Features

Expert mentoring and how it can pave a pathway to successful leadership

A pioneering module developed at the University of Nottingham brings together nurses at the top of the profession with those on the threshold of careers in nursing children.
Mentoring

A pioneering module developed at the University of Nottingham brings together nurses at the top of the profession with those on the threshold of careers in nursing children

It is vital for the healthcare system that nurses of children and young people have the ability and courage to lead. These qualities can affect all elements of healthcare, from direct care through service commissioning (Royal College of Nursing 2014) to staff satisfaction and retention (Kerfoot, 2000, Corning, 2002, Heller et al 2004).

Emerging nurses need exposure to, and experience in, leadership skills and attributes to enter the workplace (Middleton 2013). Mentoring has been identified as an important catalyst in the development of future leaders and the enhancement of leadership skills (Wieck et al 2002, Evans and Resier 2004, Sherman 2005), and it is widely accepted that mentorship provides learning and development gains for

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A pioneering module developed at the University of Nottingham brings together nurses at the top of the profession with those on the threshold of careers in nursing children

Mentoring
Picture: iStock

It is vital for the healthcare system that nurses of children and young people have the ability and courage to lead. These qualities can affect all elements of healthcare, from direct care through service commissioning (Royal College of Nursing 2014) to staff satisfaction and retention (Kerfoot, 2000, Corning, 2002, Heller et al 2004).

Emerging nurses need exposure to, and experience in, leadership skills and attributes to enter the workplace (Middleton 2013). Mentoring has been identified as an important catalyst in the development of future leaders and the enhancement of leadership skills (Wieck et al 2002, Evans and Resier 2004, Sherman 2005), and it is widely accepted that mentorship provides learning and development gains for students and mentors.

At the school of health sciences at the University of Nottingham a pioneering mentoring initiative involving expert leaders and nursing students is underway.

As part of this initiative nursing students working in small action learning sets are asked to identify, explore and tackle challenges in contemporary healthcare practice. In doing so they are expected to consider strategic, managerial and operational issues.

Mentors provide the students with coaching, guidance and networking opportunities, and offer them exposure to wider leadership, policy and service developments. In turn, the mentors gain insights into their own personal leadership styles so they can act as role models for the next generation of nurses.

Academic module content is delivered by lecturing staff and is intended to help students to explore the theoretical underpinnings of relevant themes, and how they may apply to the project and to their own future practice.

The work culminates in student groups presenting their findings at a shared conference event. The findings are analysed, recommendations are made, and the process is reflected on to enhance team and individual development.

Challenges

The contemporary challenges tackled in the project include raising the profile of the health visitor role by introducing a parent information page in child health records, improving emotional resilience in school-age children to address mental health concerns, and enhancing nursing students’ knowledge about female genital mutilation and its mandatory reporting.

We look forward to developing this element of our undergraduate nursing curriculum in the future. The initiative has already been extended into our adult and mental health master of nursing science pathways, and we hope to integrate it into the next configuration of our BSc course across all fields of practice.

Some of our mentors and students have agreed to share their comments on involvement in the module.

 

Professor Dame Elizabeth Fradd

Liz_Fradd

The focus of Elizabeth’s working life and her passion is the continuous improvement of healthcare. She undertakes commissioned work, including investigations, governance reviews, board development, coaching and mentoring. Until April 2004, she was the nurse director and lead director for the review and inspection programme in what is now the Care Quality Commission.  Earlier roles include that of assistant chief nurse for England and clinical lead for children’s services at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham. She is a registered sick children’s nurse, general nurse, midwife and health visitor. She has published widely, and spoken on many occasions at national and international conferences.

Elizabeth has honorary doctorates from Wolverhampton, Nottingham and Birmingham City University, and holds honorary professorships at two of them. In 2009 she was awarded the DBE for services to nursing and healthcare. She was made a fellow of the Royal College of Nursing in 2004, which complements her honorary fellowships of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Queens Nursing Institute and the Faculty of Public Health. She is vice president of Nottingham University, Patron of the charity Together for Short Lives and vice president of Rainbows Children’s Hospice. She was appointed a deputy lieutenant for Nottinghamshire in March 2016.

