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.