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'We are stronger together than apart'

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The increasing number of clinical staff moving into management roles shows nurses shouldn’t be intimidated by making the transition from beds to boardroom.

jacqueline docherty

jacqueline docherty

I followed my mother into nursing as a teenager and the skills I learnt have proved invaluable from being approachable and friendly to problem-solving, listening and being a team player.

I have never considered myself career-minded and have simply followed my passion for healthcare and made the most of opportunities that have arisen.

Roman philosopher Seneca sums up how we often self-sabotage our own potential saying: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

My mantra has always been “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, and passion for what you do is a powerful driver for helping confront and overcome challenges.

I’ve never been one for letting other people dictate what I can and can’t do and believe any skill can be mastered with enough practice.

No-one knows everything and I still see myself as a work in progress, willing to continue listening, learning and asking questions.

It is also OK to ask for help or just admit you don’t know something. I have worked for the NHS for more than 40 years and have sat on numerous regional and national panels. I am still not afraid to make liberal use of the ‘daft lassie’ question.

Strive to be the best you can be and don’t be afraid of a challenge – because we can all do a lot more than we think we can.

One of my first ‘breaks’ was volunteering to write a report on the experience of theatre nurses for a national strategy in Scotland.

I didn’t know much about report writing but had worked in theatre and had the clinical knowledge, which is a great asset any nurse can bring to a management role.

A lot of people talk themselves out of opportunities by asking ”Why me?”, when they should be asking “Why not me?”

I’ve had my share of self-doubt and sleepless nights when faced various challenges, although stopped short of a colleague I worked with in the civil service, who would be physically sick before presenting at ministerial meetings.

“It is also important to recognise that personal and professional development is ongoing and there is always different viewpoint or perspective to consider.”

I’m not sure what that says about ministers at that time but can assure anyone that the more time you work at the edge of your comfort zone, the greater progress.

It is a mistake to think everything has to be perfect and every box ticked to go for a promotion or opening. My advice is start where you are, with what you have.

It is also important to recognise that personal and professional development is ongoing and there is always different viewpoint or perspective to consider.

This includes being sensitive to the pressure facing colleagues and partner organisations around you. Everyone has a monkey on their back of one sort of another, and the more you help other people, the more they help you.

It comes down to the fact that we are stronger together than apart, especially in a profession like healthcare with a shared goal of better patient care.

Finally, don’t be afraid to aim high. You might be surprised just how far you can go.

Dame Jacqueline Docherty is chief executive of London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust and is a Dame Commander of the British Empire for services to nursing and the NHS

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