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READERS’ BLOG

'We need more nurses to step up to the challenge of leadership'

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The Darzi Fellowship gave Christine Kerr a new perspective on nurse leadership

After being in various band 7 roles for a number of years I was ready for a new challenge. I was not actively looking for a new post though when I heard in passing about a Darzi Fellow role in emergency nursing.

To be honest I knew nothing at all about a Darzi Fellowship but my interest was piqued and I looked it up.

Reading the job description and the person specification and then having an informal discussion with the sponsor, I recognised that this was an opportunity that was rare and prestigious. The London Leadership Academy (via Leeds University) provides theoretical instruction around clinical leadership while the change management projects are designed to utilise this knowledge in clinical areas.

”I recognised that this was an opportunity that was rare and prestigious”

For me, to be able to step back slightly from the intense clinical area of the emergency department and look slightly differently at the workings of the NHS (after 24 years) came as an amazing opportunity.

Like me, a lot of my fellow nursing colleagues had never heard of a Darzi Fellow. I think this was mainly due to the fact that the Darzi programme was designed initially for the medical profession.

However, the last two cohorts were opened up to the multiprofessional group which included doctors, nurses, audiologists, paramedics, occupational therapists, pharmacists and a wealth of others too numerous to list.

I was also given abundant opportunities and exposure to networking at all levels.

”No amount of change agents can deliver change unless they are of a critical mass”

I have experienced different responses to similar interventions when working as a change agent in two trusts, despite similar issues. Fundamentally this experience has taught me that organisations will not change unless they are ready and willing to do so.

No amount of change agents can deliver change unless they are of a critical mass. Individuals are unable to bring about sustainable change by themselves.

Knowing that sometimes failure is inevitable is hard, but there is nothing as rewarding as nurturing and fostering struggling staff to recognise what their potential could be. Being recognised for our own worth and value is sometimes limited in the NHS and external validation of being good at what we do is second to none.

Throughout the year I have professionally ”grown up”. Having mentors at very senior levels and exposure to meetings and forums far outside my comfort zone made this happen.

“Recognition that previous behaviours were not necessarily right in other areas came relatively quickly”

I have gone from a typical emergency department senior nurse (bold, assertive, forthright…) to a now more measured and tempered professional.

This recognition that previous behaviours were not necessarily right in other areas came relatively quickly. I’m not sure that this would have ever occurred if I was to have stayed where I was.

I, like most other nurses on the programme, have not returned to my original post but have taken up new, more senior position.

The fellowship has shown me that in order to influence change within an organisation like the NHS, you have to be in corporate positions.

”In order to really make a difference in an organisation you need to be higher up the pecking order”

Shop floor leadership and change management are absolutely vital in delivering high quality patient care. I now finally understand that in order to really make a difference in an organisation you need to be higher up the pecking order.

This programme has shown me that not only do I have more to give, but organisations need more nurses and healthcare professionals to step up to the challenge of leadership. I would strongly encourage anyone to undertake this little-known about fellowship.

Chris Kerr is a Darzi Fellow in emergency nursing

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