26th April 2018

Reflections – Heidi Williams

MSc Adult Nursing – University of Central Lancashire


The Student Leadership Programme (SLP) is a partnership between the Council of Deans of Health and Burdett Trust for nursing aimed at students with leadership potential to develop skills through a four-month programme. Due to the high volume of applicants, I did not build my hopes up too high, so I was thrilled when I received an email informing me that I was invited to embark on a journey towards becoming 1 of 150 leaders.

As I began my journey to Reading, I felt a mixture of excitement and nerves, as I didn’t know what to expect. Upon arrival into the meeting room, there was an assortment of sandwiches and the buzz of enthusiastic students. After our lunch, we were directed into the conference room and welcomed by Dr Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director of Council of Deans of Health. When sitting in the conference rooms at the round tables alongside influential, intellectual and charismatic students and professionals, I was in disbelief that I was selected! However, I soon realised that we all shared an immense passion for healthcare.

The first lesson I learnt on the programme was BE AUTHENTIC. This session inspired me to embrace who I am and any idiosyncrasies by expressing these into strengths to encourage fresh ideas and promote diversity. Every single individual shared their unique insights and it was empowering to know that regardless of the diversity in the room, passion for optimal healthcare and the desire to make a genuine difference caring for others beamed through each and every single person in the room. Various experiences of healthcare were discussed and it really enabled a sense of creativity and authenticity, which underpinned the message of the leadership programme.

The second lesson was BE CONFIDENT AND BOLD. Before embarking on my leadership journey, I rated my confidence at around 50%. The group exercise challenged my confidence as it involved a roundtable discussion on scenario building, and then we presented our scenario to our peers in the conference room. Afterwards, we were treated to the three-course meal and Ismalia De Sousa shared her journey of leadership progression as a Clinical Nurse specialist in stroke. Following dinner we had free time to network, and it was enlightening to interact with students from various backgrounds and disciplines of healthcare. At the end of the course, my confidence leaped from 50% to an astounding 80%.

The third lesson was BE COURAGEOUS. The inspirational Joanne Bosanquet, Deputy Chief Director at Public Health England, shared her journey of leadership on day 2. I was moved by her great dedication, passion and achievements, one of many was an MBE. Joanne was extremely empowering and stressed the importance of advocacy, which isn’t just about ‘wishing patient’s well’, it is about taking risks and actively standing up for what is right. A week after the leadership programme, I was delighted to discover that Joanne was my allocated my mentor. Later that day, Felicity Allman, Student Mental Health Nurse reflected on her experience of the SLP from last year and what she had learnt, achieved and her aspirations.  She encouraged us to realise how all the little things that we do in our career can make a big difference.

The fourth lesson was BE AS TENACIOUS AS A TENNIS BALL! Yes, a tennis ball. Adele Nightingale, Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Leadership Practice (UCLan) presented a session on emotional intelligence. Adele emphasised that resilience was a key component of emotional intelligence, in which she symbolised resilience as ‘sports balls’. The first, a ping-pong ball which had the ability to bounce back and fourth, but once crushed, it no longer had resilience. Secondly, a cricket ball, which although was robust, it was resistant to change. Lastly, a tennis ball, which was the perfect example of resilience as it had the ability in the face of adversity to bounce back and leap forward, and constantly re-energise.

The last lesson was SAY YES. Say yes to every opportunity as stressed by Nigel Harrison, Executive Dean and Education Impact Lead (Council of Deans of Health). Nigel stressed the importance of striving for the best you can possibly be and cease opportunities as they arise. Be proud of daily achievements no matter how big or small they may be and always have a solution focused, CAN DO attitude.

The next steps of the programme involve mentorship and a networking event in London. It is an absolute privilege to be part of the leadership programme and I am excited to build stronger networks and relationships across the sector and achieve my ambition of becoming a leader. This invaluable opportunity being surrounded by captivating students and professionals has created a sense of reassurance for the future culture of nursing, and will prospectively play a key role in the adaptation and evolution of the NHS.