About us

Max is Southend’s first male matron

09 May 2017

Health Care

Max Ndongwe is Southend University Hospital’s first ever male matron and if he looks fresh-faced that’s because at 34, he is the youngest matron ever at the Trust. It’s a role he has held at the hospital since he started six months ago and is a role he has been working towards for the past 12 years.

Max said that being a man in a role stereotypically held by a woman hasn't been an issue. He said: "Staff I'm working with see beyond the gender, they just see me as a leader but I think that is a little different with the patients as traditionally it has very much been a role led by women.

"Some people have said shouldn't I be called Patron instead, one of my patients even knitted a doll for me in my colours, which they lovingly called Mantron, it still sits on my desk. Ultimately though, patients do see beyond it. It can be a great ice-breaker. The way I have been received by both patients and fellow staff has been amazing; it has been a real positive experience for me."

As a young, black ethnic minority, matron Max is something of a trailblazer and his journey has been inspiring to other male nurses. He said: "A number of male nurses have asked me to mentor them so that they can follow the steps that I took; I'm currently mentoring a male surgical nurse who wants to gain more clinical leadership."

When it comes to nursing in general though, men are still in the minority and make up only 11.4% of nurses in the UK, but that is something that Max believes is shifting. He said: "Nursing is changing, more men are coming into nursing, and I think that is now seen as more of a profession than as a vocation."

Max was also very clear and what he saw the role of a Matron being. He said: "Matrons are the voice for the nurses and HCAs. We bring the essence of what is happening on the shop floor, bridging a vital gap between what is happening on the ward and the operational team.. Our fingers are on the pulse of what is happening in our areas, all of which helps give the operational team the assurance that we are all working together to provide a safe environment for patients and practitioners..

And that engagement of clinicians in the leadership and management engagement process is something that Max applauds.

He said: "I'm really pleased to say that we do have excellent clinical leadership here at Southend with managing Director, Yvonne Blücher and Director of Nursing, Denise Townsend, both having strong nursing backgrounds. Clare Panniker, Chief Executive of the three Trusts (Basildon, Mid Essex and Southend) is also a former nurse and she is one of my heroes."

Max didn't always want to be a nurse though; he spent his first year after high school studying computer programming, but, being a people person, found it completely boring.

Nursing runs in his family as his mum is a nurse, his sister and cousin are nurses and his brother-in-law is an operating department practitioner. It was very much a career choice that his mum made him promise tonotgo into though.

Max explained:  "My mum felt she had sacrificed a lot to provide for us and she didn't want me to sacrifice the same.  To be fair she is partly to blame for me breaking that one and only promise. She helped get me some paid work at a care home and that was where my passion for nursing was born. I absolutely loved it.

"My mum is very proud of me, when I qualified and wore my gown, she cried. She has been the most supportive person in my career and is still giving me advice and tips. I'm so proud of her as well, I wouldn't be where I am today without her."