As I write this blog, my first year as chief nurse is drawing to a close and it's been no ordinary year. I can hand on heart say that had I known what this year would bring back in September 2019, I would have chosen to stay as a deputy within an organisation that I knew well – thankfully I didn't!
Over the last 12 months I have relocated, survived winter, been part of a successful CQC inspection and been an executive leader through two waves of a global pandemic.Chief Nurse
Over the last 12 months I have relocated, survived winter, been part of a successful Care Quality Commission inspection and been an executive leader through two waves of a global pandemic. No small ask but, despite some bumps along the way, I have overwhelmingly enjoyed it and year one as an executive director hasn't been as hard as I thought it might be. I've been thinking about why this is the case and how I can share my learning. On reflection there are four key things that have helped me get off to the best start in truly challenging times.
As a new starter I had the opportunity to take time to really listen. As a naturally quiet person listening is within my comfort zone, it allows me to evaluate a situation from another perspective and to put myself in someone else's shoes. I have at times had fixed views on things, but by listening to others we've found a mutually agreeable place without conflict. That's not to say I haven't disagreed with anyone over the last year but role modelling an inclusive culture, where everyone has a voice, supports shared decision making. This is particularly important when the decision is extraordinary and we have had to make some of those during the pandemic.
I’ve been really fortunate to have great mentorship throughout my career and was advised on my journey to Chief Nurse that as the exec I won’t know everything.Chief Nurse
Secondly I've been really fortunate to have great mentorship throughout my career and was advised on my journey to Chief Nurse that as the exec I won't know everything. My experience is just that and the sooner you come to terms with that fact the better. There's a reason teams are made up of multiple people, bringing their own expertise, and together they are a force for good. I like to think I have used the knowledge and expertise across our teams to think outside the box and be creative when problem solving collaboratively.
Thirdly I have a colleague who consistently reminds us to stay curious as the best leaders are always learning. I try to take the opportunity to seek out knowledge in as many ways as I can, as I truly believe that the more you know, the more prepared you'll be for whatever comes your way.
And finally, to look after others we have to look after ourselves - I haven't always got this right since I joined Sherwood and it's something I have spent the last four months remedying. Being away from home and friends throughout national and local lockdowns meant I was out of my routine and hadn't focused on my own health and well-being. Time with friends had been a key part of my life before Sherwood but the COVID restrictions and distance have made this particularly difficult. I haven't got this sorted just yet but I am investing time, effort and energy in my friendships back home and beginning to make new friends and explore different experiences in the midlands. This is definitely a work in progress.
Looking back I’m really pleased I made the move and it really hasn’t been as tough as I expected.Chief Nurse
Looking back I'm really pleased I made the move and it really hasn't been as tough as I expected. Part of this is due to Sherwood being the right fit for me and part of this is about being much better prepared than I ever realised. My advice to any aspiring chief nurses or executives is don't let imposter syndrome or the environment in which we are operating put you off. Life is much more interesting when we are stretched and whilst the challenge is huge, so are the opportunities. The pay-off is one that money can't buy – it's the difference that we make for our colleagues, our patients and their families and for our communities.