31st March 2020

From Dreamer to Student Leader

By Alicia Burnett, third year student midwife, University of West London

I have always wanted to help people but I have not always been sure about how to make this dream a reality. Through studying midwifery I have found my place in the world, and by gaining a place on the Student Leadership Programme, I can see myself becoming a leader as a midwife!

I completed my children’s nursing degree in 2015, and over the next eighteen months worked on general paediatric wards and in a busy children’s accident and emergency department. I was quite happy working as a children’s nurse and particularly liked caring for babies and children with chronic illnesses, but I always felt that an area of my skills and knowledge remained under-developed — I had no insight into the journeys of women and babies before I became involved in their care, so I began to look into the role of the midwife. It sounded great! The only problem was that the NHS Bursary I had benefitted from throughout my nurse training was being withdrawn from August 2017. I was not keen to enter into further debt (I was still paying off the student loan from my first degree!), so I took a chance and applied to every university in London with intakes before the withdrawal deadline, and managed to get into my first choice university!

It was not easy. I found some of the complex physiological processes difficult to get to grips with, and began doubting whether giving up my nursing career and steady income to become a student again, was wise. But towards the end of my first year everything clicked into place, and I felt confident that becoming a midwife was the right choice for me. My confidence grew further in my second year, when one of my essays was accepted for publication in The Student Midwife Journal, and I was invited to become an editorial board member!

Through studying midwifery, I have developed an interest in the alarming maternal mortality statistics for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women in the UK, and have been reflecting upon how I could combat these health inequalities. I concluded that in order to bring about meaningful change when I qualify, I needed to develop leadership skills that were not being cultivated by my degree programme. So I took another chance and applied for the Student Leadership Programme. I was absolutely delighted when I found out that I was selected as one of 150 Leaders!

I was extremely nervous the week before the start of the programme, so I arranged to meet 150 Leaders alumni Zoe Carciente, for tips about how to make the most of the welcome event and the programme as a whole. She advised me that I would get out of the programme what I put into it, and that I should use the opportunity to network with multidisciplinary and allied health professionals. I also contacted my lovely buddy Abbie Rich, who told me to make an effort to speak to as many people as possible.

The 2020 cohort of 150 Leaders gathered in Reading on the 10th of March for an amazing two day welcome event. The excitement of the first day was etched on everybody’s faces and everyone listened intently to Dr Katerina Kolyva’s welcome speech. We took part in ice-breakers and group activities, repeatedly changed seats to give us the chance to meet different people, and listened to inspirational speakers including 150 Leaders alumni, Stacy Johnson MBE, Professor Nigel Harrison, Joanne Bosanquet MBE and Adele Nightingale. Wanting to proudly represent midwifery during the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, I convinced fellow student midwife Barbara McLeod-Montani to join me in wearing red to dinner that evening, as the Royal College of Midwifery (RCM) is using red to symbolise the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. Dinner was another opportunity to network and socialise, and I found myself discussing a broad range of topics including intersectionality, LGBTQIA advocacy and the role of nursing associates.

The Student Leadership Programme has changed my life — and it has only just begun! I have been introduced to my coach Beverley Al-Azzawi and I am looking forward to getting to know her and working on my project. The programme has granted me the opportunity to meet a tremendous range of like-minded, trainee multidisciplinary and allied healthcare professionals and I feel incredibly lucky. I look forward to where the programme will take me!


 

I’m not a leader…?

By Becca Lennox, first year adult nursing student, Liverpool John Moores University

Last year, I received an email telling me about a leadership programme. I thought, why am I being sent this; I’m not a leader?. I read about the programme and saw that there were only 50 places per year in the whole of the UK, not just for nursing and midwifery students, but for allied health professionals too. Despite thinking there would be no chance of gaining a place, I applied anyway. I had completely forgotten about it until December when I received an email to say I had been successful. What?!?  I got a place?! I read it a few times to check it was right. And, yep, I had been accepted.

I wondered, how could I go to a two-day event with all the 50 leaders that were selected? I am not a leader. Yes, the imposter syndrome had fully kicked in. We started to receive emails about the speakers and information about previous students and all the amazing things they are doing now. It didn’t take long for me to start researching everyone on Twitter. This did not help the imposter syndrome.

When I got to the venue in March, I was so nervous. I kept thinking, don’t be yourself and talk too much, and ruining it like you normally do. We began with lunch and I got talking to all these amazing students. Already the learning got underway. I didn’t know there were two types of radiographers – therapeutic and diagnostic.

The first speaker was Dr Katerina Kolyva, the Executive Director of the Council of Deans of Health who run the programme. It was lovely to hear her experiences and learn about the programme. We got to listen to previous students from last years cohort and it was really inspiring to hear all the things they have gained from the programme and all the projects they have been involved in. The imposter syndrome is still going…

Stacy Johnson MBE then spoke to us about inclusive leadership. By the end of her session, my mind had completely changed. She spoke about “being you, and be the you-est you” and I really resonated with that. Someone has seen the potential in me to be a leader and absolutely anyone can be a leader. I want to inspire others, a new generation, where it is okay to be a leader no matter your race, age or religion. If you want to apply for something but don’t think you’re “good” enough, then you do it because you are absolutely good enough. YOU ARE ENOUGH.

People talk about tribes and finding your tribe. I never really understood what that meant and was always a bit sceptical because I’ve never really felt like I’ve found my place anywhere, ever. I found mine with the other 49 leaders on this programme. Over the two days, we were encouraged to leave messages in boxes for our fellow leaders and when I was on the train back home, I read the messages others had written for me. I was expecting maybe 2 or 3, just a few words but I had 28 messages: big pieces of paper saying I was inspirational, that they had felt comfortable talking to me and they can’t wait to see what I do. I cried (a lot), happy tears. I never thought I would ever be so accepted. Thank you.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This is one of my favourite quotes and is something that has always stuck with me. I even got it tattooed at 18. To me, it means YOU make your future and YOU need to follow your dreams.


