7th August 2017

Reflecting on the Student Leadership Programme

Beryl Mansel, Director of the Swansea Student Leadership Academy, Student Leadership Programme Coach and Advisory Group member, shares her thoughts on the Programme.

The Council of Deans of Health in partnership with the Burdett Trust have introduced a two-year project aiming to develop and promote student’s leadership abilities. The Students Leadership Project objectives are to support 150 students of nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals with leadership training, networking and mentoring.

I have been privileged to be part of the student’s leadership project as a co-facilitator for one group of students. As a co-facilitator of the student’s journey, I observed leadership characteristics and values of exceptional quality, such as passion and enthusiasm, to become better leaders and a desire to make a difference for their patients and service users.

The students engaged with the two-day event with great interest and demonstrated active listening with their peers. The depth and richness to their discussions was awe inspiring. The students openly shared real experiences which developed appreciation from the group and a great sense of respecting others was evident. Students shared their life changing events which were critical to their journey to the here and now. The energy and enthusiasm created by the room full of students united in becoming effective leaders was infectious and inspirational.

The notion of authentic leadership was embraced by the students however this was no surprise due to the exceptionally high degree of honesty and sharing, positivity and self-awareness within the room. It was recognised by the students that Emotional intelligence was an essential requirement in healthcare and a concept that they all appeared to embrace. Emotional Intelligence considers the awareness of self and others. The students demonstrated great interpersonal skills which are required to work in harmony with others demonstrating caring, compassion and empathy for each other. The sense I have is that the students have built a network of collaborative, supportive relationships which will foster own professional practice. The quality and safety of patient care can only improve when professionals collaborate equally with trust and respect for each other.

Working closely together the students were challenged to present their scenario-building posters which was somewhat outside their comfort zone. Yet the sense of a ‘safe psychological environment’ enabled the students to feel empowered. Working in small groups the students thrived on creativity, with coloured pens and paper, scissors and diagrams ‘taken back to childhood’ several students reported with delight.

I noticed the emotions within the student’s facial expressions which were evoked by the speaker’s stories. The students listened intently and were empowered to build upon their own self-confidence, openly able to feedback their own thoughts and feelings, accepting themselves as themselves. Accepting from one speaker that it was ‘ok to be vulnerable’ and have the self-awareness to recognise this endearing strength. This notion was highly valued by the students and evident within their feedback and discussions.

This high-quality student leadership programme and all involved under the great leadership of Katerina Kolyva and her wisdom was reported by all the students to be an enormous success. This was due to the sense that the students felt valued. The feeling that organisations such as the Council of Deans and the Burdett Trust appreciated their wish to learn more about effective leadership practice by placing such importance upon the students, in nurturing their leadership qualities and supporting their leadership journey.

The project must strive to continue to nurture these students in the future. Remind them where their intrinsic motivation and journey begun and continue to inspire and develop their desire and confidence to become great leaders within healthcare.

Beryl Mansel, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Swansea University