Learning from mistakes and embracing diverse perspectives

In this blog, Tope Forsyth discusses her experience as a registered Mental Health Nurse working as a Quality Improvement Manager for suicide prevention. She is a true believer in learning from each mistake and every person encountered, and encourages newly qualified nurses to ask for help. 

I am a Registered Mental Health Nurse working as a Quality Improvement Manager for Suicide Prevention. I’ve always worked in caring or supportive roles for as long as I can remember, and am driven to do more for both the people I care for, and my colleagues. This mindset and desire to do more is what has guided my personal and professional development. I enjoy finding ways to work smarter and more efficiently. I thrive on finding unique solutions to issues, and most importantly, doing the best possible job for patients in a meaningful and sustainable way.  

The great thing about Quality Improvement is that it involves systematically testing small changes, measuring and using the learning from these changes  to make sustainable improvements. Working in this area of healthcare improvement as a mental health nurse has revolutionised my thinking and practice in many ways, including applying it in all aspects of my current role leading on the implementation of our “Towards Zero Suicide Ambition” plans. We will not succeed in our mission unless we encourage equal partnership of people affected by suicide, those who have lived experience of suicide and experts in the field to come together to address this very important issue. 

I frequently drive by a particular roundabout on my way to and from work and depending on which way I approach it, it looks different, although it is the same roundabout. This makes me think about the care that we give, our services and the environment we work in. If we only use one perspective, we are missing out on so much. We need a wealth of perspectives to ensure that we provide the best possible service.  

As a Nurse Leader working in Quality Improvement, I recognise my responsibility to use my learning, experience and expertise to inspire others and empower them to make their own changes for improvement. It means being in a position of influence that has the potential to motivate people that results in improvement. 

Early in my career, a nurse told me to “develop and learn from the best practice and experience of others.” Over the course of my career, these words have stayed with me and I have tried, where possible, to learn from everyone I have worked with, whether they be a peer, senior or junior to me, or even the people I care for and support. I hope that I too am part of this learning for others.

There have been many times when I’ve faced personal challenges, moments when I’ve questioned myself as a nurse, been challenged by others and I have wanted to give up. One of my biggest challenges as nurse has been the perception either from myself or others of failure, whether that is from having made a mistake, misjudgement or simply not ‘performing’ as well in a particular role.  While living these experiences is hard, what I have learned is to take the time to reflect on the lessons learnt from each situation.

My advice to newly qualified nurses is: 

  • Embrace the lessons learned from the mistakes you make.
  • Seek opportunities to challenge yourself but take time for self-care and personal reflection
  • Don’t give up when it gets hard and don’t be afraid to ask for help 
  • Take advantage of opportunities for coaching and mentoring. Seek opportunities to learn from as many different people and try to understand as many different perspectives as possible. There’s something you can learn from everybody!