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'The motivation to drive the nursing profession forward comes from nurse leaders'

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Nurse consultant, Irene Dunkley, has seen gastroenterology nursing develop over her 20 years in the field. She attributes these improvements in patient care to strong, motivational leadership and hard work

Staff working within the NHS have demonstrated time and again their willingness to take on the challenges of today’s health service.

But a lack of understanding about the challenges facing the NHS in some political quarters is pushing them to breaking point. As nursing in the NHS currently faces huge funding and workforce pressures, nursing leaders need to not only motivate themselves but also their whole team to develop new skills and improve patient care.

“It’s clear that I would not have succeeded without the support of my leadership team”

Having trained as a nurse endoscopist and inflammatory bowel disease nurse 20 years ago, I have been privileged to work within a cohesive multidisciplinary team who have supported my personal development. As a result, our services have been enhanced and are readily accessible for our patients. To me, it’s clear that I would not have succeeded without the support of my leadership team. This understanding drives me to train and support nurses and doctors within my organisation and nationally to improve patient care.

Within gastrointestinal nursing we have seen the development of an amazing array of new roles throughout the last 20 years: nurse endoscopists, inflammatory bowel disease nurses, nutrition nurses, liver nurses, cancer nurses and many more. This situation has only arisen because nursing staff have been motivated to step up to take opportunities and face new challenges.

Through hard work, they have succeeded in improving care for patients.

“Senior nurses must recognise and reward good performance”

In my view, nurse managers, whether working on wards, endoscopy units or outpatient departments, have a diffcult challenge keeping both themselves and their staff motivated, especially where there are staff shortages. These senior nurses must recognise and reward good performance and rectify slipping standards. They need the skills to do this in a supportive but assertive way which allows the individual to recognise that change is necessary and motivate them to take action.

Nursing shortages in some parts of the UK mean that we must be creative in how we deliver patient services. Encouragement and team building are key to success. Team building takes time and resilience but it is a joy to be part of, and it gets you through the difficult days when the challenges keep coming.

Despite a reduction in funding for personal development, the opportunities to develop skills and services are out there, and with determination we can make positive changes happen.

“It seems unlikely that our political leaders will provide us with an easy solution”

I have had the privilege of attending many of the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) Nursing Association events which deliver high quality affordable nursing education. Some patient organisations offer bursaries and there are other opportunities (such as sponsored events) to improve knowledge and skills.

It seems unlikely that our political leaders will provide us with an easy solution, so nurse leaders need to be smarter in order to support nursing education. We all have a responsibility to maintain our knowledge and skills for revalidation of our nursing qualification. In these times it is the role of our leaders to assess what opportunities are available and motivate their colleagues to take them.

Irene Dunkley is head of the British Society of Gastroenterology Nurse Association; and nurse consultant for gastroenterology and endoscopy at Hinchingbrooke Hospital


How to revalidate with the NMC

Eyers-Young C, Evans C (2016) Developing leadership skills in senior nurses. Nursing Times; 112: 43/44, 20-22




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Readers' comments (1)

  • Redefining Nursing Leader
    A true leader for me does not need a title, all she or he needs is a drive from within to find ways to develop processes in order to constantly motivate colleagues (superior, senior, junior level staffs)in all aspect of how she provides her or his care to the patient.

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