- 11 May 2021
- 8 min read
Reflections From My 10 Years In Nursing: What Helped Accelerate My Career?Subscribe To Advice
RMN and Assistant NHS Director, Maxine, looks back on her 10 years in practice so far, and evaluates the elements that have helped her progress and overcome challenges. She’s distilled it into 9 useful tips.
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This year marks my 10 years practicing as a qualified Mental Health Nurse.
I can’t quite believe it. It’s certainly been a journey that has presented with many challenges but has been fulfilling and rewarding.
After I completed my Psychology degree in 2009 I was at a cross-road, unsure of exactly what I needed to do in order to achieve my dream of getting on the clinical psychology doctorate.
On reflection now, I was completely naive to what the process entailed.
So, when a friend suggested I apply for the MSc nursing programme as it would hopefully give me access to the practical skills and patient care I was missing.
I did. I enrolled and started the 2 year MSc mental health nursing course that same year.
During my training I became immersed in the role of the nurse, and the unique value that nurses bring to the care of others.
Nursing provided me the opportunity to harness my love for caring for people and to become part of a professional body and community.
Probably like most millennials my age, I followed the so called conventional education pathway of school, sixth form, and then University.
This meant that when I completed my nurse training I was 22 faced with the daily struggle of having to justify to colleagues that I was absolutely ‘old enough’ to be in this role.
Unfortunately this is a struggle that has continued throughout my career as I have progressed.
Can we normalize accepting people for who they are and the qualities, values and skills they bring rather than being judged based on their physical characteristics?
Over my 10 years as a qualified mental health nurse I have worked across inpatient and community nursing; I’ve been a matron, an operational manager and have lead within a range of services from specialist forensic services, psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU), liaison psychiatry, etc.
I am now an Assistant Director, with a portfolio of services including Perinatal Mental Health, Crisis Care, Liaison Psychiatry and Approved Mental Health Professionals (AMHP) services.
Be Intentional In Your Actions And Move Strategically In Line With Your Ambitions
Be clear on your purpose and vision for yourself. What are you trying to achieve and why?
This is what helped me going when I wanted to give up.
Using your supervision and yearly appraisal to discuss and plan for your career development will help you be really clear on what you need to be doing in order to advance with the support of your line manager, i.e. courses, training, stretched opportunities, secondments.
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Work On Yourself Constantly
Continuing Professional Development is key to nursing career advancement.
• Continue to develop and harness your skills and strengths.
• Access leadership development opportunities.
Open Yourself Up To Different Opportunities
I worked across various clinical settings. This meant I was able to develop my skills, knowledge and understanding of various mental health conditions, supporting service users across a range of settings, and better understanding of how these impact recovery.
The main thing I took from this was an ability to be adaptable and to adjust quickly to new environments.
What happens when you get thrown into a new environment is that you quickly have to learn and assimilate to the changes in your environment. This learning process is vital to professional development and growth.
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Develop A Compassionate Leadership Style
Showing genuine kindness and empathy and the conviction and confidence in challenging poor practices or behaviours that go against the nursing code.This goes a long way. People remember how you treat them.
That is the legacy we leave behind as we journey through life.
Nursing by values of the 6 Cs has been instrumental in shaping my leadership style, not only in the treatment of service users but also in how I lead my teams.
Develop Meaningful Networks
Networks is integral to everything.
Being able to create meaningful connections with people through shared stories, vulnerabilities, or a shared vision has been crucial in my career journey.
This is a particular area I used to really struggle with.
I found making these meaningful connections difficult, until I realised I was standing in my own way by not bringing my whole self into my profession.
I have passions, wishes and values that are unique to me, and it was important to allow others to see the whole me.
Something I still work on each day.
Build Your Brand
We all have a brand, whether intentional or unintentional.
Take control of your brand.
Build a positive reputation based on the quality of your work, your work ethic and your values.
Access A Mentor, Coach and/or Sponsor
A very crucial part to my development has been support!
Support has come in very different forms throughout my career, and on reflection I have felt more capable to succeed when I have been supported to harness and develop my skills and talents through mentorship and coaching.
Access to this has meant that I was endorsed due to my potential readiness to take on new challenges and, crucially, whilst within those new roles, I was supported to continue to develop, grow and learn.
Keep Putting Yourself Out There!
This is very important and can be difficult for some nurses from ethnic minority backgrounds who may have been in the same roles for a number of years and turned down for numerous advancement opportunities.
We must continue to put ourselves forward for opportunities, despite how disheartening and sometimes demoralising the process can feel.
It is easy in the face of rejection to head towards a dark place of thinking you are never going to get that job or you are not good enough for that job.
But that is far from the truth.
Before becoming successfully appointed in my current role, I interviewed and was appoint-able but unsuccessful 3 times prior for similar senior roles.
Being a nurse from an ethnic minority background, I am cognisant that I am one of very few like me in this position and even yet fewer in more senior positions.
Seek And Act On Professional Feedback
You should be continually seeking and acting on professional feedback as this is a vital part of personal development.
You can do this through supervision with your line manager, from a mentor, professional peers or colleagues, and especially post job interviews.
This can help you understand how other people experience you, i.e. what is it like to be on the receiving end of you?
Feedback can also help you tailor your communication style so that your intent is always received by your audience.
Structured feedback can help you harness your strengths (which may be completely different to what you think) and build on your weakness, and help you become more aware of your blind spots.