the finance industry. I was made redundant after 18 years, and I wanted to test myself in a smaller private organisation.

I came across a tiny advert for a dental practice manager in our local paper and thought it sounded intriguing, so I applied. The practice needed a business manager to support the principals with planning and organising and someone with people management experience and great leadership skills. Two Interviews later, I got the job – and it's coming up for 10 years now in the role, and still love it.

My typical day

Because we have such a large team, I am lucky to have reception managers and lead nurses to help manage day to day operations and support team members. They also support me with audits and compliance.

Every day when I arrive I check in with everybody in the practice. Just saying "Good morning" goes a long way and helps set the tone for the day.

I catch up with the reception manager and our lead nurse to identify priorities and share any issues/concerns or highlights for the day ahead. The team set everything up, and after some last-minute checks to ensure everything is as it should be, I'll head to my office.

Most of my work comes by email, and I organise my day with the help of a "To Do" list, and according to demands, priorities and at what stage of the month/year we are at.

For example, our payroll takes most of the last few days of the month, so I always keep these free to focus on this. Monitoring the contracts, NHS claims and our performance is constant and by keeping a keen eye on this enables me to change the diary plans or re-direct resources if need be.

We got a lot of feedback from patients, which is a fabulous thing. I monitor this closely and ensure I respond immediately to any negative comments or complaints, and I make sure I share the positive comments that regularly come through to us too, as it's great for the team to hear how valued they are.

Being proactive is a key skill in my job – I always seem to be planning or organising for something whether its team meetings, training, recruitment, building work, maintenance, deep cleans. 

The list is endless and to be honest, that's what I love about the job. No two days are ever the same!


My biggest achievement to date

Completing NHS procurement tenders! 

The enormous responsibility attached to this is frightening. Putting our business on full display for commissioners and ensuring you provide evidence to support all the reasons why you should be the chosen NHS provider. It's essential in securing the future of the business and all our jobs at the practice.

It's been a long and stressful process and quite mind-blowing at times, but it has really utilised all my skills and revitalised my project management expertise, as well as giving me and our principals an opportunity to really work closely together.

Fingers crossed it will be worth the huge effort that we have put in!


The worst part of my job…

Not having enough hours in the day to achieve everything you want to!

The time goes so quickly and I'm always conscious there is so much to do to keep driving the business and the team forward.

I have to really discipline myself to stop work and take time out – that's a bit sad really, but I honestly thrive on getting things done.

The best part of my job…



The people and the environment.

Working in a small business isn't for everyone and coupled with the fact that you have to be a "Jack of all trades" and "everything to everyone" can be over-whelming and demanding. 

But for me, I love it. I've learned so much more about business, people and particularly NHS organisations. I would never have imagined I would have such variety in a job and I work with such a great team of people. And it's great to see the positive impact we can have on our patients lives.

After work…

Time spent with my family or socializing with friends, particularly over a glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc (NZ) are my favourite things.

My husband and I also enjoy weekend breaks in the UK discovering new places and taking time out from our busy work schedules, reminding ourselves how much we still have a strong relationship after 35 years of marriage – now that's an achievement!

My Plan B

We've just bought a house in France so if I wasn't doing this job, I'd definitely be there more, updating my French language skills and carving out a new way of life!

Sheena McCormick, Practice Manager



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