Well that didn’t go as I thought

 

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You will remember on Monday I was planning on inspiring a group of teenage boys to consider Nursing as a career.

I have worked with children for the past 25 years, so you would expect that I would understand how teenagers react to something that is new and maybe challenges their view of the world. Well I would have thought that too, but no I didn’t. For some reason in my head I had them all having a light bulb moment, and thanking me for raising their awareness and asking me where they sign up. I imagined my self being the Robin Williams character in ‘The Dead Poet’s Society’, but no one stood on their desk and shouted “Captain, my Captain….” with me staring wistfully into the near distance, with the hint of a tear in my eye. Who was I kidding!

Twelve boys came to my lunchtime tutorial/assembly. I thought to myself wow, that is a really good response. I then looked at them and saw twelve sets of arms crossed and 12 sets of eyes looking at me (not in a good way). Do you remember that feeling that I described I had before my Rotary Club talk? Well this was like that but slightly more terrifying (teenagers are way more intimidating than 60-70 year olds). My mouth went dry and all my plans went flying out of the window. I reminded myself, that I knew my subject, I knew what i wanted to achieve, so just step off and go for it. So I did, they sat there and listened very politely to me. Then I asked them what would stop them considering to be a nurse. I was met with a wave of silence. My initial reaction was to throw my marker pen on the floor and run. But I am a professional, so I stood firm, and held the silence, I held it for slightly longer than is comfortable, the silence was broken, and thankfully it was not broken by one of the teachers present in the room. A young man proclaimed that Nursing is for girls, then another boy stated it was not as good as being a doctor. All the expected, yet still very depressing gender stereotypes came flowing. I noticed that there was only 3-4 boys that were contributing, but that was fine as they were playing their part well. So I wrote down all that they were saying on the white board.

Lunch arrived, it then became abundantly clear why the silent majority in the room were there. That did make me smile, and I must admit the samosas were really nice. Whilst they were enjoying their free lunch I invited them to think about a man that they looked up to (a role model). The same 4 took part the rest ate their sandwiches and samosas and stared out of the window (the room did have lovely big windows, perfect for staring out of to be fair). Once they had finished eating I wrote down some of the attributes they thought were worth aspiring to. Then I asked them if they were ill, what attributes they would expect from a nurse. I got the obvious sexist wise crack, although it was toned down. “She has to be good-looking”. I agreed it helps if your nurse is good-looking whether that nurse is male or female, they should have a friendly look on there face, be smart and well presented, so yes good looking is very important. I mentioned that because I was quite proud of my adult response to a teenager clearly trying to wind me up. They then listed some very useful attributes, that they have to be kind, caring, hardworking, etc.

We then looked at the lists I had produced. I went through the barriers to becoming a nurse and corrected some assumptions, such as salary and some of the activities that nurses can now do. We then had a look at the attributes of their role models, and wondered if any of those would be useful to a nurse, and then some of the attributes of a nurse and whether they would be out-of-place as attributes of their role models, such as being strong-minded, clever, hardworking, physically strong, kind, a listener.

I left them with a question. “If a female friend of yours told you they wanted to be an engineer would you think it strange?”

Over half the room couldn’t wait to get out of there, clearly thinking, ‘well that is 30 minutes I will never get back….’

I was never going to get more than that response from boys who have never considered nursing as a career. That is fine, I was probably the first person to challenge some of their assumptions on careers and gender. It is so important that these unhelpful and quite frankly harmful assumptions about what men can and cannot do is challenged. Otherwise we a just putting our young people in boxes and not giving them a chance to explore all the options that they have before them.

A leap of faith

I don’t normally write a blog during the week, as I am usually too done in to think of anything useful to write. Tonight however I feel inspired to write a bit about my day today and to talk about an event that happened nearly a month ago, something that I found myself talking about today, with my coaching guide and friend Anthony.

Lets start with today, as that builds into the story about my adventure a few weeks ago. Today was module 2 of the internal coaching course we run and Anthony delivers for us. It is an accredited course and provides us with qualified coaches to support our workforce (these qualified coaches are also our workforce). This is the third course we have run and the second one I have supported as the coaching lead. I always find the build up to these days quite stressful and I am always anxious the night before and in the morning just before the day begins. I want coaching to take off in our Trust and become an integral part of our culture, therefore I want everyone to get the most out of the training that we offer.