 

30th March 2020

Reflections on the journey so far

By Jemma Hughes

It has been two weeks since the Council of Deans of Health’s #150Leaders Conference took place in Reading. It was two days of inspiring stories, incredible people, and a true sense of community that will travel with me for a long time. And I almost never applied.

Imposter Syndrome has stalked me for as long as I can remember, and with the programme, it really put me off the idea of applying. But it was one of my university tutors who reached out and made me think again about putting in an application. What’s the worst that could happen, if I gave it a try. I am truly glad, and grateful, that I pushed myself and did give it that try. In December, I was truly shocked, and humbled, to receive one of the spaces in the 2020 #150Leaders cohort.

Fast forward to March, and walking into the conference, I was a tad nervous. It was a bit like the first day of university again. Would people talk to me, what was the day going to involve, were they sure it was me who deserved a place. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one who felt like this. There was also no need to be worried. There was a constant buzz of chatter, of laughter, of common ground being discovered and explored. We were encouraged to push ourselves, stand up and present, challenge our own ideas and perspectives, learn about healthcare professions we don’t necessarily come across or know about, think about why we were sat in that room, why we had picked our professions, what drove us, what kind of leader did we want to be. I have never had the loudest voice in a room, or thought of myself as some kind of big leader, but that was okay. What I took away from just the first few hours was that you can be your own kind of leader, and you are, and always will be, enough.

In the two weeks since the conference, the world is a completely new and, quite frankly, scary place, while the healthcare world has been completely turned on its head. I’ve finished my second placement of my second year, university has moved online, and how the rest of our midwifery course is going to look is constantly changing. We are all living in the unknown. But we are surviving, and those still working in universities, in society, in every family, are leading us into the unprecedented, and are doing an incredible job.

One thing that hasn’t completely changed over the last two weeks is that buzz from the conference. The #150Leaders are still checking in on each other. We still share bits of joy we’ve found during placement or university, swap ideas, support each other when it all seems a bit too much. Not only has the programme already pushed me to try new things, push my brain a bit harder, and delve into the world of Twitter, it has made me feel like part of a safe community. That can never be underestimated, or undervalued, especially in the world we now find ourselves in.

We’ve now got to continue to look forward. We’ve got coaching to commence, and projects to plan. Both may need a bit of tweaking to adapt to the current climate, but with the positivity and support that has been enforced through the #150Leaders programme, we have the tools to find the best in the situation, whilst still having each other’s backs.


 

5th January 2020

Students attend Healthcare Leadership Academy conference

A group of #150Leaders attended the Healthcare Leadership Academy Conference in December. Some of the students reflect on the opportunity to attend:


I am a yes woman. I try and say yes to every opportunity that comes my way that I know I will benefit from. Learning comes in so many forms, not just in the way of a lecture hall or clinical placement. So, when an invitation to the Healthcare Leadership Academy dropped in my inbox, I said yes! Yes to the conference and yes to spending some quality time with some of the #150Leaders and as it was in London, it was a win win for me!

When the conference agenda came through with the list of speakers, I had a quick glance and saw only one name that was familiar to me, previous conferences I’ve been to I’ve recognised most of the names. This conference was different to most that I have been to in the past couple of years, I’ve attended mainly conferences with nurses at the forefront, this conference was different in that it was medic heavy and it showed in the list of speakers. How fortunate to be able to attend a conference that was different to my norm. To hear about leadership and resilience from medics, to see the similarities that are discussed at other events discussed at the Healthcare Leadership Academy. In my mind, it cemented the importance of us all working together.

#150Leaders has the right idea, pairing students with coaches who are not from their direct field. There are huge benefits of inter-linking between different healthcare professionals to share ideas, give different views and build each other up. I can see a future potential with the Healthcare Leadership Academy, which appears to already have a strong foundation, in including more nurses and AHPs into the fold and this will enable more mentoring/coaching to happen across the different fields.

Zoe Carciente


A takeaway for me was that I recognised the importance of leadership in collaboration between healthcare professions, and that this collaboration can reach beyond direct health. Directions within our professions are looking for more innovative, globalised pathways that will unite and broaden our delivery of care. For example embracing new technologies, AI and centralised digital systems. We as future leaders need to embrace our ideas or our colleagues, through keeping momentum in our passion to delivery quality care.

Becky Crisp


The Healthcare Leadership Conference was a great opportunity to further develop my leadership skills. The day covered many interesting topics and I particularly enjoyed the workshops. The workshops allowed us to connect with medics, whilst comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences of our roles. In the future, it would be beneficial to see more student nurses at the conference to enable more shared learning and understanding of our role in practice.

Ricky Baker


One keynote speaker discussed equality, social injustice and overcoming barriers as women in leadership or ethnic minorities, while one keynote speaker highlighted that currently there is “snowy white peaks in healthcare leadership”, suggesting toxic masculinity and poor attitudes towards women in leadership, covering some really important topics which I feel passionate about and were important topics to present on within this conference.

Georgina Henry

30th October 2019

Reflections – Abbie Rich

Abbie is a student midwife at the University of Plymouth


I’m currently in my third-year of midwifery degree with the University of Plymouth and applied for the programme in my second-year. In all honesty, if you’d told me at the start of my degree that I’d have completed this programme, and the opportunities that have sprouted out of it, I would not have believed you. I was always that girl at school whose report said “very shy, needs to contribute more in class” and this followed me all the way through until my a-levels. I’ve always been a very “keep to myself” kind of person until I started midwifery and discovered my passion.

