21st November 2017

My journey on the Student Leadership Programme

Coming to the end of the Student Leadership Programme (SLP), it is time for me to reflect on my experience over the past few months. What an amazing journey it has been!

In September, I was allocated my mentor, and after all the anticipation and excitement about who it could be, I was not disappointed. An Executive Director of Nursing for a leading health board was beyond what I had hoped for. I started with a google search to get some background information about my mentor, and was excited to see her repertoire of leadership experience, promotion and qualifications. My mentor was clearly passionate about encouraging leadership within healthcare.

Being an executive director, she was a busy lady, but she made time for me and we spoke at length over the phone about her experiences, her approach to and expectations of leadership within the NHS, what I wanted to get out of the programme and how could she help me with this along the way. Emails were sent regularly, and a date arrange to shadow her in her role as executive director. What an incredible time that was, and such an eye opener for a third year student preparing to qualify. Even though the programme officially comes to an end for me this month, we have arranged for me to visit again in the new year to spend some additional time with her and other field specific managers and leaders for me to learn more and have further experiences. This is what it means to be someone who inspires those to continue to learn by giving them new opportunities.

Yet the programme has given so many more exciting opportunities beyond those with my mentor. Motivated and encouraged after the SLP welcome event in July, I applied and was successful in becoming a Student Information Officer for the Royal Collage of Nursing. This again led onto new and exciting opportunities. I have become the only student on my nursing school’s marketing strategy committee and am able to voice my ideas and channel my enthusiasm about student recruitment and retention. I have been part of a validation process with the NMC to secure approval for new programmes within the school. I have met with a local Welsh Assembly Member to discuss ideas for promoting nurse education and to be involved in a recruitment drive. I have been a link between a local community hospital and the school, promoting the school during an open day for the hospital. And so much more! All of these have come about as a direct result of attending the SLP welcome event and being encouraged by my mentor to get involved and direct my interests and ideas. Networking really has become key.

So, what have I learnt on a personal level? I have learnt to believe in myself, to have the confidence to question what is out there and to have conviction in my own ideas. Communication is key, and developing my communication skills has been vital. To become a leader is to inspire others, to draw them into your enthusiasm and empower them to develop their own ideas. I have since become an advocate for the SLP, presenting to 1st and 2nd year students to hopefully inspire them to try for the programme.

I have now entered the third year of my degree with a new enthusiasm and drive. My desire to continue with my education after qualifying has been renewed and I am looking for new opportunities all the time. I have truly been inspired by all those I have met during my time on the SLP, not only by staff, but by fellow students on the programme, who have truly shown me that there is real hope and opportunity for the NHS and future of healthcare.

Thank you everyone, and good luck in your future professions. I can’t wait to meet with you all again in London.

Meg Smith

3rd year mental health student nurse.