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How can I work effectively alone?

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As a recently appointed specialist rheumatology nurse, I will be mainly working on my own. This will seem odd after a ward team. What approach should I take? .

If you have been used to working within a well-defined team, then anticipating working on your own can seem quite daunting. However, it is worth pointing out that few people work entirely on their own. They are often part of other teams. Such teams might not be as well defined as those that you are used to but they exist all the same.

So the first thing is to work out what these other working relationships are. In your case, there will be a ‘team’ of rheumatology professionals, including medical and support staff. You will be interacting with these people on a day-to-day basis. It is important to be clear about your role within these working relationships.

Because you may not be working in such a well-defined team as you are used to, you will need to examine your time management skills (see NT Opinion, 4 December, 2007). It is important that you become organised and set some sort of routine.

Next, look at your networks. These are people with whom you may come into daily contact but are not necessarily your immediate work colleagues. Examine how you can contribute to this ‘group’ and what you can gain from it. It may include teaching staff you will work with, your mentor, your manager and other specialist nurse colleagues. In a busy working environment, social networks can be important, too. Consider who you might go to lunch with.

If you find yourself not interacting with other staff on a fairly frequent basis, then you may have a problem. You will need to be more proactive in building day-to-day working and social relationships within your organisation. This may be difficult if you are new to the organisation. However, with a little effort, even in these circumstances, you should be able to build relationships.

Take the opportunity to get involved in things that are not strictly part of your normal work but are relevant – such as joining a project group. And also check to see if there is a ‘specialist nurse’ group that meets to share issues and learn from each other.

Chris Pearce, formerly a director of nursing, is a life coach with lifegoalspecialists.co.uk

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