So why did I apply to the programme? Given the above, you probably think it’s a bit odd I applied. My first-year of midwifery training developed me as a person much further than I ever thought was possible. I saw the degree as a clean slate, and me finally undertaking the degree I’ve been so passionate about for so long! I started off by joining the midwifery society as a committee member, and by the end of my first-year I was the chair. I helped out at many open days and applicant interview days, utilising my own experience to support those starting off in the application process. By the end of the year, I’d also applied and been accepted as a peer-assisted leader (PALs) within my university, where in my second-year I’d support the first-years through their studies. Additionally, as I’d always been very active on twitter, I came across various career options I hadn’t once thought off, and combined with various academic interests I decided that perhaps I could achieve more!

I contacted others who had completed the programme, asking for advice on application but also about what they felt they gained and how it could benefit me. Leadership was a “buzz” word I had heard a lot about, but was unsure on what it meant exactly- did it mean management? Or was it deeper than that? And as it turned out, it was the latter. Leadership in midwifery is paramount to providing woman-centred, individualised care, through our role as advocates for women and their families. I hoped the programme would not only equip me with the knowledge in leadership required, but also an incredible opportunity to mix with other members of the multi-disciplinary team. And as I already held roles perceived as “leadership” roles, I felt these would be vital experiences to relate the leadership theory to.

The application asked me about my vision for my achievements within the next five-years, which I must admit, I underestimated it through my lack of awareness of the wider picture. Therefore, I will outline some of the amazing things I’ve been able to participate in within the last YEAR!

The first two-days in Reading were indescribable, there’s nothing quite like being in a room with like-minded individuals, who are not only passionate and aiming high, but also incredibly down-to-earth and kind. However, on the train journey there, I had this intense feeling that this wasn’t the place for someone like me. I wasn’t a leader? Who was I kidding? Why else would people taunt me that I’ll “never get anywhere” at school? But when I got talking to some of the other students on the programme, I felt like I’d found my people! I had the opportunity to learn more about the roles of varying professions, primarily the allied-health-professions within the group such as occupational therapists, osteopaths, paramedics and speech and language therapists to name a few; as well as some of the branches of nursing such as learning disability nursing, mental health nursing and children nursing. In addition to this, I got to meet four other fabulous student midwives who I ended up staying up very late with, discussing midwifery at length, and it was brilliant! The speakers discussed their journey to where they are, including their leadership journey and self-actualisation. Also- the food was GOOD.

Within a few weeks, I received my coach allocation. The team aim to match you with someone who is similar to you, who could also help you in realising and achieving your goals. I was incredibly lucky to be matched with Carmel Lloyd, Head of Education and Learning at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM). Within a month of being allocated, Carmel came to visit me at the University of Plymouth and she told me her professional journey, and an insight into her role at the RCM. We discussed lecturing, roles in education, as well as the issue of student midwife attrition and how we can retain these wonderful students who worked so hard to get on the course. I learnt of the Reducing Pre-registration Attrition and Improving Retention (RePAIR) trial and how it identified a number of issues raised by students, and how the RCM were about to release a survey aimed at identifying the financial issues students faced, to prevent to the government.

We had a project to complete as part of the programme, and alongside three fellow student midwives, we organised an applicant-style day at my university for the incoming first-year student midwives. We provided them with tea and cake (essential!) as well as a welcoming space for questions with the aim of keeping the day centred around them, opposed to us talking at them. This day was designed around what they wanted, and we ensured that they were aware of the variety of support available to them as students. This day was a great success, and has now been taken on as part of the programme! I felt that aspiring midwives are given so much focus and information leading up to applying, and through the application process, but once accepted, you’re left to your own devices and the worries start to set in. I wanted to keep those students’ passions going and remember it when things get tough.

On 10th October, I attended the RCM Consultant Midwives Forum in London, alongside my coach Carmel Lloyd. This may seem a bit random, but what I missed out from the above, was that following a conversation with my personal tutor at university, and undertaking the RCM iLearn Career Framework I had the realisation that my dream role was to be a consultant midwife- combining my passions in leadership, education and research whilst remaining clinical. This day confirmed this for me, as well as enlightening me to the various challenges at board, policy and strategic levels within maternity, and the issue with not all trusts employing a consultant midwife. I learnt that a framework is to be developed, which will hopefully direct me in the future also! And as pictured, I had the opportunity to meet some incredible people in maternity that day! Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer, discussed her vision and focus within leadership in maternity, quality and retention of our midwives as well as the perceptions of midwifery within schools and the media. She went on to discuss the issues of student funding, and that this is an issue that will be addressed. Gill Walton, CEO of the RCM discussed the RCM Leadership Manifesto and the issues they are hoping to address within consultant midwifery.

I didn’t want this reflection to come across as some “name drop here, name drop there, oooo look at me” and I hope it hasn’t come across that way, but rather what is possible when you believe in yourself and try and ignore the imposter syndrome as much as possible! I have developed as a person immensely during this time, including increased confidence in talking to my seniors and feel that it has been very impressionable on me in terms of how I talk and support more junior students. It has really highlighted to me that as a practice supervisor/assessor, and at whatever level I end up in, I want to bring students and support them at every stage. Being a student midwife is TOUGH, the care we provide to women is so rewarding and so often we neglect ourselves. Leadership isn’t about being a manager, it’s about making sure everyone’s voice is heard, it’s about being authentic, a role-model and having a tribe of incredible souls to support you along the way!


See more blogs below:

I can’t be a leader because…

by Natalie Elliott, student nurse, Glasgow Caledonian University


When I saw the advert for the Council of Deans of Health (CoDH) Student Leadership Programme (#150Leaders), I found it an odd concept that students were encouraged to be leaders. How could a student possibly be a leader? What are the benefits?

Throughout my life, I have always fallen into leadership roles. At school, I was voted captain of different sports teams, and during my career I quickly moved up the ranks. But I never gave “leadership” much thought.

