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Student nurses cannot be leaders? Think again

Third year adult nursing student Claire Carmichael, who aspires to work in general practice, wrestles with what leadership means to her.

Third year adult nursing student Claire Carmichael, who aspires to work in general practice, wrestles with what leadership means to her.

‘Hello, my name is Claire Carmichael and I am a student nurse leader and future newly qualified nurse leader.’

Like most students and nurses, I find these words hard to say out loud and squirm when I do. I never thought of myself as a leader and often misinterpreted the word leader for something or someone else.

Before starting my nursing degree in January 2017, my views were very different about leadership. I thought leadership was for people with millions of followers or someone at the top of a hierarchy – like Matt Hancock, for example. Until now, I did not realise student nurses could be called leaders too.  I am five weeks away from qualifying and I have had messages from other students along with qualified nurses calling me these very words, which still makes me uncomfortable.

However, I have come to realise that any single person can be a leader. Because in my eyes, to be a good leader you have to inspire others to be their best self. As a leader, you create other leaders. As a leader, you motivate and encourage others to do more, be better and be the best version they can be.

I also believe that good leadership goes hand in hand with being a good role model and think most people have these qualities without even realising it.

So, if you are someone who has advised a patient on their health and they have followed your advice, you’re a leader. Because you have motivated and encouraged that patient to become their best self for the benefit of their health and well-being.

If you are a mother or father who has encouraged your child to do learn and grow – such as through reading, writing and doing their homework – you are a leader. Because you’re setting them up for a fantastic future ahead of them.

If you are that person who sees your colleagues stressed, down, needing advice and have motivated them to keep going, you are indeed a leader.

If you are that student who sees someone else struggling and gives them that encouragement to keep going, you are a leader. Or you go out to placement and see something isn’t quite working right so you provide a simple solution and now it’s being used in practice – that’s right, you are a leader in my eyes! Because I believe that the small things amount to big things.

So, here are a few of my tips for good leadership:

• Have empathy

• Integrity

• Good communication skills

• Empowerment

• Encourage, motivate and inspire someone to do something amazing

• Build others up

• Share your own good work and positive messages to inspire others

• Work from the bottom upwards so you can understand the different bands in nursing

• Share other peoples’ good work

• Be a good role model

This is my own opinion and experiences of leadership; other opinions may vary from person to person. We are all individual and unique human beings and what works for one might not always work for another. So, find your inner leader.

Claire Carmichael is a third year student nurse at Birmingham City University and student information officer at the Royal College of Nursing, as well as an ambassador for general practice nursing and the Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff.