11th September 2019

Swansea’s Student Leadership Academy (Part Two)

Part two by Beryl Mansel, founder of Swansea’s Student Leadership Academy

I had a vision, a picture of what the Student Leadership Academy (SLA) could be and should be. A BIG idea! However, how do I turn this vision into a reality?

One small step at a time.

My initial step was to effectively communicate my vision with others. This was key along with identifying and enlisting others with a shared passion in effective leadership. I shared the idea with Kateria Kolyva, Executive Director of the CoDH thus gaining permission to pilot a model of the Student Leadership Programme (SLP) at a local level. Step two was to sell the vision to key influencers at Swansea University, with support from mentors,
Professor Judy McKimm and Professor Sharon Williams. I framed my vision as working alongside Swansea University’s Leadership Academy. In May 2018 a concept paper for a Student Leadership Academy was born, and I am eternally grateful to Professor Ceri Phillips for his enthusiasm and support of the SLA.

Students from the Student Leadership Academy taster in November 2018

To communicate my SLA vision, I organised a ‘Leadership Taster Session’ in November 2018. This was a 3 hour session for students who expressed an interest in learning about leadership and was also an opportunity to showcase what could be achieved by developing student leadership. Feedback from the students described the taster as; ‘inspiring’, ‘enthused’ and ‘empowered’. What I observed was the same energy, excitement and enthusiasm, from both students and the observers, that was discernible within the national programme. For me this was a validation to move forward with confidence that this leadership programme could be successful in a local context.

I did not have a perfectly formed vision, collaboration was essential for the direction and design of the programme, thus an advisory panel was established.

The panel includes members across health and social care, academics and clinicians, including members from Welsh Government, Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust (WAST) and a Service User with a background in leading within education. Embracing the CoDH ethos of students as co-creators of the SLP, we invited 3 student representatives who were selected for the National Student Leadership Programme in 2018/19.

  • Samuel Richards, Mental Health Nursing
  • Angharad Colinese, Midwifery
  • Joshua Maney, Allied Health Professional – Osteopathy

Their support and advice have been instrumental in shaping the SLA. Here, Sam talks about the SLP and SLA .

Sam and Angharad co-created a leadership journal for our first cohort. The mnemonic HEARTS represents: Honesty; Emotional Intelligence; Authentic; Resilience; True connections and Self-awareness this complimented my observations of what was important to the students from cohort 2 of the SLP.


The development of a ‘Terms of Reference’ document for the Advisory Panel outlined the scope of the role of the members.  Specifically, their role was to bring different perspectives and work collaboratively to provide advice, expertise, experience and knowledge, and to shape the development and implementation of the SLA and influence stakeholders to achieve the objectives of the SLA. The stakeholders were drawn across health and social care to include Head of Nursing, Nursing Officers, members from the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives, Social Services, Clinical Leads, WAST with invitations to Coach the first cohort planned for March 2019.

In January 2019, I promoted the SLA to first year health and social care students in lectures and invited them to apply for a place on the programme. Applications were slow to come in at first, therefore I enlisted Sam, Angharad and Joshua to promote SLA and the opportunity to apply for the programme.

Reflecting back, the challenges along the way were minor issues attributed to my lack of knowledge in ordering and purchasing goods and finding the right learning environment. I wanted to move the students away from their usual lecture rooms and provide a different learning space that facilitated group work and innovative thinking.

On March 25th  and 26th, 2019 we held our first two days of the SLA, which featured an Emotional Intelligence workshop, student presentations; discussing authentic leadership and managing difference. Steve Moore, CEO of a local health board shared his leadership journey, and introspection of self, using Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The students valued the stories of inspirational leadership journeys ‘from the bottom to the top’.

We held our third and final day on the 3rd July 2019. A day looking at leadership values, a Q&A panel with distinguished guests from Social Services, WAST, Health Education and Improvement Wales, nursing Officers and #150leaders. We were fortunate to be able to invite Sarah Tobin from Plymouth University to deliver a session on ‘Compassion and Leadership’. Interim feedback from 19 of the students stated that we should:

  • Not stop anything: ‘amazing experience’ ‘not change anything’
  • Start: providing more presentations from students participants/future leaders
    Allow longer time for Q&A with leaders
    Getting us out of our shells/comfort zone

10 students praised the guest speakers, indicating this is something we should continue, comments included; ‘Great time learning from each of the speakers’, ‘great programme – inspirational speakers’ and ‘Engaging talks especially the journeys’.

Currently we are looking to evaluate the SLA using an online survey questionnaire and to publish the findings. The students are also writing blogs of their leadership journey which will soon be published. The journey will continue for these students as informal opportunities to present their experience with the SLA are arising and we aim to provide more formal continuation events for each cohort as they progress through their courses and hold a student-led ‘Leadership conference’ next year.   We have also supported other universities who want to develop their own SLAs and will continue to do so.

Why did I want to do this?

Self-confidence is key to successful leadership. Self-confidence is a competency of emotional intelligence. Yet, I had to learn to build my own self-confidence as a leader once I qualified. Learning about leadership and recognising your transferable skills need to be at the beginning of any pre-registration healthcare programmes. Understanding yourself and others around you is the essence of developing effective leadership.  My personal leadership story of personal challenges, major changes and difficult situations in clinical practice has shaped my vision. When a vision is so big that the thought of achieving your provisional goals are overwhelming, simply walking on those small stepping stones creates an exciting future.

My highest gratitude and appreciation to all involved, too numerous to mention, for your passion for student leadership learning and all who believed and supported me on this journey one step at a time.

More information on the Swansea Student Leadership Academy can be found here.

3rd September 2019

Swansea’s Leadership Leadership Academy (Part One)

My journey across the stepping stones to the Student Leadership Academy

A reflection of new experiences, skills and opportunities in creating and shaping Swansea University Student Leadership Academy. By Beryl Mansel

In 2016 I applied and was accepted to join the Advisory Group for the Council of Deans of Health (CoDH) Student Leadership Programme. This was initially a 2-year project, in partnership with the Burdett Trust, to support 150 healthcare students from across the UK to develop their leadership potential. Due to its outstanding success, further funding was assured to support 150 student leaders for a further three years.

My first project was Advisory Group meeting in June 2017. On my journey towards London I recall thinking: ‘what do I have to offer? Do I know enough?’

I arrived an hour late due to train delays and a navigation service sending me in the wrong direction. This added to my feeling of being a fraud, which was further compounded by the anxieties of walking into a room of exceptionally talented strangers! I put a lot of pressure on myself within the meeting ‘to perform’ and contribute something of value- this added to the impostor syndrome experience. The meeting went by with what I thought were no productive words uttered from my mouth.

How do I deal with imposter syndrome? I recognise and acknowledge the feelings and reframe my thoughts, thus focusing on my goals for that day.

At the end of the meeting I approached Katerina Kolyva, Executive Director of the CoDH and expressed my wish to be involved in the July Welcome Events in Birmingham, and that is when my journey began! Since the first day I met Katerina, I recognised a truly inspirational role model. Katerina has provided me with confidence in my abilities, and helped me to take the next steps towards my development as a leader, stretching me beyond my comfort zone and nurturing my creativity and innovation.

I shared my thoughts of my immersion with cohort 2 in Birmingham July 2017 here.

The next step in my journey was with the cohort 2 final day in London, November 2017. My role was to introduce the speakers and presenters as well as chairing a Leadership Panel Q&A session. I felt humbled by the inspiring speakers and their personal stories. I have learned from the Student Leadership Programme the power and importance of story-telling. When people offer stories of their authentic self, connections are made in the narratives we share with one another.

February 2018 was a key stepping stone on my leadership journey. Meeting in London, the Advisory Group was presented with both cohort 1 and 2 student reflections and feedback of their experiences with the student leadership programme. Key themes that emerged were:

  • A better understanding of leadership
  • Strengthened confidence and self-awareness
  • Power of networking and social media
  • What university programmes are lacking

They elaborated on what universities are lacking as ‘theory as opposed to interactive’ learning, a ‘lack of networking and mentoring opportunities’ and ‘limited leadership modules. In my experience as a mental health student nurse and as a lecturer, learning about leadership (and management) typically occurs at the end of the programme. It is often overlooked and I found that learning about my own self-awareness, awareness of others and building self-confidence took place during my time as a qualified nurse. I hear this often from others who narrate their leadership story.  In order to consolidate the idea of leadership, students must gain an understanding of what leadership means and learn leadership skills from the beginning of their undergraduate programme.

Having observed and immersed myself in the student Leadership Programme a vision started to formulate in my mind to address this important feedback.  A definition of a vision provided by the ACT Academy, NHS Improvement is:
a picture that brings to life an attractive future state for the organisation or the outcome of a change’.

