Be Your Authentic Self

My name is Cerina Howells and I am a band 5 nurse currently working in the endoscopy department in Swansea Bay University Health Board in Wales. I studied at Swansea University and qualified as nurse in 2021 after coming to the profession as a mature student. I was inspired to train as a nurse by the nursing care that I received when I had my own health issues and I experienced first-hand the positive impact good compassionate nursing care can have on a patient. I wanted to make such a difference to other patients too.

Whilst coming into the nursing profession with transferrable skills from my stint as a science teacher in Zimbabwe when I was younger, and from my experiences as a healthcare support worker here in Wales, I found adjusting to my new career difficult at first. This was because I started working in the health service post COVID-19 when the NHS was struggling with extensive staff shortages, so I had to take charge of some shifts even when I did not believe I was ready to. However, I managed to rise to the challenges that arose, and when I look back, I am proud of how I grew in confidence and became more resilient because of this.

In 2022, I became aware of the FNF Academy through my colleague and now FNF Alumni Champion Omobola Akinade when she did the FNF Windrush programme. I was inspired by the positive impact her project, as part of this programme, had on me and others in my health board. Then I was lucky to get onto one of the leadership courses for Internationally Educated Nurses and Midwives that was commissioned by our CNO for Wales and FNF Alumna, Sue Tranka. I am also inspired by other inspirational FNF scholars such as Hazel Powell and “Curious Becks” who advocate the benefits for FNF courses for the continuing professional development of nurses here in Wales.

I was since nominated to be one of the first group of FNF Academy Fellows by senior nurses in my health board which I was humbled and greatly honoured by. I know that being a Fellow will open up new opportunities for leadership and personal development as well as networking opportunities to build friendships and ally-ships with people I may never have had the opportunity to interact with otherwise. I am also looking forward to attending the Florence Nightingale ceremony at Westminster Abbey next year!!

The recent FNF Academy Member Symposium in Birmingham Botanical gardens was an eye-opening experience for me. I was surrounded by so many inspiring nurses at the top of their professional game, all with the same passion for developing safe psychological working spaces through their leadership skills. However, I also felt like a fish out of water as almost everyone seemed to speak in this cooperate language and could express themselves so eloquently and fluently whereas I felt almost juvenile in the simplicity of my vocabulary and incoherent as I felt I jumbled up my words. I felt that I was a long way from coming across as a leader as I did not seem to have the vocabulary for it. I am looking forward to learning the “lingo” and how to apply the things I learn into practice so that I don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.

The picture I am sharing with this blog was taken the day I got my uniform in preparation for my first day working as a qualified nurse. I was excited about what the future held… little did I know that less than 2 years later, some of my colleagues would see leadership qualities in me! It truly pays to be your authentic self because one day someone will notice and appreciate you and your skills for what they are!! #unapologeticallyme

FNF is offering a 12-month Fellowship programme to nurses and midwives who are employed at our FNF Academy Member Organisations. We want to close the gap in professional leadership development opportunities across health and social care settings and actively encouraging Chief Nurses to nominate individuals who have not yet embarked upon an opportunity like this previously. Find out more about this and other membership benefits here.