Reflecting on Revalidation…

Who would have thought that applying for revalidation with the NMC could be such a uniquely rewarding and affecting experience?  I certainly didn’t.  I thought it would be a chore.  In fact, I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to bother.  I’d heard about lots of older nurses choosing to ‘lapse’ rather than revalidate, although of course I don’t know the reasons for their decisions.  Maybe they thought it would be too onerous, too time-consuming, too threatening even.  Or maybe some of them had had enough of the pressurised life that today’s clinical nursing is and the thought of revalidation requirements couldn’t compete with retirement or getting a different job?

I first registered as a Nurse in 1976.  This November will mark 42 years continuously on the Nursing register, and if I want to stay on it I need to revalidate with the NMC, and I must admit – some of the above thoughts passed through my mind too.

Since revalidation started, I’ve been keeping a note of information I would need, but I haven’t been completely convinced that I would do it.  I read the NMC’s guidance (over and over), and in the end I thought I would fill in the documentation and then make a decision whether to revalidate or lapse.  Documenting relevant practice hours, professional development and feedback was straightforward.  I had made notes of several reflections on events over time, and it was just a case of tidying these and transferring them onto the ‘reflective logs’.

Almost immediately I was struck by how much additional reflection I did as I wrote them up onto the formal documentation.  Filling in the paperwork was so much more than that simple transfer of information; it became a major reflective activity in itself.  Even though I had collected the instances and drafted the logs previously, it wasn’t really until I came to write them up more formally that I really reflected deeply on all of the issues collectively as well as seperately.  So much so that I chose the revalidation process itself as one of my reflective events.

It was interesting to see the issues that I had chosen to use.  They were very similar – communication, working with others, education, influencing others – all deeply significant to me as the main areas of my professional practice as a nurse.  Looking back at my previous notes gave me another opportunity to reflect, often bringing other useful points to mind that had arisen much later on in the validation period.  I saw how distance and re-reflection can bring a deeper consideration of issues, often with more perspective than immediately after an event.  In addition to that, the opportunity to reflect again in discussion with someone else meant that my ‘confirmer’ and I had a great conversation about how some of my reflections resonated with her and helped her reflect too, so we were both learning something.

Having been through the process once I shall be much more aware of events that could be part of the next cycle.  That will mean I am more organised about noting significant learning points from my practice and keeping a good contemporaneous record so that when revalidation comes around again I will be less anxious.  One of the reasons I wasn’t sure that I would revalidate this time was because I’m no longer traditionally employed and I thought that would be a disadvantage – it’s absolutely not.  In fact, one of the most satisfying parts of revalidation is the way the process has reminded and reassured me that I am still operating as a professional Registered Nurse in my particular field and context and that my registration is a crucial part of that.

That deep reflection and aggregation of different reflections has been an affecting experience, and one that I hope others will go through.  I’d like to suggest that the NMC finds ways of sharing reflections from revalidation for others to learn from.  For me, this revalidation has been about effective practice, safe practice, prioritising people and promoting professionalism through my own actions and my interactions with others.  It has been so much more than a paper ‘exercise’.  It has been a revalidation, in every sense of the word.

 

Disagreeing well…

Like many of you who read this, I often take part in nursing related discussion/debate on Twitter.   I join conversations about nursing on Twitter almost every day, and have been doing so for some years now, and have been interested to see how things change and develop.  It’s still a great place to mix with nurses from many different work contexts and interests, but recently I have noticed something that gives me pause for thought.    Nothing dramatic, just an increasing awareness of some reactions to nursing debates on there.  Any regular user of Twitter will be familiar with the wide range of comments that appear on timelines: from the kind and supportive, to the vitriolically opposed and everything in between.  If the subject is controversial or popular, then often feelings run high.  Most contributors are polite, some people are often amusing and sharp-witted, sometimes there’s sarcasm or irony, occasionally people are a bit rude, or personal.  But generally speaking conversations are interesting, enlightening, amusing, informative and annoying in varying degrees.  A bit like a conversation anywhere, really.