I don’t fully settle until the participants are all there and Anthony is in full flow. Then I know Anthony will work his magic and we will all be inspired to get out there and coach. I make a habit of being as involved with the days as I can, so I will chip in with discussions and work with the participants during coaching practice. This often results in me being coached and today I was coached 3 times (how lucky am I) by 3 wonderful coaches. I always pick subjects that are real and all 3 sessions were related to my journey as a coach, writer, educator and speaker. As the module was on performance coaching I explored with them the blocks to my performance and how I can work round them or remove them. The major block I have is the feeling of not being good enough. Something that most of us recognise, and this inadequacy is incremental, so when you achieve the milestone that was beyond your reach, you tell yourself that is the limit and there is no way you can achieve the next goal. This for me is writing my book, being paid to speak at events, and joining up clinical supervision in our trust with coaching to create a seamless supportive network for all staff at all grades. All of this seemed just beyond my grasp. But after they had skillfully questioned me and raised my self-awareness, I started to piece together some action plans and recognise what I had already done to start this journey. It also became obvious to me what I do when I am passionate about achieving something, I trust my ability and take a leap of faith. My journey with coaching so far has involved a leap of faith, or as Brene would put it ’embracing my vulnerability’.

That brings me nicely onto the story of my adventure around a month ago. I may have mentioned this before, but it fits nicely with taking that first plunge into uncertainty. I had been invited to speak to my local Rotary Club during their weekly meeting, about what I do. I eagerly agreed and set to putting together a killer presentation on connected living. I must say the presentation looked fantastic. Now when it came to the day of the talk I had second thoughts about the presentation, it just didn’t feel right, I was worried that it would go on too long, so on the way to the venue I thought about the conversation I had, had with the member of the club who had invited me. She had mentioned that they had done some work on visioning but had not really progressed anything into meaningful action. So I decided to ditch the presentation (probably). When I got to the venue, my mind was made up, the room was not suitable for a Powerpoint.

I sat through the meal making small talk with the President and the other members on my table, whist trying not to look too terrified, then I had to sit through the meeting trying to hold back the feeling of nausea I was experiencing. Eventually I was up. Can I say at this point, what a wonderful bunch of people they were. They were so friendly and welcoming. At that point however I did not see them like that, they all for a moment seemed very sceptical. Perhaps they could smell my fear and were just waiting for the car crash of a talk to begin. I started with a brief introduction and that I was going to coach them, now they looked really sceptical. Then I asked them the first question and they were off. I think I asked them about 5 questions in total and they did the rest. Within 30 minutes they had a plan, and they had even managed to explore some potential pitfalls they might experience and how they would manage them. It was quite remarkable to watch. Coaching in action. Just before I asked that first question, I did not know which way that talk was going to go. I decided to trust myself and make that leap of faith. If I hit the rocks, I would have felt embarrassed and very silly, but I would get over it. I jumped anyway and ended up in deep water. Sometimes you have just got to put faith in yourself and take the plunge if you ever want to change how you do things. Being coached today reminded me that I have done this before and it paid off, so why not keep doing it, especially for the big things. So watch this space.

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Encouraging Men into Nursing

Over recent years I have noticed fewer and fewer men choosing nursing as a career. In fact in my own speciality of Children’s Nursing we haven’t trained any men in training in Hull for a number of years now.

There is so much men can offer as a nurse that it would be terrible to see us disappear. Not only do we provide support and dignity for male patients, we are also positive role models for young men. We demonstrate that it is OK to be kind, caring, and compassionate and it not effect your worthiness as a man.

This is where I feel the problem lies. Over recent years there appears to be a polarisation of the gender paradigm.

Men are supposed to be strong and resourceful, providing a home and protection for their family. There is no room for care and compassion as they are too busy being strong. Care and compassion are female traits, and therefore should be avoided, for fear of being labelled as weak or even worse gay.

Were as women are encouraged to be kind, caring, nurturing and all things homely with no room for drive and determination. However we also expect women to be successful, clever and beautiful, but not pushy.

We expect men to be strong, but now we want them to be sensitive and in to be in touch with their feelings and share their worries but not be weak.