 

Angela Horsley

Angela_Horsley

Angela Horsley is the newly appointed head of children, young people and transition at NHS Improvement, which is a national role. She has had a varied career over the last 37 years. More recent roles have included head of East Midlands Maternity and Children’s Network, senior nurse for children and young people at NHS England, and clinical lead for Nottingham Children’s Hospital. She is passionate about her chosen career and not only has an interest in team development, but also in service improvement for children, young people and their families.

 

What were your reasons for choosing to participate in this initiative?

Elizabeth: ‘I was delighted to be asked to participate. I enjoy direct involvement with small groups of students; it provides opportunities that cannot be experienced in other forums. I know I gain just as much from the students as I hope they do from me.’  

Angela: ‘I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with others and this is an ideal opportunity. I also think it is an excellent opportunity to influence their future career progression and manage local talent. As a senior nurse I also have a responsibility to ensure that our nurses in training gain the widest breadth of experience available to them.’

How would you define your role as an expert mentor?

Elizabeth: ‘A listener and facilitator. Someone to guide rather than instruct. A confidant.’

Angela: ‘Critical friend, advisor, supporter, broker and senior colleague.’

What impact do you think this initiative has made or could make to children and young people’s (CYP) nursing?

Elizabeth: ‘I suspect that it enables students to make decisions with confidence, access research, determine the best course of action, to be bold enough to speak up if need be and to work collaboratively in a team. I feel able to suggest the above because I witness real growth among the group and on an individual level during the module. They take responsibility, not only for their own learning, but also for that in others in the group. They learn to share and think of the common good.’  

Angela: ‘This opportunity allows senior nurses with influence to hear how it is on the “shop floor” and helps to create a vision for children’s nursing in the future. This proactive approach can therefore help to influence policy, utilise local knowledge and thus improve patient care.’

Why is it important for student nurses to have an opportunity to access and work with strategic leaders in CYP nursing?

Elizabeth: ‘We bring years of experience of tried and tested approaches in learning and practice, and networks students would not ordinarily be able to access. We also offer a different perspective on their work and someone who is there for them, interested in their work and keen to see them do well.’

Angela: ‘Nurse training is only a start, with little reference to senior nursing strategic roles. This opportunity gives students a small insight about nursing roles, decision making, policy making and the nurse’s ability to influence practice. Hopefully, they realise that, no matter what role you are in,you are a nurse first and foremost, with the interest of the patient and family at the centre of your thinking. It also allows the mentor to further question policy and consider what is fit for purpose.’

What have you gained from being involved with this work?

Elizabeth: ‘A greater understanding of the programme and first-hand knowledge of what it is like for students trying to balance the many demands placed on them. Also, a new understanding or knowledge of treatments or approaches to care. Watching how different groups work together, learn from each other, share ideas and formulate coordinated plans builds my knowledge of how to handle similar groups in future.’  

Angela: ‘Being involved with the students in this way keeps you grounded and allows you to reflect on the decision to train as a nurse. It also allows the mentor to gain more understanding of the curriculum while preparing the nurses for registration.’

 

Maria Beard

Maria_Beard

After graduating in 2010, Maria Beard started work as a staff nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Following an 18-month rotational programme, she took a permanent position in the children’s emergency department. While working for the NHS trust she maintained close links with the university’s school of health sciences, and supported nursing students to plan and undertake short ‘elective’ placements in Malawi. In October 2013, she started a PhD at the University of Nottingham with the aim of investigating the factors associated with accidental burn injuries in Malawian children.

 

Hannah Wisdom

Hannah Wisdom

Hannah Wisdom graduated in 2016. She began work as a staff nurse on a paediatric assessment and short stay unit within the Nottingham Children’s Hospital and Rainbows Children Hospice,where she provided specialist care to children with life-limiting and life-threatening illness. Alongside her clinical role, she continues to work with nurse leaders on the publication of research she conducted as an undergraduate into transition and end of life care. She hopes to apply for a research scholarship provided by Health Education East Midlands.

