Secretarial: I Work For ... - A very special effect

AMANDA ROBINSON WORKS FOR ROBERT CREIGHTON, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF GREAT ORMOND STREET HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN
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The Independent Culture
There are many people happily working at Great Ormond Street who would run a mile from a normal hospital. I think one reason why no one finds this place sombre is because the place is brightly coloured and full of the sounds of children, and we also deliberately avoid giving the place that hospital smell by using a special type of disinfectant. But above all Great Ormond Street has a special, uplifting feeling to it which comes from knowing that the patients, many of whom are seriously ill, are receiving some of the best treatment they could possibly get. When I worked in the commercial sector I got very little sense of achievement from my job, but once here I realised that I wanted to stay and climb up the ladder, because I felt that my work was contributing to the care of children.

Christmas is our busiest time, but when the work gets too much I pop round to reception to see what's going on. Everything slides back into perspective when you see the children's faces light up with excitement at the sight of Father Christmas and two double-decker buses arriving to take them to see the Christmas lights. From my office I've also been able to see the kids dashing in and out of the boardroom where each ward holds its Christmas party, and there's plenty to get involved in at this time of year. We've already had the Christmas play given by the pupils of the hospital's school, and a carol service with mince pies and non- alcoholic mulled wine in our special chapel.

A lot of the children will go home for Christmas, but for those who have to stay in hospital we make sure that they have the best time they possibly can, by fitting their party around them. I've only recently realised that Robert, my boss, spends every Christmas Day here with his wife and two 10-year-old twin daughters - working here really helps you to realise what Christmas should be about.

With his jolly disposition and love of children, Robert is perfectly suited to his job. He is very keen that the patients' parents should be able to bring any worries or concerns they have direct to him, so he can look into the matter himself. Knowing the pain that your own child is going through must be the worst kind of suffering. All our work is for the benefit of patient care, but it's not until you speak to the parents that you get an idea of how it feels to be at the receiving end of the services we provide. As a result, the contact I have with the parents is one of the things I most appreciate about my job.

I also spend a lot of my day arranging programmes for international visitors who come to us for advice, and liaising with those who support and donate money to the hospital. But for the most part I work on keeping Robert in order, which I enjoy because he's calm, unflappable and easy to control. I'm highly organised myself and I find that it is much easier to sort things out if you don't panic. I was put on to our newsletter committee because I am in touch with all the departments and therefore know what's going on. For example, I always notify the editor about any imminent VIP visit since we often have pop stars coming in to see the children.

The other day I accidentally knocked into one of Boyzone, when they came to open our haemophilia unit, which was rather embarrassing. But many personalities come on low-profile visits, as Diana, Princess of Wales often used to. Knowing that someone is visiting out of the good of their own head rather than for press attention makes you respect him or her all the more.

Charities also regularly send us puppet shows and clowns to make the kids laugh and we recently started inviting animals on to the wards, including a little leopard cub, because they were recognised as really good therapy for kids.

Since I know most of the staff through working in the Chief Executive's office, I have been invited to all the different departments' Christmas parties, most of which are on the same night. Robert will pop along to each of them, too, but I know that he will only stay for one drink because he's aware that while he's there everyone will be on their best behaviour and will hold back - he's really quite understanding in that respect. He also made sure to send a message to all his staff, via his usual column in the newsletter, to remind them to have a really good break this Christmas. I think that everyone spends so much time at the office that the nature of both the boss and the workplace tends to affect the whole of your life, so it's a real bonus to be able to enjoy work as much as I do. I try not to go on about the hospital when I'm with my friends, but if they are interested I will always tell them of the latest fundraising film premiere or concert, and mention that we always need people on hand to shake collection tins.

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