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Blog: Valuable nursing lessons from the National Cancer Leadership Programme

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Nursing Times Award-winner Liz Darlison reports back from the latest module of the National Cancer Leadership Programme

After module three of the National Cancer Leadership Programme I certainly felt my career plan, if I ever had one, had been thrown up in the air.

I originally I wanted to be a clinical tutor but NHS reform moved the goalposts faster than I could get to where I wanted to be. Somewhere in the late 80’s or early 90’s I stopped making plans and made the most of where I was. I seized every opportunity that came my way.

I discovered nursing is wonderful for allowing you to emphasise the parts of the role you want to develop. I took on responsibility for education within the ward I worked; I progressed to being a practice development nurse.

I also spent several years as a ward sister, which I consider essential for any nurse.

By the new millennium I reached a point where I was identifying patient/carer/service need on a scale that needed substantial change and investment. In addressing those needs and auditing, researching, writing bids, securing funds etc, I inadvertently created professional opportunities for myself.

So back to the Cancer Leadership Programme and module 4, and me feeling ‘all at sea’.

Throughout the course you are really well supported and tutorials with the programme leaders are available. I avoided arranging a tutorial because I felt so unsettled and I didn’t want to expose that.

I am responsible for the development of a national resource centre that has received considerable financial and professional support. Mesothelioma UK is now very much established within the Mesothelioma and lung cancer world, and my commitment and enthusiasm CANNOT start to wane. Patients, carers and other health care professional rely on me and Mesothelioma UK is not ready for me to back off.

I so looked forward to Module 4 which took us to Missenden Abbey in Buckinghamshire. I really hoped my journey would continue and I would find some inner peace.

Whilst at Missenden we were introduced to Myers Briggs. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions.

There weren’t any big surprises for me in my feedback. I pretty much agreed with the types I was given and it was fascinating to see how different each of our ‘types’ were and to discover that no one type is better or a more effective leader than another type.

One of the programme's most useful and enjoyable activities was the Lean Thinking Workshop,which gave us with an invaluable opportunity to appreciate the complexities involved making change to improve the activity and output of a team.

Our final day was spent doing the Board Room Activity (BRA). In preparation we were required to observe a board meeting within our own trust - something I now think every NHS employee should do just once.

The board meeting I attended at UHL was not as formal as I was expecting, and it was far more focused on patient/user opinion, with several patients sitting in the viewing area. For the BRA the group was split into two boards, A and B.

Within our board we were given a role to play ie director of nursing, chief executive, lay member. We were presented Dragons' Den style a project idea chosen by ourselves, to our opposing board. We were in direct competition with colleagues for a sum of money to be allocated as a project grant.

Not surprisingly the two projects that won the grant were both focused on improving customer relations within the hospital setting, a lesson we had all learnt from our time spent with the Marks and Spencer managers in Manchester.

So Missenden provided us with an opportunity to explore ourselves a little further. It helped us appreciate that many different types of individuals can lead effectively and, through some really enjoyable educational methods, we were allowed to put ourselves to the test. Our final module is now on the horizon.

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