If we listen to the paradigms our society creates for us no wonder young people want to keep things simple and opt for the old view of male and female roles. Men become engineers and soldiers, women become teachers and nurses.

So with this in mind how do I present nursing to young men as a worthwhile career choice.

I have had some thoughts on this and it centres around looking at themselves first and their value base, along with their view of the world, and then challenging their possible view of nursing, including highlighting values they share with nursing. Hopefully providing a paradigm shift for a few in the room. But most of all encouraging those present to be comfortable with their view of the world and showing them that they do not have to feel shame if their view of the world does not comply perfectly with the impossible ideals our society imposes on us.

If I get 2 or 3 young men interested in nursing and create a debate I will be happy.

Happy Birthday My Old Friend

This week saw the 70th Birthday of the NHS.

The NHS provided the Midwives and GP that brought me into the world. It trained the surgeon, anaesthetist, nurses, ODPs, play specialist, porters, caterers and cleaners that looked after me when I had grommets inserted into my ears, to get rid of my glue ear.

When I was 16 the Nurses, Doctors and Physiotherapists at City Hospital in Chester inspired me to be a Nurse.

When I was 18 I moved to Hull and trained as a Nurse, at the Hull District School of Nursing.

When I was 21 the NHS gave me a job as a Staff Nurse on a Children’s Ward.

When I was 23 the NHS trained me to be a Children’s Nurse.

The NHS took me on as a nervous homesick boy and turned me into a compassionate, competent, professional Clinical Nurse Educator and Coach.

The NHS has been by my side, helping me become all I am today for the past 29 years.

The NHS has and always will provide outstanding health care to all and for free at the point of access. This is an incredible achievement. In fact is is miraculous, when you think of the scale, and the incredible progress that has been made over 70 years.

There are people who have experienced major trauma or sepsis in recent years who are alive, that would not have survived even a decade ago. Some of the routine work carried out in the NHS today would have been unthinkable when I started my career at the end of the 80s. All of this is done with challenging finances, and under the glare of constant political and media scrutiny.

NHS is not just a health service, it is at the heart of who we are in the UK. Let’s not take it for granted, and let’s never lose it.

Thank you NHS for being there for me all my life.

On Thursday I attended The Hull and East Yorkshire Health Expo. This is an annual event showcasing healthcare in Hull and East Yorkshire. This is our chance to show the breadth of services the NHS provides locally and the diverse career opportunities available in the NHS. This year’s event was incredible with it being the anniversary of the NHS. I had a great time, getting people to make smoothies on our smoothie bike, meeting and greeting and talk about careers in Nursing.

I know this has not had much coaching content, but I wouldn’t be a coach if it wasn’t for the wonderful NHS. So I needed to celebrate this incredible national treasure.

An Exciting Week of Coaching

Last weekend I wrote about the prospect of mixing my 2 roles this week.

Well so far so good. It has been a challenging but exciting week. Monday and Tuesday I suppose were standard kind of days. Monday was a nurse educator day, with a mixture of time in my office and an afternoon of auditing on a ward and then a lovely discussion with a teenage patient her Mum and their nurse. We spent about an hour in total talking about the teenagers experience on the ward and her treatment. It was a really informative chat getting a 3 way perspective of inpatient treatment on a Children’s Ward. To keep track of the impact our care has on the young person, their parents and the nurses delivering the care is so important, but manage to do that in one go with all three parties there is a first for me and quite brilliant, I hope the parent, young person and nurse found it useful too.

Tuesday was a coaching lead day. A large part of this day was spent preparing for the launch of the coaching network, the rest of the day was taken up with a team meeting and preparing for the next day’s Human Resources time-out.

So Wednesday was the HR time-out day. I was there to introduce so coaching skills and techniques to the HR Advisors. I had developed a bespoke training session (well I took an existing training day for managers and adapted it for HR Advisors). This was the first time I had trained anyone in coaching techniques singlehanded. To say I was nervous was an understatement. I was a complete needy wreck all morning. Once we were into the second half of the session and into the practice coaching session I started to relax and enjoy it. I can honestly say for large parts of the morning I was out of my comfort zone, and only in hindsight can I appreciate the session as a success. It was certainly a training day where we all learned.