As an employee, I’ve seen how poor leadership impacted public services and funds. Now, as a student nurse, I can see how leadership can affect patient safety- it’s no wonder, Francis (2013) recommended a leadership framework! It’s even written into the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) Standards for Pre-Registration Nursing Education (2010) that students should actively develop management and leadership skills, acting as change agents in improving the quality of care.

Reflecting after the first #150Leaders event, I came up with a list of excuses as to why I couldn’t be a leader. To challenge my thoughts, I have spent the past few months eating and breathing leadership. Reading leadership books, studying leadership articles, observing leaders and turning those negative words into positives.

Before I begin challenging these excuses, it is important to discuss “What is a Leader?”. I am sure we all have different thoughts. Over the years, people have come up with various suggestions:

 “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“A leader is a dealer in hope” – Napoleon Bonaparte

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality” – Warren G. Bennis

For me, McCormack and McCance (2017) encapsulates the meaning of leadership in nursing:

“Leadership… is often defined as social influencing: the guiding and supporting of individuals and teams towards predetermined leader/ organisational goals….Striving for relational connectedness, person-centred leaders primarily aim to enable associate self-actualisation, well-being and empowerment as precursors to individual mastery and team performance”

Now that we have thought about what a leader is, let’s make a start on expelling some of the excuses I told myself….


I can’t be a leader because…. I’m an introvert.

For me, leaders possess more extroverted traits. They are outspoken, gregarious and have an amazing ability for extemporaneous thinking and speaking. Whereas, I am an introvert. I prefer smaller group discussions; I am shy and just thinking of public speaking is giving me heart palpitations.

Challenging myself, I considered how my introverted traits could give me an advantage as a leader.

I like to reflect on and consider all the information before forming a conclusion. Farrell (2017) writes that this quality contributes to effective leadership as it allows for leaders to question what they see and hear in order to gain a better understanding of the bigger picture.

I also like to listen rather than talk, which, according to Emauelsson and Lindqvist (2014) makes the team feel valued and more empowered.

I am self-aware, I know my own character and reflect on my experiences in order to improve. Terri et al. (2016) believe that understanding your personhood and being your authentic self are leadership traits that are highly regarded and are essential when seeking 360-degree feedback for colleagues.

Yes, I am introverted. Yes, I tend to shy away from large group situations or public speaking. But I also have traits that can make me a good leader (and I know my areas for improvement!).

“What is REAL? asked the Rabbit one day… ‘It doesn’t happen all at once’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” – The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams


I can’t be a leader because…. leaders are born, not made.

I am sure most people have heard the phrase, “a leader is born, not made” suggesting that it’s up to the universe to decide whether you can be a leader or not. Like leadership royalty!

It got me thinking about my children’s parents evening (stick with me on this one). Ever since their first year at school, the teachers would talk about how they are trying to develop my children’s leadership capability. This got me intrigued. If the Scottish Government’s Curriculum for Excellence (2009) has identified leadership as a fundamental skill and embedded it into the learning process of young people in Scotland, then perhaps you can learn to be a leader?

Similarly, the NHS Leadership Academy (2013) write that leaders who continually learn ways to enhance their skills and knowledge, the care experience of patients and service users is positively affected.

Allio (2009) also supports this by stating that individuals can learn leadership skills and it is not down to the luck of the draw- if you have dreams of being a leader, you no longer have to worry whether you have royal blood!

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”- Socrates


I can’t be a leader because…. leaders never take a break.

I’m a student nurse, and like most other student nurses, I spend my time struggling with the juggle. I have university lectures or placements; essays to write and exams to study for; 3 children, a dog, 2 uncles and a house to care for… you get the picture. How can I possibly be a leader without my personal life being jeopardised?

Stoekel and Davies (2007) write that when the leader sets time aside for self-care, the leader grows as an individual which leads to improved leadership. Ghoussab et al. (2018) go on to explain that spending time to look after yourself, you are able to care for others better- ultimately resulting in improved patient care.

So being a successful leader doesn’t mean always being in “work mode”. If you are passionate about creating a change or influencing people, remember that good leaders schedule time to do the things that bring them joy, and spend time with those they love.

“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that”- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, JK Rowling


I can’t be a leader because…. leaders are egotistical.

When I look at some of the current world leaders (and the historical ones too), I used to believe that leaders had to be narcissistic and egotistical. This isn’t me, so I can’t be a leader.

However, would you describe these leaders as being proficient?

Transformational leadership is where the leader develops and promotes the development of the team leading to staff feeling empowered (Hawkins, 2009). Furthermore, a leader who encourages staff to engage in personal development will lead to the greatest impact on patient outcomes (Kings Fund, 2013).

As person-centred practitioners, our care involves respecting the rights and values of the individual by building mutual trust and understanding to find the true essence of the individual (McCormack & McCance, 2010). Why should leaders in healthcare treat their staff any differently?

Leaders can further improve patient care through having a person-centred attitude to the team and understanding any reticent feelings (NHS Leadership Academy, 2013). Additionally, one of the priorities of the NHS Scotland’s Leadership Framework (2014) is to promote team working as it allows others to have their voice heard, creating a co-operative team.

You see, as a leader you don’t need to be that awful depiction that we often see. You can be the approachable and flexible leader. The leader who actively listens and encourages their followers to have a voice of their own, creating a culture of progression.

 “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.” – Eeyore, A.A. Milne


I can’t be a leader because…. I am a student

How often do you associate being a leader with a hierarchical position? Real leadership shouldn’t focus on position or rank, but behaviour and action (CoDH, 2018). This means that students can be leaders. After all, we are the future of the nursing profession.

