How the Mary Seacole course has influenced me as a leader

Lou Adams reflects on how her leadership style was challenged by the training programme 

Lou Adams reflects on how her leadership style was challenged by the training programme 

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I recently completed the NHS Leadership Academy Mary Seacole course, recommended to me by a consultant surgeon. I went into this six-month programme believing it to be a ‘tick-box’ exercise to evidence some leadership learning.

However, it has given me the opportunity to critically reflect on my own leadership styles and theoretically understand the role of the leader, which I have applied to improving the patient experience.

The programme challenged my leadership style.

Outstanding leadership is fundamental to our NHS organisations. Improvement in services has been noted in research because increasingly clinicians play an important part in shaping our healthcare.

This highlighted the importance of training excellent clinical leaders who have a line of sight to the patient to be able to make future decisions that determine the quality and efficiency of care. This is the basis of the NHS Leadership Academy programmes. Hartley and Bennington (2010) look at three perspectives of leadership: personal qualities, leadership positions and the social process.

'Outstanding leadership is fundamental to our NHS organisations'

The social process suggests effective leaders need to engage with all staff to achieve leadership goals.

To deliver this, I had to critically examine my own understanding of management and leadership. As a nurse leading the emergency department, both are pertinent to achieving innovation and sustaining processes that achieve desired outcomes.

When I reflect on what is important, the bottom line is excellent patient-centred care.

I read the Francis Report (2010) as well as reading many patient stories that had horrific or life-changing outcomes so I could understand what it is like being a patient in a hospital.

Often, we fail to stop and reflect on the patients’ experience as we are so concerned about processes, ambulance targets and the staff’s experience.

So many of the stories that I read were examples of multiple systemic failures to which some led to unnecessary patient deaths.

The endless accounts from the Francis Report (2010) made me recognise that although Mid-Staffordshire was investigated, we have all witnessed poor practice that becomes the norm.

As a leader it is about making a cultural change for the entire team, keeping patient-centred care at the forefront and making sure unacceptable standards don’t become acceptable.

I now feel it is not just about leading the nursing team but being aware of all workers who are involved in contributing to the larger vision of our organisation.

Keeping a shared purpose

This course enabled me to reflect on my own leadership style and to consciously change the way I lead the ED; leading by example, so simple yet so effective. It is a great way to learn new leadership approaches alongside many other professionals within the larger NHS environment.

When I started, my approach to leadership was reactive, I lacked confidence and wasn’t aware of what I was achieving or what my vision was. I have consolidated my learning and my challenge remains to keep a shared purpose, while driving forward our service, engaging my team, holding them to account with the added expectation of them upholding an excellent patient-centred service.

Leadership can appear overwhelming but keeping the Healthcare Leadership Model (Hartley and Benington 2010) in mind and continually reflecting will help me to not stagnate but keep driving forward.


About the author

Lou Adams is senior paediatric emergency sister at Western Sussex Foundation Hospital Trust, St Richards Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex.

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