My year as a Florence Nightingale Foundation Digital Leadership Scholar

This week’s blog is written Ellen Edwards (@EllenCEdwards), Senior Practice Educator – Clinical Support Desk, Welsh Ambulance Service.

As with many nursing development journeys it all started with an email. Having always been enthusiastic about learning and personal development, when the email arrived in my inbox, I was quite intrigued. FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE DIGITAL LEADERSHIP SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION DEADLINE EXTENDED! Being relatively new to my band 7 role I had a keen interest in leadership, and to be completely honest I was petrified of what being a band 7 really meant, this looked like a really good opportunity. I discussed the scholarship with my, then manager and she thought it was a great idea, so off I went to put my application in, as the deadline was only a few days away.

I have been passionate about telephone triage and remote clinical decision making since I first started as a clinical advisor in 2017. The role that nurses and paramedics, play in supporting 999 callers to receive the right care, at the right time, by the right people was astonishing but misunderstood by the wider NHS. The application process was simple, explaining why I wanted to apply and what I thought the scholarship could bring to me was easy.

Once my application was submitted, I started researching more about the scholarship. It dawned on me that actually, it’s a really big deal! Prior to applying I have looked at the and tried to find more information, but it was only when I started speaking to people that it all became clear. This was in fact a huge opportunity. I started to feel nervous and convinced myself that I had no chance of getting an interview so put it to the back of my mind and continued with the day job.

A few months later the interview invite landed in my inbox. The interview process was initially daunting. I was required to a present a quality improvement project, that I would like to undertake, to a panel of senior leaders and other applicants. Once the interview started, I could see that I had nothing to be worried about. The panel were lovely, smiling and listening attentively to every word and my fellow applicants were interested and engaged in each presentation, providing feedback and asking questions.  Once it was over and I had done all I could do, I then just had to wait for the verdict.

Even after all my research and talking to people, I had no idea the journey I was about to start. Once I had been accepted onto the scholarship, I started to consult with the Welsh digital scholarship programme leaders. They helped me to define my project and align it with key Welsh Government policies. Working in the field of Clinical algorithm Development for telephone assessment, I was in a unique position to review how Catheter Problems are managed by telephone assessment. Reviewing questions asked, flows followed, and dispositions reached with an aim to align this practice to that of the community nursing teams and ensure that care given over the telephone is evidence based.

With the support of the Welsh digital scholarship programme leaders, I was able to meet with nursing officers, within Welsh Government, who pointed me to stakeholders. I was given the opportunity present my project at the All Wales Continence Forum and from doing this I recruited several stakeholders.

Working on algorithm development was new to many stakeholders and on reviewing the content it gave a wider understanding of this area of healthcare. Following the clinical development process and gaining agreement from senior clinical leaders the review is now complete and ready to be implemented. The project will go beyond the 12 month scholarship and will hopefully have a positive impact on the people of Wales.

As well as the quality improvement project, the scholarship consisted of a core programme of leadership development courses, an allocated mentor and a bursary to fund some independent development opportunities. The Core programme included Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment, 360° Feedback, Coaching sessions. By far one of the best parts of the core programme was the residential with The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). We were allocated into small groups to attend together, initially all sceptical that were going to spend 3 days pretending to be a tree, we were in actual fact propelled on a journey of self-discovery. Learning about how we can make impact on the people we want to lead and how they can have impact on us. The groups became very close, and I was not the only one to shed a tear on the final day.

As a Digital scholar I had the privilege of attending the annual Collage of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) Nursing and Midwifery Conference. We learned key skills needed to become a leader in the digital world and started to build our networks.

Whilst I could go on and on about the scholarship offerings, I think it is important to tell you about the key learning. The first thing I have learned is that networking is essential. There are other people out there who share your passion and drive, when you meet these people, you have the opportunity to do something great for patient care. Networking is not only a benefit to yourself but also to others you know. It has been a privilege to be able to introduce colleagues to people I have met along the way, which share the same passion and drive. Helping others to move forward with their ambitions. As your network grows, so does your opportunities for personal and professional growth.

The second thing I have learned is to be brave. This seems pretty obvious but being brave is more the putting your head above the parapet. It’s being vulnerable, open and honest. Taking the leap and asking to speak to that senior leader, who can help you with your goals. Its standing up and saying what changes you want to make and risking the system not quite being ready for them. Being brave is meeting new people and being honest about what you find difficult and being comfortable with the uncomfortable. Being brave has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing people, of whom I will stay connected with, even though the scholarship is over.

So, if after reading this you think that a Florence Nightingale Scholarship might be for you then all I can say is BE BRAVE and go for it.




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