By developing our leadership skills early, we will be more equipped to protect the wellbeing of people and improve their care experiences once we are registered nurses (NMC, 2018). Taylor and Webster- Henderson (2017) also highlight the importance of student leadership by recommending leadership be taught and integrated into nursing curricula to benefit those we care for.

Joining a university peer supported community allows the more senior students to foster their leadership skills through imparting their knowledge and supporting the lesser experienced student (essential skills of both a leader and as a mentor!). Students can act as role models by talking openly about their areas for improvement and displaying integrity- again, traits of a good leader (Taylor & Webster-Henderson, 2017).

The points above have discussed how acquiring leadership skills can benefit others, however, there are benefits for students too. Bowen (1997) recognises that a student can obtain improvements such as life enrichment, emotional awareness and moral development. Bowen (1997) continues by stating that students who participate in leadership training gains more skills than those who do not.

The CoDH Student Leadership Programme is in place to encourage students to act with courage and to professionally challenge the “it’s always been done that way” mindsets that, sadly, we are far too familiar with (CoDH, 2018).

Yes, students can be leaders. We only need to look at some of the amazing students that get nominated for awards every year. Or the students that are invited, or voted, to sit on various educational and trade union committees. Or the ones who are invited to speak at events about the role they played in advocacy or promoting mental health. Why? Because they found something that needed to be challenged or changed by using their leadership skills to help them.

You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.” -Ratatouille, Walt Disney


I can’t be a leader because…. what if I fail?

As my research to dissipate my leadership excuses progressed, I could see a common theme underlying…. a fear that I might fail.

Brene Brown writes that failure is inevitable and that with every failure there is an opportunity to develop and come back better. Failure doesn’t need to be a negative thing.

Perhaps it’s time for me to give up the excuses, embrace failure and see my worth. Perhaps it’s time for me to be courageous and start being a damn good leader?

 “The only thing I know for sure after all of this research is that if you’re going to dare greatly, you’re going to get your ass kicked at some point. If you choose courage, you will absolutely know failure, disappointment, setback, even heartbreak. That’s why we call it courage. That’s why it’s so rare.”- Brene Brown


References

Thank you to Natalie Elliott for her contribution.

See more blogs below:

25th March 2019

Reflections – Evan Howle

Student Learning Disability nurse Evan shares his experience of the Student Leadership Programme residential event in March 2019.


I am writing this on the way back from the student leadership event; organised by the Council of Deans of Health, with support from the Burdett Trust. What can I say, other than wow? The enthusiasm, passion and kindness shown in the room gives me great hope that the future of healthcare is looking very bright, despite all the turmoil and issues it currently faces.

I have written in the past about how when different professionals come together there can be muddied water, despite the common ground that we all share at the core. I didn’t observe a single point when this happened, nobody assumed superiority over another and instead wanted to engage and learn from and about each other. After the first day I tweeted this:

I stand by this statement. The group of people I met showed that we can all work together to make a real positive impact on people’s lives and healthcare. I do not doubt that they are all going to make great strides in their professional progression, and development.

Let me rewind to just before the event. The journey to the event wasn’t without its issues; it felt like there was a running list of things trying to stop me reaching the day. It began with the bus being late, the ticket machine just holding up its imaginary hands and refusing to print, the fact I had no idea how to use the tube so watched multiple pass before I realised I was free to board any. On arrival into Reading I left the train station and for some reason walked in the opposite direction. But I did arrive at the event, and I was also a little early. I collected my badge and sat down to catch my breath.

Now there is something I don’t talk about a great deal, but I do have problems with anxiety, especially in new or social events. It can sometimes be overwhelming, and it takes a lot just to push myself past that initial block. It can occur days before I know something is happening, where my brain goes on overload, and it plays every worst-case scenario it can think off, incessantly. It is forever tempting for me just to go “No, I don’t want to do it now”. It was no different for this event, but I have learnt to accept those thoughts and most importantly talk about them. Verbalising the feelings, with people I trust, has helped a tremendous amount in helping me to overcome them. Despite me pushing through that initial block I can still have those mental processes running alongside everything else, and it can lead to me sweating buckets when anxiety kicks in; I can sweat in sub-zero temperatures, my mouth goes dry, my limbs feel like jelly, and that sinking feeling in my stomach becomes more pronounced. Anyone who has sat beside me has probably heard my body verbalise its stress before, as every part of my digestive tract seems determined to scream out; this can only add to the anxiety.

Despite all of this, I know how far I have come. I would actively avoid any situation that would bring about these feelings which only makes that anxiety more pronounced when it does happen. On arrival at the event I did initially sit down alone, but I quickly decided that I wasn’t there to do that. I was there to network and engage. And I did just that. I got up and asked if it was okay to sit with a group of people. A year ago, I would never have even considered doing that. It wasn’t the only time that I actively pushed myself during the two days, on multiple occasions, I actively looked out for different individuals, and opportunities to sit and talk with different people. From the two days I feel like it was my most significant personal developmental milestone and incredibly important for my professional development in achieving my goal to ensure people with a learning disability receive the same care as everyone. My only regret is not making an opportunity to talk to more at the event and initiate those conversations, but it is still a learning curve.

It is thanks to my professional route that I can make these developments. When working with people with learning disabilities it is very rare for me to display any signs of anxiety and it is because I am so focused on other individuals, all of those thoughts that exist day to day are shifted right to the back of my mind. It has been an essential aspect of the development of my character. I’m aware on first meeting people they would describe me as shy and reserved whereas people I know personally, or through work, would describe me as enthusiastic and confident. They are both aspects of my character, but it is the latter that I would like people to see the most of.

