14 September 2023

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Learning to be a leader

Kate Wilson shares how she's learned that her weaknesses can be her strengths

Almost three quarters of the way through the first year of the St Christopher’s new Advanced Clinical Practitioner and Nurse Consultant Development Programme, I can really say that I am starting to feel so much benefit – and in ways I hadn’t imagined.

I joined the programme in January determined to find the inner leader in me but concerned that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for leadership. I think in the last two or three months I have made a significant leap.

When people ask me now to describe the programme, I refer to it as a leadership course, because that is essentially what it is and I feel like it’s really developing me as a leader.

The most useful element for me has been learning to understand my vulnerabilities. To be honest, when I started the programme, I could not see the relevance and how this would help to make me a better leader. Now I understand that it is vital to be vulnerable and to turn up as a learner – not to assume we know everything and to admit that we don’t.

The sessions we’ve had with the executive coaches Pippa Gough and Jill Maben have been so insightful – making me realise that vulnerability isn’t a weakness, rather it’s an essential quality of brave leadership.

I guess that’s been a massive lightbulb moment for me overcoming my thinking that you’re either a born leader or you’re not. It is a set of skills you can learn and develop and all great leaders have failed and found a way to get back up again.

As well as the great group sessions and the on-the-job learning, St Christopher’s has also given us a list of relevant podcasts to listen to and books and articles to read.

I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s podcast and finding it very helpful with things like tackling people’s immunity to change.

The programme has focused my development by working through the competencies and capabilities set out in the programme and that’s been enhanced now by working very closely with one of the medical consultants here at St Barnabas Hospice. She is equally excited about the programme and has compared the style of training to that of her previous palliative care registrar programme.

As part of the programme, we have to complete some case-based learning. That involves working closely with the consultant, identifying complex cases and leading reviews. The consultant then gives me feedback on various elements of the process including notes on my consultation style, communication skills and clinical judgement. These combined with supervised learning events are hugely useful in working towards practising at nurse consultancy level.

While leadership skills have been an essential element of the programme, we’ve also benefitted from some excellent clinical skills learning. Most recently, St Christopher’s Medical Director and Palliative Care Consultant, Dr Joy Ross, did an excellent session with us on complex symptom control. We all had opportunities to ask questions and share experiences. We were reminded that there is more than one way to palliate so long as it is evidence-based.

Going back to where I started with this blog, it’s important to be reminded that it’s not always about what you know but knowing who to ask and how to ask a good question. That’s the key to learning and to leadership and this programme has helped me to do that and much, much more.

If you’d like to follow in Kate’s footsteps, want to find out more about the Advanced Clinical Practitioner and Nurse Consultant Development Programme and register your interest for the 2024 programme, click here.

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