As we launch our Alumni Champions network, Colette Datt, Associate Director of Nursing, Children & Young People, North Middlesex Hospital NHS Trust, shares her experience of being part of Team Florence…
My FNF journey began in 2019 when I worked as a Nurse Consultant for CYP in an Integrated Care Organisation in London. I had won the Nursing Times Nurse Leader of the Year in 2018 for my co-production work with CYP, charities and early career nurses. I had also been able to have strategic influence and impact with some of these innovative projects. However, whilst passionate about my job, I was unsure of which career direction to take. My chief nurse, who was a FNF scholar, advised me to apply for a FNF scholarship, sharing that this was a leadership programme like no other, one that would be “life changing”. The programme would “take me apart” in a kind and sensitive way and put “the pieces back together like a jigsaw puzzle”. It would give me the insight I needed to become a leader with clear focus and direction.
I started the Aspiring Nurse Director scholarship in September 2019. This was the first time in my career where I had time out from the job and a personalised and focused development programme with senior nurse mentorship and sponsorship. And then Covid hit us. My collegiate group of scholars were amazing and we supported and guided each other through so many challenges in a turbulent NHS. We wrote and shared guidelines and provided advice for each other. It enhanced our capacity and capabilities as nurse leaders.
The synergy and empowerment of FNF totally reignited my passion for nursing. It gave me the confidence to pursue two new roles, both of which have enabled me to fulfil my ambitions to strengthen and expand the nursing voice and contribute to patient outcomes. I have felt FNF walk beside me and guide me on my pathway through my collegiate group, the scholars that I mentor, and my connections with FNF opportunities and alumni.
I moved to NMUH in January 2021 as ADON for CYP. I was amazed to find a cohort of 10 FNF scholars, as in my previous trust I was one of two. I quickly realised that this was because of the executive endorsement of FNF by our Chief Nurse who strongly promoted it and personally believed in the impact of the scholarships on nurses, their leadership development and on the resulting culture of the organisation. She also ensured all nurses who applied were supported with their applications and interviews. The scholar numbers and diversity of scholarships continued to increase (we are now 20) and scholars were visible across different grades in different divisions. They are seen as inspiring, energetic individuals who are enabling patient-focused improvement projects, and writing blogs and presenting at conferences with energy and confidence. Nightingale Frontline was promoted and encouraged during the pandemic and it gave FNF a more visible and compassionate presence within the organisation. All of this made the scholarships more attractive and attainable.
“How fantastic would it be to have the map of the country alight with the bright lights of FNF alumni in all regions?”
By March 2021 I was meeting scholars in the corridor. We realised we were bonded to each other as we shared a common purpose. We were positive, motivated, driven and we wanted to maintain the energy and positivity we had experienced as scholars. Our Chief Nurse supported us to set up a group which I was privileged to lead but which is collaborative. This enables us to come together and reflect on challenges and successes in a safe space, giving us time out of our day to reignite our passion and energy for nursing and midwifery. We support each other and feel supported, and we network both within and outside of the group. We share projects and new ideas from FNF and support new scholars to aim to be the bright lights of our organisation. We also invite external speakers such as Ruth May and Joan Myers to engage with our group.
As a group of scholars at NMUH we are very animated and excited about the FNF Alumni Champions. We can see the potential of the development of energetic scholarship groups across all the regions, who can collaborate, encourage and support each other. As we do in our collegiate scholarship groups, Champions can amplify our voice and accelerate what we can achieve in terms of nursing capability, capacity and credence. This will be a substantial and influential group of some of the best nurses and midwives, who will act as incredible ambassadors for nursing.
How amazing for our FNF Alumni Champions to be the coordinators of nursing excellence on scale, in our organisations and beyond. How fantastic would it be to have the map of the country alight with the bright lights of FNF alumni in all regions, building collaborations of FNF scholars? I am sure that this would make Florence Nightingale very proud.