NNF 2018. What an amazing event.
I was incredibly lucky to be able to attend from start to finish. I did my best to meet as many new faces as possible and support my fellow junior nurses. I was also lucky enough to run a workshop as the chair of Next Gen COI with my fabulous leadership team, Catelyn Richards, Andrea Jansen, Ariela Rother (please note, links are to ACN’s member site neo) and incredible guest speaker Nataschja Budel, a Leadership Expert from ACN. If you are an ACN Fellow or Member who attended this workshop please, please, please provide us with some feedback via neo. If you were not able to attend the conference this year I suggest planning now for the 2019 NNF in my home town Hobart, Tasmania. As a born and bred Tasmanian I can, and will, happily vouch for the amazing things Hobart has to offer, let alone the conference.
This month’s article relates to an important lesson I have learnt throughout nursing and at the NNF 2018 I learnt strategies to implement this skill every day.
There was one reoccurring theme that seemed to follow me around the conference, whether it be a presentation, individual advice or nurses leading by example, and that was be yourself, know yourself and be your best self. Seems simple enough right? The great things about these statements are they have a small element that is open for interpretation, but they are also self-explanatory. For example, most people would agree when someone says “be yourself” they mean, be true to yourself and don’t change to meet the expectation of others. But what is open for interpretation here is the idea of who you are and why it is so important to be yourself.
Diversity was one of the themes of this year’s NNF, a word which people tend to think about on a large scale including of a cultural, international, religious and educational nature. However, diversity in nursing is also referring to diversity of skills, experience, knowledge, age and leadership styles. To really appreciate the diversity in the team you belong to, clinical or otherwise, you need to know yourself. What do you bring to your team? Why are you invaluable? To do this you must reflect on your skills, reflect on the times when people come to you for information, support, guidance or when people rely on you. Are these people your team? Your patients? Your students? It’s important to look at your strengths, recognise them, value them and progress. Sometimes I feel ridiculous doing this, I feel arrogant and as if I am too junior to be doing these types of self-awareness activities, but whenever I think like this, I remind myself that it is NEVER too early to prepare yourself and being appreciative of your strength is in no way arrogant, it is smart. I will add that I don’t rock up to work and harp on about the things I am awesome at, but what I do do, is try a little harder to participate in activities that will allow me to practice and develop them.
So, what does it mean, “be you”? Obviously be true to yourself, but how does one do that when you are in a job with so many expectations. When I signed up to study nursing, I did it because I knew I had the capacity to care for others and do it well in stressful and high pace situations. With my mother and sister both excellent emergency nurses, I naively assumed I knew everything that went on in hospitals, in my defence I do feel like I did listen to my fair share of venting about the less appealing side of emergency. There were minimal surprises in terms of the work I would be required to do. What was a surprise was the sometimes oppressing nature of nursing culture that I experienced – bullying, lack of support for early career further education, and sometimes a lack of support full stop. I know this isn’t true for everyone, everywhere, but in my short career I have been directly impacted or played witness to the worst side of nursing and, in the most depressing situations, sometimes people aren’t even aware they are contributing to it.
My challenge to every nurse out there is to simply lead by example, be the nurse you want to work with, or the nurse you want to look after your mother or your child. In this sense of “be yourself” is, do not let the negative side of nursing influence your passion and practice. We all have our own version of the gold-standard nurse, we all have something in our minds that we aspire to be, that perfect nurse. The exquisite combination of endless patience, limitless knowledge and impeccable time management, is the type of nurse I imagine and whatever form it takes for you, is the nurse I believe we each have the potential to be! You can be this person with practice and education – and experience will come along the way – but demeanor, compassion and support for your peers is something you can do every day. You can show your ambition, your goals and work towards them, never let people tell you otherwise. Fight back to those who are standing in your way, by asking for constructive feedback when you get told you can’t do something. Say “can you help me prepare or work towards doing it”, keeping in mind that not everyone will be willing to help. Find someone who doesn’t turn their nose up at enthusiasm, find a mentor who you trust and who believes in you. I know they are out there: I have a fantastic mentor, my friends rave about their mentors and many nurses came, contributed to and voiced their support to the next generation of nurses during the NNF 2018 Next Gen COI workshop. Get in touch with these people, they are amazing resources and want to be supportive and see us succeed. Jump on neo, if you are yet to personally meet someone who you would be interested in being mentored by, and talk about your skills, goals and ideas and put yourself out there as looking for a mentor.
I think if you were to ask most of my friends and family they would tell you I am unapologetically myself. Sure, I can bring my professional side to the forefront or I can be silly and have fun, but it’s still me. I have confidence in my knowledge and learning abilities to be able to adapt to any situation – well, most situations. I have many people around me that will happily admit they sometimes have trouble backing themselves, especially at work, they find it hard to be themselves and their best self in all situations. I want everyone to know that this is totally normal, it takes practice, confidence and time to master and let’s be honest, the negative side of nursing can make it so hard to develop this, so practice in everyday life.
I want to summarise and conclude by saying: we are nurses, we didn’t become nurses because it’s easy, for the pay, for the working hours, for the respect or for acknowledgement. We became nurses because we care, we are passionate about health and we are good at what we do. Therefore, being true to yourself is modelling that fundamental statement every day and not letting the “issues” of others stop us. Every individual that leads by example is making nursing a better place to work. Keep being you, the true version of you, the best you. Strive for your ambitions and follow your dreams. You are great.