Anyway, as appears to be the norm with these posts I have gone a little off topic, back to the first day. I need to say thank you to both Jennifer and Amy who just happened to be sat at the first table I took the plunge to invade – two great people who have indeed set out to ensure everyone in their university is supported on their course (they bring new meaning to the word busy). The initial activity of the day was an icebreaker. I’m sure students everywhere know these well, and I have myself already taken in part in five. It’s surprising that despite taking in part in so many, I have yet to come across one that followed the same format. I dread the day that the name game makes a reappearance. Say your name, followed by a descriptive, and repeat the names before your own. Impossible I thought, but I admit it was but a great way of remembering names. I’ll never forget the four names that came before me.

The first speaker of the day was the executive director of the Council of Deans of Health, Dr Katerina Kolyva. There was a discussion on what makes a leader, and the various leadership theories and styles that exist. But it was also an important opportunity to accept that we all have an individual leadership style and that we also share so many similarities. It was followed by Nadia Butt discussing the importance of self-care. There is no stronger statement in healthcare that to look after others effectively, we first need to look after ourselves and make that time to ensure we stay healthy. As a student, this has been a topic that has been discussed in different lectures, so it was nice to see its importance being reinforced again.

We next had an opportunity to hear from previous members of the cohort that have used the opportunities given to them from accessing the programme and to share the impact that they have had within healthcare, because of the course. Although they did talk about the positive impact it had on their own lives, it was nice to see that the proudest accomplishments were the ones they had made to peoples lives. Raluca Vagner was able to confidently express how important it is that we accept our leadership style and ensure we look after ourselves; which was an important theme of the day. The talk was also delivered alongside Nick Flanagan who, with the aid of technology, managed to still be a part of the presentation, without physically being there in such an exciting way. I know after talking to a few people, it was an inspiring talk that gave them further encouragement to make that positive impact also. All of this led on well to the group activity before dinner, which allowed us to interact and coordinate how to discuss an aspect of leadership in small groups before presenting to the room.

My group theme was that of disengagement and the dangers of being overly disengaged and equally too engaged with projects. As a group, we were quick to establish that we needed to be self-aware of our strengths and weaknesses to be able to disengage from a project effectively. We were equally understanding of just how difficult that can be. It is also a reason why there need to be those networks of trust built up, people you can step back and talk to and help you realise that no task can be completed alone. Projects require a cohesive group to support and empower each other. It is why empowerment is an essential aspect of any good leadership style. To present to a group, after only 30 minutes of preparation, is a nerve-wracking experience but it was a task that every group took on without a single blip, with heaps of encouragement for everyone within the groups. I felt comfortable within the group to happily volunteer myself to discuss the part of why we needed to disengage. I still raced full speed ahead with how I delivered it, but I felt the encouragement and confidence to stand there and complete the task. It brought an end to the main activities of the day and led to an opportunity for people to show that disengagement and relax.

I am going to skip the hotel and venue review, although I will quickly point out that all aspects deserved an A*.

Still no idea on the order of use for these forks and spoons.

I believe that there was a speaker planned for the dinner event, unfortunately they were ill, but the dinner allowed people to engage with others on a more personal level. There were still those discussions about our roles, but just as much discussion took place about the simple personal issues in life, which was a nice break to remember that we all bring a bit of our personality into everything that we do. I ended the day by putting pen to paper and writing a letter to myself, a task that had been suggested for us to do which we would open in 6 months. It will be interesting to see the change that I have made since putting pen to paper.

It will be interesting to see just what is written here.

Day 2 was an emotional rollercoaster for me. It began with a guest speaker, who was no other than Joanne Bosanquet MBE, the Deputy Chief Nurse of Public Health England. What an inspiring, and passionate woman she is! I must admit that one of her stories discussing advocacy did get me a little choked up, as it is something that I am passionate about. So to hear someone, regardless of her position, standing up and recognising that something wasn’t right was, for me, powerful. She also advocated for people in that very room on hearing their stories and empowered them to take control and have a belief in themselves and everything that they do. There have been many inspiring moments throughout the two days, but none as inspiring as the power she gave everyone to recognise how important they are. She spoke with such delight about her journey and everything that she did, and I am sure people had more questions than she had the time to answer as we led onto the next guest speaker.

The next guest speaker was a Robin Lansman, the past president of the Institute of Osteopathy. I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the profession before the first day, until talking to a student osteopath who spoke about the profession. He advocated the vital role they play, and after listening to Robin, it appeared to be a shared desire that they had to make people aware of all they do. It was an interesting talk that encouraged the group to find out what motivates people to change and to work with those discoveries. He also shared his experience of being a mentor/coach to a student and the importance it also had on his development and understanding. A rather interesting arts and craft session followed him.

As part of the talk from Adele Nightingale, a senior lecturer in healthcare leadership, the group were tasked with creating a bounce back billy. The task allowed people to display more of their personality as we all crafted very different billys. But for me, as part of the talk on the importance of reflection and resilience in leadership (which had also been a session at university just two days before), it allowed people to see how we are all unique. We have very different levels of resilience, and also more importantly different ways of managing that resilience and stress. Just to note, bounce back billy didn’t survive the journey home. The glue was not strong enough to hold everything together. Instead, I had feathers stuck to the inside of my bag.

The day then moved onto a talk from Ian Unitt, and Mhairi McLellan a student learning disability nurse, and a midwife. They had both come to talk about the importance of social media in creating those networks with other professionals, and to discover new information on changing healthcare. They both discussed how they have used it to develop as professionals and the opportunities that this has led them to. Interestingly, it was because of Twitter that I had heard about the prospects of the leadership programme, and it led me to apply to be a part of the this. The use of social media is something my lecturers have encouraged from day one as they recognise the important role it plays in our development. Personally, it was so good to see another professional in learning disabilities being part of a more extensive program to promote their role. It is often misunderstood, and not actively promoted as other professions.

