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All to play for: the need for resilience in nursing leaders

Senior nurses at an RCN event set to explore how to exert influence in the challenging world of health and social care

Senior nurses at an RCN event set to explore how to exert influence in the challenging world of health and social care


The kind of resilience shown by England women’s football team needs to be shown
when leading and delivering health and care services Picture: Getty Images

The current emphasis on exploring new ways of working across organisational and system boundaries makes the voice of nurse leaders essential. Nurses are vital to the successful development of new roles, the expansion of services and the retention and recruitment of the nursing workforce to meet the increased demands and expectations of those in our care.

Nurse leaders are required to reach beyond traditional boundaries and work more closely with local partners to influence and inform how services are designed, delivered and sustained.

However, we need to remember that the difficult, entrenched problems we face in healthcare require different and more creative approaches to take nurse leadership to the next level, while continuing to move forward at pace.

Searching for solutions

If the future of nurse leaders belongs to those who are insightful, lead with compassion and can bounce back when the going gets tough, we as a profession need to ask where we can find the necessary inspiration.

The recent focus on the England women’s football team reminds us of the opportunities to look outside healthcare when searching for solutions to our own issues, such as retaining the nursing workforce.

Sport has a funny way of bringing people together, and where better to explore the theme of resilience than a team that had to dig deep to reach the Women’s World Cup semi-final at the start of July? The kind of resilience the team demonstrated also needs to be shown when leading and delivering health and care services in challenging times.

Challenging your own impact

Personal resilience isn’t just about looking after yourself and bouncing back when things go wrong. It is also the art of continually challenging your own impact. If you don’t do that, how else do you, or the services you run, improve?

It’s also true that as nurse leaders we tend to keep going, sometimes to our own detriment. Taking care of yourself enables you to give to others, who in turn can provide compassionate care to others.

At times, when we are stuck in the day-to-day challenges of delivering healthcare under pressure, leading with compassion can seem far from the forefront of our minds. Yet we know that compassionate leaders are important in leading effective, inclusive teams.

Time, courage and commitment

Nurse leaders create the conditions in which sustainable change can emerge at an individual, team and organisational level while endeavouring to maintain a clear vision that is co-produced and embraced by all. All of this requires time, courage and commitment.

The RCN Executive Nurse Network conference on 26 September aims to provide a platform for nurse leaders from across health and social care systems to explore how to exert their influence in the changing world of care. Delegates will hear from senior systems leaders and consider how we can work together to meet the challenges of care delivery now and in the future.

We will be joined on the day by top sports personalities, who have overcome multiple challenges to become successful. This will give nurses in executive roles a non-healthcare perspective on leadership, resilience, emotional intelligence, compassion and how to conquer challenges. Let’s not forget the value of looking outside healthcare when searching for solutions to our own issues.

For more on the RCN Executive Nurse Network conference 2019 click here


paul_jebbChristine McKenzie is professional lead for the RCN Executive Nurse Network

Paul Jebb is deputy director of nursing at Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust and a member of the RCNi editorial advisory board

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