While some people are “born” to be nurses, many develop the qualities needed to succeed in the profession through the discipline of our training and education, says Sarah Chilvers. Leave a comment on on this story to contribute to a national debate on the future of NHS leadership
Nurse entrepreneurs, like myself, are however almost always destined for the role - we just can’t help it. That is not to say we cannot be helped to be better entrepreneurs, or be held back.
Nurse entrepreneurs often tend to threaten their bosses, who resist ideas or action that is outside their expectations or experience. I was told by one of my nursing officers (as they used to be called) that I would have to wait until I had 12 years of experience at basic grade before I could even consider applying for a manager’s job. I wanted to go into management, so guess what? I immediately applied for such a position until I got accepted and, needless to say, 18 months later, I was managing that same nursing officer.
‘Sometimes good ideas, energy and ambition are too much for an organisation to bear. A nurse entrepreneur sometimes has to get out to get on’
In nursing we are presented with different opportunities. One of the joys of the profession is the variety of avenues we can pursue - if that is what we want to do. It is vital for individual nurses wanting to advance their careers to try and take every opportunity that presents itself. It is also possible to create your own opportunities. If you see a way to do this that suits your mission, do it, and don’t wait to be asked.
Others may need to take a risk on you, but that’s fine - just make sure never to disappoint and always deliver. Mistakes are fine, but focus, discipline and delivery are everything. I have had people take huge risks on me, particularly as a “rookie” manager, and I’m very grateful to them for this. But those who have the power to create the environment for nurse entrepreneurs must think carefully about how they wield their influence.
If you spot someone with talent or even just frank enthusiasm, present opportunities to them whenever possible. Be aware, however, that there is something about being an ambitious person that sometimes means they skip important stages of learning as they leap up the career ladder. Try and make sure that does not happen -there are no shortcuts. As well as providing opportunities to the starlet, also ensure they are always provided with the basic disciplines of nursing and management. It is difficult to catch up later.
I missed a critical year of education due to glandular fever before my O levels. I went on to do fine in the exams but, much later on, I found there were certain vital basics (particularly in chemistry) that came back and tripped me up from time to time. In the same way, basic management training is vital for the budding entrepreneur - who will probably be too arrogant to admit it (if they’re like me). If you are this person’s mentor, be very gentle and very forgiving.
Sometimes good ideas, energy and ambition become too much for a department or organisation to bear. I think neither party should feel too bad about this. It is likely that the proposals are not bad or impractical, just not doable at that time. Sometimes a nurse entrepreneur has to “get out” to “get on”.
I would advise any budding nurse entrepreneur to go for your dreams, stay focused, be disciplined and be determined. You will be a survivor and, almost without doubt, a great success. Enjoy it. I have.
Sarah Chilvers is the chief executive of ChilversMcCrea, a business providing primary care services, consultancy and telemedicine solutions
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