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Voice your opinion to influence care

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Find the courage and confidence to step out of your comfort zone, and stand up for what you believe in

I’ve been a nurse for many years and throughout that time I’ve witnessed the difficulty of the profession to have a voice and be heard, despite being one of the largest professions in the country.

Recently, what I’ve found even more disturbing is the concern (and often even fear) among nurses when they are asked to express their own opinion. Standing up for what you believe in is really important and can make a genuine difference to patient care, and how we individually and collectively influence the NHS that we work in.

Being a nurse is one of the most humbling and privileged jobs in the world. You get to see the best and worst of humankind on a daily basis.

After seeing and living these experiences you’re bound to develop strong beliefs and values about the world we live in. The problem, it seems, is when nurses are asked to express their thoughts and opinions and to have their own individual or collective voice.

Top tips for finding your voice

● First of all listen - and most importantly hear what they are saying. Take time to understand their perspective and viewpoint. It’s critical to respect others’ opinions even if you disagree
● Consider the impact of your beliefs on others. What might be the consequences of what you say? Think about how it might come across and adapt your approach accordingly
● Be open and honest. If you don’t know then it’s OK to say so. This isn’t a failure but takes courage and invariably will increase your credibility in the eyes of others
● Take courage in the fact that others are probably thinking the same and are too afraid to say. Be the brave one and others will undoubtedly follow.
● Your contribution is equally valid as everyone else. Remember that your participation is valuable
● Be wild and innovative. Try “thinking out of the box” to come up with some different ideas. No idea is a bad idea and it’s the diversity of ideas that leads to a solution

So why is it so hard to find your own voice? Personally, I think it’s about vulnerability. Putting yourself on the line by stating your position leaves you open to potential criticism and disagreement. Sometimes we can feel conflicted on a professional level and confused by the need to balance professional non-judgemental approaches with personal opinion, honesty and candour.

There are no easy answers to finding your own voice. It simply comes from a growing and mature self-awareness as well as the courage and confidence to step out of your comfort zone.

Voicing your opinion should always be done with the good intention to improve care and work with others to achieve results and find solutions to issues. It is vital that we remain open minded to changing our opinion and have a willingness to be challenged, otherwise we risk losing our credibility and integrity.

Lyndsay Short is deputy director at the East Midlands Leadership Academy and has a background in surgical nursing. She also leads on the Inclusive Leadership for a Purpose strategy

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