Today I was back in my comfort zone with fellow nurse educators, holding the second day of the new starters catch up day, hosted by our Practice Development Matron. I facilitated the feedback session after the nurses had worked in small groups to analyse their first few months in our Trust. This is so important that both the Nurses themselves and the organisation take responsibility to learn from what worked and what didn’t work to improve our induction programs and to help us all to respond to the changing demands of delivering healthcare in 21st Century UK. Despite the challenges that are definitely evident it is heartening how positive the morning was with the emphasis being on solutions rather than problems. There are truly some talented future health leaders amongst these nurses. I certainly feel positive about our future healthcare.

Following the feedback I gave them a chance to form their own personal goals using blind coaching. I asked them a series of high quality questions designed to formulate a smart goal, examine how they are going to achieve it, what difficulties they may encounter and create a commitment to achieve it. Time will tell if any of them turn that goal into a reality.

One day left and another coaching conversation due tomorrow. A good week in all. I feel I am starting to make a difference, and influencing people’s relationship with coaching.

Blurring of roles and blind coaching

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As you will remember from Being The New Boy Again blog that I am now doing two jobs in the hospital. Now some days it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. Monday was one of those days. It was a day designated to my role as Nurse Educator, but not exclusively for my home department (Children and Young People).

Now to explain to you what I was doing I will give you a little bit of background. Back in October the Hospital I work for recruited over a 100 nurses in one go, and the vast majority of them had just graduated from University. As a result all of us Nurse Educators came together to provide an extensive month long induction programme devised by the surgical nurse educator team and their inspirational manager. They came up with the programme as the team had done a similar smaller scale induction the previous year. This year required a mass mobilisation of nurse educators and specialists. It was a daunting and often frustrating undertaking but we achieved it. To be fair it was more they achieved it, as I was more on the periphery, having to plan a parallel bespoke programme for the children’s nurses. I did however contribute to the adult nurse programme by holding teaching sessions on error management and human factors.  So that was back in October, and at the time we committed to providing follow days to track the new nurses progress, provide clinical supervision and receive feedback about the induction and the subsequent preceptorship on the wards. And that was what I was doing on Monday.

The first part of the morning was spent with the nurses undertaking a personal SWOT analysis and then small group SWOT analysis. The idea was to generate personal and collective actions. This is where the 2 roles for me start to blur, as the facilitator of the feedback session for the group SWOT and for the individual SWOT coaching came to the fore. This is not unusual as a nurse educator is a coach and mentor and teacher at any point during the day. However as the feedback from the group analysis was being discussed, I was starting to see opportunities for the coaching network to address some of the issues that were being discussed. How a wider network of coaches and leaders taking a coaching approach would enable new nurses to better manage their transition from student to registered nurse, and how experienced teams integrate large numbers of new nurses in to their teams. This is all the more important at the moment where the NHS as a whole is finding it challenging to reduce the current turnover of nurses. The answer has to be to enable the nurses and other healthcare workers to manage positively how they approach working in a challenging environment. But that is the subject of another blog so I will not dwell on that.

I took a mental note of all these potential opportunities, with a personal goal of discussing them when back in my coaching role. Then I rushed headlong into another coaching role. To help the nurses think about the results of their personal SWOT analysis as a real tangible thing, rather than just an academic exercise, I held a blind coaching exercise. I asked them to identify what they wanted to achieve and then write it down in a sentence. Next I asked them to think when they wanted to achieve that by and asked them to write down the exact date, not just 6 months but what date is 6 months from today. I then asked a series of questions that explored how they would achieve, what they could use, who could help, what might stop the progress, how will they know they achieved it and many more. This blind coaching approach helps a group of people clearly identify their role, tests how committed they are to achieving it, and creates a personal accountability. Now not everyone in the room will be committed to changing something about themselves, but it exposes them to coaching and for those that commit to it will see the value of coaching when they achieve their goal.

My two roles will always bleed into each other , but they more often than not compliment each other as the aim of both roles is to increase knowledge and self-awareness for all the staff working in the hospital. On top of that both roles provide so much job satisfaction. I have felt a little overwhelmed at times doing both jobs, but at the same time I am having so much fun and their are more exciting times to come.