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Taking the initiative

Nurses are often guilty of complaining that they don't get the recognition they deserve, but action should start from within the profession

Do you come up with good ideas but not act on them? Many of us are guilty of this. Others talk about things which should happen, but don't seem to realise that they could play a part in making them happen. There are many examples of this in professional life. 

One example is putting worthy colleagues forward for national honours. Titles such as those bestowed in the Queen's birthday honours don't just happen; all the individuals who are rewarded with honours have been recommended by someone. That someone could be you! Yes, it requires a little work to put together a submission, but this isn't difficult. If someone is worthy of an honour, the words tend to flow. 

People say there aren't enough nurses, midwives or health visitors receiving public recognition, as if it's someone else's fault, but we should all take responsibility for making this happen. Consider putting forward colleagues or others you admire for their contribution to public life, and work together with teammates and partners to make it happen.

The chance of success is greater than you may think if the person fits the criteria. Very much better than the lottery! It's really important that our professions don't stay hidden, but receive the same national accolades as those working in other worthy areas. Be the one who takes the initiative.

Community nurses and health visitors are, of course, well placed to take initiative on behalf of clients - working, as they often do, quite independently. Sadly modern commissioning structures can reduce the opportunity for innovation. Nevertheless, never let your good ideas stay hidden in your head. Take the initiative - share them with colleagues. Build support and prepare a case to present to management. Just imagine how invigorated you'll feel if your idea goes on to benefit your clients or profession.

I've recently been involved with developing a global alliance of public health nurses. This is something I have long felt would be a good idea, but while I had built support for the idea, I hadn't felt 'quite ready' to take the initiative to make it happen.

However, recently that opportunity presented itself, when an Irish colleague invited me to lead a session at the 3rd International Public Health Nursing conference, with a view to launching such a global network. The stars aligned! Together, we spent many months seeking support from others around the globe - in particular those who, like us, had expressed interest in seeing such a network - and, by working together, we made it happen.

As you can imagine, there were enormous complexities to consider: the greatest being communication. However as so often happens when you 'take the initiative' there were also experts at hand to provide their experience of similar initiatives and advise us as to what our priorities should be.

It is important to have these experts at hand when you most need them: in the beginning. However, be aware of naysayers. These are usually individuals who are risk adverse, who are concerned by the extra work it may give them, or who have their own agenda.

Our launch wasn't without these - several individuals who hadn't been part of the discussions (which had in fact gone back five years) felt that the launch of a global network should follow further meetings and discussion. However, there is a moment when you must have confidence in your idea and take the initiative to see it through.

Without such confidence, it's very easy to get derailed. Indeed, that might have happened when myself and colleagues launched the Institute of Health Visiting, which was seen as unnecessary by some. But by sticking to our gut feelings and taking the initiative to see it through, it has already more than proved itself to be beneficial to strengthening practice outcomes from health visiting activity.

The potential is clear to those involved, justifying once again the value of 'taking the initiative' now and not waiting until the moment feels 'safe'. I believe this is what leadership is all about - having the courage to 'take the initiative', embracing risk and creating an environment for success (whether you're at the bottom or the top of the pyramid). 

Now, what would you like to see changed about your profession? Take the initiative, get on and do it. Bring out your hidden leadership qualities and help change professional life for the better.