To say that those two weeks gave me food for thought would be an understatement. I’ve met some amazing leaders at different stages in their life and career and it has been a huge learning curve for me spending time with some of those inspirational leaders at FNF. I was surprised by how such a small team were working so effectively to ultimately make a difference to patient care, policy and practice by developing leadership programmes for some of the best nurses and midwives in the UK.
The most important lessons I took away from FNF were about authenticity, inclusive leadership and being aware that change can never happen overnight. My life experiences have made me the person I am today, however I never fully understood why I was never content with my identity. I have always felt I needed to somehow fit in this world but what I didn’t realise was by doing that, I would lose who I was every time I tried to simply blend in the background. The importance of being authentic is something I have learnt from every single one of the FNF team. Being authentic doesn’t mean you can’t relate or share with other people’s experiences; it means you remain true to your values and beliefs.
Inclusive leadership was not something that was on my radar before I heard Wendy Irwin, Head of Equality of Diversity at the Royal College of Nursing, talk about it at FNF’s World Café event. Since that session, I have actively tried to implement inclusive leadership with everything I do and even shared what I learnt from Wendy with my fellow student nurses. I delivered a teaching session as part of my placement time with FNF at the Solent (NHS Trust) Student Network. It was based on my current project “Beyond My Epidermis” but influenced heavily with what I learnt from Wendy’s talk.
I am a Student Nurse Leader, I had never believed or agreed with it enough to say it out loud. But there you have it, I’ll say it again, I am a Student Nurse Leader! It isn’t about how or who you lead or even about how many followers you have, it is purely about your influence. The issues around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion are very close to my heart, as well as representing the voice of the many who may feel they are not being heard. Right from my involvement with the Royal College of Nursing, to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Student Nurse Council and so many other steering groups, I am grateful for every opportunity I have had to develop and be able to positively influence decision making.
For me, the most important thing to remember is to have an open mind and an accepting heart. Especially as students, as your future nurses, we have so much to say, so much to give. All we want is for someone to listen to us and tell us that what we do does matter. I know especially after the intense 18 months we have had as students going through so many new changes, I only hope that we come out on the other side being celebrated for all our contributions.
The two weeks I have had at FNF will remain as a highlight in my life. It has truly transformed me, not just professionally but personally too. It has made me realise that leadership is not hierarchical; you can find leaders at every level. If you think that leadership isn’t something I can think about until I have years of experience in the job, I say you’re wrong! There is so much to being a leader than just your age or years of experience.