I was also pleased to meet two other students, both studying learning disability nursing, but equally as worrying to hear how small their cohort is. Having a small cohort increases the standard of learning you can receive, as there is more flexibility in how personal the delivery is. But, there has been a drastic downturn in the number of people applying to study learning disability nursing with some universities cutting the course entirely which risks a worrying future where more feel like it lacks the same importance as other undergraduate courses. Talking to them both gave me the opportunity to share ideas of ways we could combat this downturn, and hopefully, it is something in the future that we can work together to change.

Overall the event was refreshing and eventful, but I did need those five minutes on the train just allowing the whole experience to sink in. I am excited about the opportunities that will arise from all of the work they do, and equally seeing the fantastic projects that the other students make a reality. Thank you to everyone that took the time to talk and listen to me stumble my way through talking about the importance of learning disability nursing, and social work.

Reflections: Zoe Carciente

Zoe, student children’s nurse at Middlesex University, shares her experience of the Student Leadership Programme so far.


Over the past year I’ve seen tweets bandied about on Twitter about #150Leaders, always encouraging messages, constant streams of positivity. I always wondered how all these people who had just met had this instant click, which was certainly the impression I got through the Tweets. Yesterday I finally understood. I walked, somewhat nervously, into a room of people I knew only from social media and the pull towards each other was magnetic.

We quickly settled into the order of the day, listening and learning about the theory of leadership, selfcare and where this journey can take us from Dr Katerina Kolyva, Nadia Butt and two #150Leaders from previous years, Raluca Vagner and Nick Flanagan. The discussions around the room were insightful and there was a constant buzz in the room of people excited to share their ideas and stories of how we can make an impact. And then the part of the day I was possibly fearing the most… presenting.

Presenting to a roomful of people would normally make my heart pound, I’d be devising ways in my head to get through the presentation as quickly as possible, but when I stood up with my group to present on a scenario we had been given thirty minutes previously, the fears I usually battle with did not appear. I felt encouraged by the room of leaders in front of me and I knew that my group standing with me would fill in any gaps if they felt me falter.


Evening dinner and a chance to speak to others we hadn’t chance to meet during the day and a chance to unwind, together. I think that was the part of the Student Leadership Programme that cemented in my mind that I have met people who will be a huge part of my life. Conversations flowed between us from the Programme to our lives outside of our nursing journeys, the friendships were instantaneous.

Day two and Joanne Bosanquet encouraged us to have the confidence to ask the questions we want answers to, advocate and do the right thing, whatever the consequences. Robin Lansman advised us to be prepared, find out what motivates other people, have your elevator pitch ready, you never know when you might need it and don’t shy away from what we want to confront. We built resilience and emotional intelligence with Adele Nightingale through a mini crafting session, which were a little out of my comfort zone, but I enjoyed seeing the end result! Be like a tennis ball and bounce back. Ian Unitt and Mhairi McLellan spoke about the power of social media and tips on more channels to engage with on Twitter.

It’s been an eventful two days, leaving with a project to work on and the promise of a bright future with a group of leaders.

1st February 2019

Reflections: Leadership Skills You Never Knew You Needed

Blog by Victoria Reynolds

On the 23 January 2019 I was privileged to be invited by the Council of Deans of Health to a special one-off leadership workshop Leadership Skills You Never Knew You Needed.

This was an intensive three-hour interactive workshop tailored especially to the #150Leaders, led by Dr Alex Clark and Bailey Sousa from the University of Alberta, Canada.

Bailey and Alex really encouraged us to consider what drives us- what is important to us, what our values are, and what are our goals? We were encouraged to consider how we maintain focus and consider what it means to have a priority- this is purposefully singular, as we were informed that the word priority means coming before all else, therefore the modern priorities is only an obstacle to allowing us to focus on that which comes before all else.

It was interesting to learn about methods of organising self and projects and I found it a comfort to know that some of the tools that I currently use, such as mind-mapping and calendar-keeping are methods strongly promoted.

As usual, the invitation to engage with and listen to the achievements, the obstacles, the learning experiences of my fellow #150leaders has been an excellent opportunity to reflect and take stock of the past 3 years as a student-nurse let alone the past 12 months as a #150leader.

At this critical and final period of my qualification academia could so easily become overwhelming and all encompassing, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to ask myself, and map out using their pictorial tool- the success pyramid: what is my goal? What am I working towards? Where do I want to be? Additionally we contemplated the foundations of this future focus, and we were encouraged to explore: when have I been a leader? what do I see as success? how do I measure achievement? What is failure? what do I value? and what is my priority? – this last point has been incredibly helpful already in my time management; recently when I have considered my tasks and I have been able to identify my singular priority, I have noticed how I have been more focused and more productive, and less inclined to be distracted by other things that are also important to me but do not contribute towards my priority.

As already mentioned, in this workshop we were asked to consider what we recognised as a failure? Perhaps during, but certainly soon after departing (most hastily to catch a train) I reflected upon this element of the session and asked myself: was my (unusually) low level of verbal engagement at this workshop a failure on my part? Had I ‘wasted a space’ at the table due to my lack of interaction? Or, had I in-fact achieved something great in my personal contemplation, not being afraid to do what felt more comfortable on this occasion, had I gained perspective and realisation of where my present self was at? …I shared my pondering and questioning with the workshop delegates via our usual social networking platform, enquiring was my lack of verbal contribution failure? Or, had I clutched an opportunity to allow the right input at the right time to lift my blindfold and coach me how to hone my skills, showcase my strengths, use positive reflection and enable me to manage all the aspects- including my own behaviours and personal challenges, to understand what makes me a happy academic?

For more information about the theories and coaching of Bailey and Alex, please see their website.

