Name: Vinice Thomas
Scholarship type: FNF Leadership Scholarship 2020-2021
Publication title: Developing a talent management support network for nurses and midwives
Effective talent management is vital to retain skilled and experienced nurses and midwives in the NHS. In 2019, Vinice Thomas from London set up a talent management support network (TMSN) aimed at helping specific groups of nurses and midwives facing challenges in fulfilling their professional potential. The network started by supporting nurses and midwives from global majority backgrounds, later also offering the programme to dental nurses across England and to healthcare workers in Brazil. The network uses the power of action learning and networking in a framework that nurtures staff’s talents. This article describes the London TMSN team’s experience of setting up and running the network. It also explains how nursing and midwifery managers and leaders can create a business case for the development of a similar network in their setting.
The mentor I was allocated as part of the Scholarship was key to my enjoyment of the FNF programme. Barbara Stilwell is an international nursing leader and became an invaluable outstanding critical friend during the Scholarship. She supported me to think outside the box and look at the wider implications and applications of the TMSN. She also provided me with moral support, which was especially key as the Scholarship took place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another key element of the Scholarship for me was the Windsor Leadership course. It was fantastic to meet other leaders, from different sectors and industries. This pushed me to understand that the Talent Network could be applied more widely than nursing alone.
As a result of the Scholarship, I was approached by the RCNi about publishing my project in the Nursing Management Journal. This is a CPD article, it goes step by step into what to do, and broadened out the work, showing that it can be used for any group of staff (not just global majority).
FNF gave me the headspace and time to step back and reflect on myself as a leader and to influence and inspire others.
There is a biblical saying: ‘iron sharpens iron’. Being amongst other leaders inspired me to be a better me! It inspired me to go further and higher.
The basic idea of the Talent Management Support Network is to make networks and action learning sets more accessible to those who don’t normally have access to these things, which are usually linked to more senior leadership programmes. So we offer a 6 month programme, with flexible timings depending on the cohort, targeted at nurses and midwives who don’t have easy access, those needing peers, needing someone to give a fresh lens to a challenge.
At first participants are not sure what it’s all about, then when they realise, and see the potential for their careers, they LOVE it! It makes such a difference. It is so simple but impactful. Participants develop news skills e.g. troubleshooting and brainstorming.
We piloted the programme with dental nurses (Band 4, junior members of the team). At their celebration event there was not a dry eye in the house when we heard what a difference it had made to them.
The nurse leaders within the dental team are now taking on the programme to continue running it themselves. This is just what we want. The Network has now been independently evaluated, the results of which are being written up and the report is due around February. This will help us to tweak the product.
We are working towards having the programme packaged up so it can become an off-the-shelf product and used much more widely. Myself and my team would be there as a sounding board and for support, but it should be possible to run the programme without any actual training. We are currently working on the tools for this to happen. We are setting up an NHS Futures platform to host the toolkit and hope to launch it in 2024.
To be fully effective each programme and network should be spread across a region or ICB, not just one organisation; to get different ideas and input, different challenges and perspectives and cultures. My desire is to see it take off and be used across the country, with ANY staff whose career progression is hindered. There are often intersectional issues which cause this. The TMSN has created a safety hub. It is essential to support facilitators, that is at the heart of it too.
We were shortlisted for an HSJ award in 2021 and are now a finalist for the HSJ ‘partnership’’ award. There is such a hunger for this. It can really help with retention, staff well-being and career progression.
Vinice has had a varied nursing career. Initially a critical care nurse, she then worked in corporate education, clinical commissioning roles, national leadership roles, and is now working at regional (London) level as Director of Nursing, with a wide portfolio.
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