25 April 2023

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Pioneering new programme helps Kate break through clinical ceiling

Hospice Clinical Nurse Specialist says unique course is helping her find her own way to be a leader.

By Kate Watson, St Barnabas Hospice

Kate Wilson

I honestly can’t imagine doing anything other than palliative care. I have been working in it for 14 years, after going into nursing when I was 21 and. I’ve worked in three hospices, including a spell at St Christopher’s and I’m currently a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at St Barnabas in Worthing, West Sussex.

Like everyone I’ve occasionally thought about doing something different, but I feel so passionate about it and I’m so glad I’ve stuck with it because there’s only going to be more need for excellent care for people who are dying, and I find it such a privilege to be involved with people at the end of their lives.

I joined the Advanced Clinical Practitioner and Nurse Consultant Development Programme because I wanted to progress my career and felt like I’d reached a bit of a clinical ceiling. I wanted to stay in patient care rather than move away into management. Nurse consultancy gives me that opportunity to progress to develop and be a leader. Rather than managing in the sense of managing a large team I can demonstrate leadership in other ways while retaining that patient-facing role.

And this course is pioneering and unique. I know Maaike Vandeweghe and her colleagues at St Christopher’s CARE spotted the potential for a real gap in the profession between newly qualified and very experienced nurses. This programme is designed to provide that succession planning, supporting nurses to increase their clinical and leadership skills, while also upping their awareness of quality initiatives and new research. This really is the first programme of its kind that caters for nurses like me that want to be a leader but not necessarily diverted into management.

Already, just two months into the programme, my passion is really growing and I’m feeling more empowered and realising the unique opportunity we have as nurses to develop – ourselves as well as services. I feel that the programme is giving me a voice and a platform.

I felt this keenly at the most recent sessions we had last week which was all about building self-confidence and our sense of self-worth. You could really see the empowering effect the session had on all ten of us nurses on the programme.

The programme started in January when we all met for four days at St Christopher’s CARE. We examined the role of the nurse, different nursing models and our visions for effective palliative care services.
I found the February session – a very condensed version of the Teach with CARE programme – really helpful. As nurses we are expected to be teachers from day one, but we get no formal training in teaching and it is a real skill. I learned about the importance of tailoring your content to your audience and using technology to make the content as engaging as possible.

So far, I am finding the programme really exciting. I just love being in a room (it’s split roughly half in half – in-person and online) with such enthusiastic nurses who’re driven to provide the best care. Even in the short time we’ve had so far you can see how much we have all grown.

There’s also a real sense of generosity amongst the group, with everyone keen to share their challenges and successes. It’s a great feeling of community which is exemplified by how we all keep in touch on a daily basis via Discord, which is a brilliant platform for connecting people.

Over the course of the next few months I’ll be sharing my reflections on the programme and how it’s helping me in my daily nursing practice. I’ll also share some of my challenges and those I share with the other nurses. I know there’s a common feeling of imposter syndrome and that we’re punching above our weight. Maaike and the team though are brilliant at reaffirming why we belong and has a real gift for make us feel enthused.

If you’re a nurse who wants to develop your sense of leadership and share your experiences with like-minded people in a protected space where you can make mistakes, then this programme is for you. I’d urge any palliative care nurse who wants to develop their sense of leadership.

Earlier in my career I never thought myself capable of a leadership role. Working alongside great leaders, I have seen that leadership doesn’t have to be loud. This programme helps you to understand that and to find your own way as well as develop your confidence to be heard.

I don’t see myself as a leader because I’m quite a quiet person. But the programme is opening my eyes to the fact that leadership doesn’t have to be loud and that I can find my own way to being a leader.

For more details about the programme and to register your interest click here.

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