This is the picture I painted

The aim of the Academy is to develop leadership skills of pre-registration first year students across health and social care at Swansea University. The Student Leadership Academy (SLA) will reflect the ethos of the Council of Deans of Health:
‘to develop and promote student leadership capacity in support of delivering the best possible care to patients and service users’

 A BIG dream! How do I achieve this? Is it possible to transpose a national leadership programme into a local context with a successful outcome?

I was ready for the challenge.


Read Part 2

19th September 2018

My #150Leaders Experience

Julie Bolter, a #150Leaders student on the 2018 programme and student dietitian at the University of Plymouth, shares her experiences and reflects on her learning.

The Student Leadership Programme (SLP) aims to promote and develop necessary leadership skills in students who might one day be in significant leadership roles within the NHS. The knowledge and skills taught are intended to prepare students for a happy, successful and long career. The SLP was open to all health care professional students. In 2018, 90 students from all over the UK were selected to become a ‘student leader’ from over 700 applicants. I strongly recommend students apply to join the next cohort of student leaders and use it as a platform to progress further then they could ever imagine.

The SLP has opened the door to many new opportunities, built my confidence and given me a unique support network.

The SLP was kicked off by a two day all expenses paid welcome event in Reading. The induction event included inspirational guest speakers, storytelling, peer feedback, personal reflections, group scenarios, interactive workshops and a spot of origami (example in picture below).

Following the event each student was matched to a mentor. I was extremely lucky in being given two, one from London and another from Hertfordshire. The programme suggested three mentoring sessions, provided a budget for travel expenses and allowed scope to adapt mentoring to suit our own aims and aspirations. The mentoring sessions were self-directed and encouraging, with an informal meeting over coffee in Oxford and a trip to the Chief Allied Health Professional Officers Conference in London. The rest of the mentoring sessions were via video calls and the good old-fashioned telephone. I felt I was guided through personal goals whist learning about leadership and how it may impact my journey towards achieving my personal aims. Everyone used their mentoring sessions differently, for example, others shadowed their mentors or perfected poster presentations. As I mentioned before there is flexibility to make them individualised (the same as we make care for our patients). Additional benefits of the SLP included regular topical webinars, amazing peer support and platforms to build inter-professional networks.

The programme has taught me that:

  • Leadership is different to management.
  • Anyone and everyone can be a leader and they are found at all levels.
  • Students do not have to wait to make a positive contribution.
  • They can become an advocate for something they are passionate about or take up leadership roles.
  • The health service will need to continue to change to meet current demands which is exciting and allows professionals to become pioneers and innovators.
  • A leader takes ownership of value-based visions and turns their passions and dreams into realities for the greater good. Therefore, leadership skills in health care professionals are important to equip visionary students with the skill set to design, implement, evaluate and take ownership of their future careers.

The first four cohorts were brought together for a networking event in London. Almost all the 150 students attended just demonstrating how much enthusiasm, enjoyment and benefit we had all found the programme to be. This event treated us to more storytelling from inspiring leaders and provided knowledge about building networks and political astuteness. There were many group discussions as well as some voluntary singing and dancing! The event was concluded with a drinks reception.

This is an exciting time to be entering the health care sector with current investment and a shift in leadership. This has allowed for a motivating, creative and supportive environment as transformative leadership ‘new power’ overshadows authoritative leadership ‘old power’.

Some of the key learning outcomes from the programme are a taster of what the future of the NHS leadership will involve…

  • Empowerment and collaborative working led by empathetic leaders.
  • Consideration of potential barriers to become a pro-active instead of re-active service to meet today’s demands.
  • Lateral thinking – Thinking outside of the conventional box.
  • Positive risk taking to challenge the status quo to improve patient care.
  • Emotionally intelligent teams, where individuals are self-aware and able to manage themselves in challenging situations. At the same time teams that are socially aware enhancing professional relationships.
  • Reliance and self-care to ensure all health care professionals wellbeing is protected.
  • Reflective practices where achievements are celebrated by everyone and ‘failing’ or not achieving goals (YET) are used as opportunities to learn and improve.
  • Politically astute health professionals who strive to influence policies for the greater good of patients. This involves consideration of the bigger picture, organisational and climate awareness, active listening to understand and build alignments and alliances.

The program has given richness to my studies and I strongly believe it has enabled me to become a stronger, more resilient and emotionally intelligent ‘hopeful’ future leader. It has really opened my eyes up to the new and exciting possibilities that await me in the current and changing climate of the health service.

I am extremely excited about the future of the health care sector and confident it is in safe hands of the #150leaders. I cannot speak highly enough about the programme.