Nightingale Challenge: Realising our potential

This blog was written by Christine Flynn, paediatric haemodialysis nurse participating in a Nightingale Challenge programme in Ireland.

I’m Christine, a paediatric haemodialysis nurse, living and working in Dublin, Ireland.  I`ve been qualified since January 2012 and have worked in both Ireland and the UK since then, predominantly in the area of Paediatric Nephrology.

I am one of the lucky applicants chosen to take part in the Irish Office of Nursing and Midwifery Services Director’s Nightingale Challenge Leadership Programme.

For most of us, 2020 was like nothing we could have expected. There were certainly lots of ups and downs.

In January 2020, I made the application to take part in the Nightingale Challenge programme and never imagined I`d be lucky enough to be accepted.

As a nurse in the early stages of her career and having only recently started out in a management grade position, the Nightingale Challenge Programme was an excellent opportunity to further myself both personally and professionally.

I hoped to develop my own leadership skills but also to bring back and share the learning from the programme itself and from the variety of nursing and midwifery professionals participating in it. I was thrilled to be successful in my application and excited about all the opportunities ahead.

We were due to start our face-to-face study days in March 2020, when suddenly COVID-19 hit and the course had to be replanned. Our instructors were redeployed and the course then recommenced in October 2020 when things had settled down a little.

Our instructors have gone above and beyond to deliver us the content of the course over an online platform. We all know the difficulties with Zoom calls and technical issues but despite all this, our leadership programme has been excellently delivered and I have already learned and grown so much from it.

We have had monthly study days covering varying topics about change, quality, self-awareness and looking at our own qualities as leaders. We`ve had talks from senior nurses, well advanced in their careers and heard their experiences and advice on nursing and leading. I have my own mentor, who I have video calls with to discuss my career pathway, potential opportunities and to share experiences. She listens to me and gives me her advice from her wealth of experience. It is such a privilege to have a mentor guiding and supporting you to achieve all that you can. I have also had the opportunity to become involved in projects and a webinar with our hospital group and am looking forward to continuing this work.

Going forward with the programme and looking into the new year ahead, we have more study days planned and no doubt lots more interesting and insightful opportunities ahead. Hopefully, we will meet with other international Nightingale Challenge participants to continue to share and learn from this amazing opportunity. I have really enjoyed participating in the Nightingale Challenge Programme and have gained so much from everyone involved in it.

I have learned so much from the other participants and their insight into other fields of nursing, and realised our strength as a national workforce. I also feel I have gained greater awareness and have realised my own potential to make an impact even as a young nurse leader getting established in my career. I have a clearer idea of my career pathway and feel supported to take on the opportunities to make this a reality.

I hope this programme and others like it will continue to raise the profile of nursing and create recognition for nurses as pivotal leaders and contributors to healthcare.

We truly make an impact every day to our patients, families and the healthcare system as a whole.