Vicky Reynolds  Sept. ’16 Nursing (Children’s) University of Worcester

2nd August 2018

Reflections on two years of the Student Leadership Programme

Abigail Spragg shares her experiences of the Student Leadership Programme having been selected in 2017, returning as a speaker in 2018 and celebrating with all #150Leaders last month in London:

I had the pleasure of being a successful applicant for Cohort 2 of the Student Leadership Programme in 2017. The programme came at an interesting time for me; I was coming to the end of year one of my training, unsure what direction I was heading in and feeling very deflated by ‘burn out’ and uncertain of the direction of my future as a mental health nurse. I had applied for the programme because leadership was something I seemed to naturally enjoy, as well as seeing in my first placement that strong leadership was at the centre of brilliant team work and effective patient care. I did not know what to expect on the first day of the SLP; me and a colleague (now good friend) travelled from Plymouth to Birmingham, excited and apprehensive of what to expect from the next two days.

I can whole heartedly say that I was not expecting to enjoy and learn as much as I did from the two-day event. We had the opportunity to meet some incredible speakers such as Joanne Bosanquet and Brendan McCormack who eloquently spoke to us about their experiences of becoming leaders and over coming the many challenges to get to where they are today. Talking with and getting to know like minded students from across the UK was possibly the highlight of the programme; I met so many amazing students and was astounded by the compassion and knowledge they had in their area of healthcare. The third and fourth days of the programme took place in London a few months after, and I was filled with such pride and enthusiasm to be reunited with fellow student leaders again and learn more about what they had been doing since the first time we met. Professionally, I was now a few months into year two of my training and was feeling the common pressure of stepping up another study level. I felt confident and supported in sharing my experiences of overcoming my own struggles with fellow leaders and found the true meaning of emotional resilience. Learning more about what it means to be emotionally resilient was personally the most important skill I learnt from the programme, that I have utilised every day since. After the four days of the programme, I felt closer to carving my own student nurse journey and defining what I wanted to get out of my training. I felt motivated, empowered and ready to be the difference I wanted to see in mental health care.

Jumping forward further into second year, a lot has changed for me. I’ve utilised every skill learnt during the student leadership programme into being the best version of myself I can be. I’m part of a fantastic group of colleagues running the first Mental Health Nursing Society at my University, promoting and advocating for good mental health among students. I’m also now a trained PALS leader, one of the highlights of my degree so far, using my leadership skills to work with the first-year students to help their learning. Plus, for the first time during my third placement I was able to practice with confidence and recognise the difference I am making to patients’ lives. I continue to work on not being so self-critical and take any criticism received from placement teams as a vital component to improving my practice.

I had the privilege of returning to the student leadership programme this year in March, to talk to Cohort Four about what I learnt on the programme last year and my own leadership journey. Being able to present and talk about my journey has made me realise how far I have come since the first day of the programme and where I was in my training at that time. It has also made me realise how far I have still to go, but this no longer worries or scares me, it excites me. It also excites me that the incredible students I had the pleasure to meet in March and at cohort two are future leaders in healthcare. They are a creative, inspiring and resilient bunch of people who taught me more about leadership and myself than I could have ever imagined.

Moving Forward A Year – July 2018

I was very excited to receive an email from Nadia and the Council of Deans inviting us 150 Leaders to a summer conference in London. Re-connecting with the friends and professional links that I had made from Cohort Two and Four seemed like a perfect way to end my second year of being a Mental Health Nursing Student. I was also looking forward to discussing some difficulties I am having on my current placement and seek advice from some friendly faces on how they would use their leadership skills to succeed and get through it. As always, I felt apprehensive on the 10th July when travelling up to London; could I compare with the brilliant work my fellow leaders have achieved?

My anxiety was soon diminished by seeing my friends and fellow colleagues from around the UK and the Council of Deans. Katerina began by celebrating our achievements advertised on Twitter and how we had all used what we have learnt in the Programme to positively influence our professional and personal lives, as well as the lives of fellow students and patients. We then had a stimulating talk from Professor Brian Webster-Henderson, who discussed with us the importance of Political Astuteness and how adopting this as a leader is a vital component to practicing effectively and to the best of our abilities. This was the first time I had the opportunity to reflect on being political astuteness in practice and I left the day keen to learn more and further my understanding on how I can improve this aspect of my leadership journey. Now, I clearly recognise the vitality of political astuteness and how I can impact practice by adopting this leadership style.

Next, Dr Peter Shaw shared his ‘100 Tips for Leadership’ and I found reading through his book and listening to him an invaluable source of information. I particularly liked the parts about not seeking the approval from others and being able to reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Peter emphasised again the importance of reflection in practice and believing in yourself, your morals and your strengths. I also thoroughly enjoyed Professor Aisha Holloway’s presentation on the importance of Networking and the positive impact it can have on our professional lives and since this talk I have encouraged myself and other student nurses to seek out new networks via Twitter, University and beyond.

As I finish reflecting on the programme I have just come to the end of my second year as a Mental Health Nursing student. In my final weeks I have organised a student clinical supervision group for myself and fellow colleagues who also study Mental Health Nursing, after recognising the dire need for this and having discovered the value of peer-led support through being a part of the Student Leadership Programme. I have graduated as a ‘Wellbeing Champion’ for the University, meaning I get to promote good mental health throughout campus and beyond, working with students and staff to change the way we think about mental wellbeing and making vital improvements to university life. Without the Student Leadership Programme, I doubt I would have the confidence and leadership skills to seize these opportunities and seek them out myself. I look very much forward to the final year of my degree as a healthcare student and hope to continue coming up with innovative ideas and sinking my teeth into more leadership roles.

I cannot thank the Council of Deans and the Burdett Trust for providing students with this experience. It has been invaluable and precious to me and I know so many others feel the same. I hope in the future the student leadership programme can be adapted and shaped to be a part of every healthcare students journey, as I know so many others would benefit from what the incredible programme has to offer.