 

What did you do for your project?

Maria: ‘Our group was the first cohort to undertake this module in 2009. During this year our mentor, Dame Elizabeth Fradd, was a member of the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing in Midwifery in England. The commission was seeking views from key stakeholders, such as individuals, public and organisations, on the potential for nurses and midwives to take a more central role in delivering, leading and managing services. To complement this process, our group aimed to develop an electronic reusable learning object (eRLO) to inform nurses, particularly community and school nurses, about how services were commissioned at different strategic levels. The project and design process was then presented to the group of expert mentors, academic staff and our peers for feedback.

Hannah: ‘Our project focused on creating a “marketing video” to address the misconceptions held about the children’s nursing role to, and to attract more potential students to the career, clarify expectations of potential applicants to reduce attrition, improve the morale of children’s nurses and address the national nurse staffing crisis.’

What did you learn from working with your mentor?

Maria: ‘I am inspired by Dame Elizabeth Fradd. While she is a highly successful leader, she is also extremely approachable and supportive. This not only made me realise the value she sees in us as future nurses, but to recognise that the most effective leaders can facilitate staff at all stages and levels of the profession. Through this experience, our group understood that to achieve quality care and services, we must combine the talents of the team.

Hannah: ‘I recognised the importance of good leadership for effective team working, and how to learn from good and bad leadership. I learned the importance of working from the front line, and that ideas are valued and nurtured by people at a strategic level. Most importantly, I learned that the sky is the limit in nursing. No two career paths are the same in nursing, and you must have the passion, drive and confidence to progress and develop through your career.’

In what ways has this work changed or developed your clinical practice?

Maria: ‘The initiative provided insight into how nurses identify patient needs and service improvement. This involved examining the development of contemporary policy and its application to practice. As my career has progressed, I have continued to maintain a keen interest in the development of contemporary policy and how it affects, not only clinical work in the UK, but wider international developments.’

Hannah: ‘This project enabled me to see things from a more strategic level, and to create operational solutions to problems faced each day in clinical practice and to national issues that affect nursing. It has highlighted that one person’s change in practice can have a significant positive effect and it has created a passion in me to drive change. This is a passion I try to share with others on the ward.’

In what ways has this work changed or developed your aspirations for future development and career progression?

Maria: ‘The time I spent with Dame Elizabeth Fradd and our group gave me the confidence I needed to present myself at conferences at an early stage, and to apply for experiences outside my comfort zone. I came to understand that career development is not about being somewhere a long time, but is driven by work that motivates and interests you.’

Hannah: ‘I have gained confidence and assurance in knowing that it is okay to be aspirational, and that even in positions that don’t involve consistent direct patient contact I can inform and shape practice that directly affects patients. There is a tremendous opportunity for me to maintain a meaningful concurrent engagement with clinical practice and academia, and there are many people out there who will support me in my endeavours.’

What was the value of spending time with those working at a strategic level in CYP nursing?

Maria: ‘The module backed up teaching with real-world experience. For example, spending time with those working at a strategic level provided me with a better understanding of how policies are developed and integrated in services. Working closely with mentors bridged a gap between nurses at the top of their careers and those who are just starting out. Before this module, we had not been conscious of how nurses working as leaders and policy advisors develop their careers. As a student nurse, these careers seemed almost unobtainable, but spending one-on-one time with our mentors and considering the paths they choose to follow has helped us to create ideas for our future careers as nurses.

Hannah: ‘Sending time with those working at a strategic level in children’s nursing has allowed us to recognise national issues and share things from our practice that are effective. It allowed us to see different priorities and how that relates to practice on the ward, and has enabled us to share this vision with those we work with.’


About the authors

Laura Holliday is a teaching associate

Paula Dawson is an assistant professor

Carol Hall is an associate professor

All at the school of health sciences, University of Nottingham


References

Further resources

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