What does concern me a little is when the ‘professional’ word raises its head.  As in ‘that’s not a professional way to react’ or ‘that’s unprofessional’, sometimes stated directly, more often an implication  – usually when there is disagreement or dislike of someone’s point of view, or turn of phrase, or vehemence.  It’s said as a rebuke, and is a serious allegation to make if we understand what being a professional is.  Disagreeing with someone isn’t unprofessional.  Disagreeing strongly with someone isn’t unprofessional.  In fact, one of the characteristics of being a professional is the ability to question and challenge and disagree.  A former boss of mine used to say that one of the benefits of higher education is that it teaches us ‘to disagree well’.

Having spent part of my nursing career in academia, I’m used to having my views challenged.  Not just my views, but my thinking, my writing, my proposals, my ideas, sometimes my right to be contributing at all!  Robust discussion is a part of academic life.  Mostly it’s good-natured, frequently blunt and to the point, occasionally it’s a bit hurtful, and it’s challenging.  And rightly so.  It’s how thinking is refined, arguments developed and theses defended.  It can be very critical, but it’s rarely meant to be personal.  On the occasions when it feels personal it’s usually a prompt to step back and examine whether there is any truth in the remark.  An academic’s life is an argumentative one.

As nursing becomes a predominantly graduate profession, nurses will operate more and more within an academic framework – critical appraisal applies to clinical signs as well as evidence, marshalling a rational argument applies to advocacy as much as debate,  challenging practice as important as challenging ideas.  Dissent and questioning accepted as healthy and welcomed as tools of reflection and improvement, even if they occasionally (slightly) hurt our finer feelings.  Professionals give and take criticism and challenge as much as giving and taking praise and reward.

So, I get a bit concerned when I see ‘unprofessional’ used as a veiled insult, when what someone means is ‘that’s a bit sharp’, or ‘that’s unacceptable to me’ or just ‘I really don’t agree with you’.  Twitter is a great place to exchange views, to contact other nurses  and to share etc. but it isn’t a formal group.  It doesn’t have invited members, everyone isn’t like-minded.  Even if they have joined the same conversation.  That’s the point.

Twitter is an open space and sometimes we forget that.  It’s not a professional space with boundaries and rules and expectations of behaviour.  Participants are not in any sort of hierarchy.  That’s the joy of it, and also the problem with it.  It can’t be manipulated and moulded into some sort of reflection of a workplace, it can’t be ‘professionalised’.  It is uncontrolled.  I like it for those very characteristics.  It is more often a breath of fresh air than cause for a sharp intake of breath.

 

 

Another blog on blogging…

Last time on the blog (see below) I talked about getting started with blogging.  Hopefully by now some of you will have set up your page and given it a go.  In my last blog I also said that the whole point of a blog was to put yourself out there and have others read your words.  Publicising your blog is part of blogging – you can just publish and leave it to chance that the people you want to reach will find you, but far better to deliberately target the people you want to reach and the ones you think might be interested in what you have to say.  Once you’ve found your ‘Voice’ then you need people to hear it.  You need to try to do what’s called ‘driving traffic’ to your blog.

First I have to say that I am no expert at this.  I really only use two mechanisms for publicising my blog – Twitter and LinkedIn.  Before I started blogging I had already built up a following on Twitter, so I knew that if I tweeted a link to my blog it would reach quite a few people and some of them might actually read it.  I also found that if I blogged regularly then some people signed up to follow the blog and so received any new blog automatically.  There is a setting on a WordPress blog where you can put a ‘Follow’ button (see my sidebar), there is also a setting (Post Settings) where you can automatically share your blog to Twitter and to LinkedIn, so it’s worth doing that.  I also might send the blog via Twitter to a few specific people.  If they like it, or think it may resonate with their own followers, they will often retweet it to all their followers.  This builds up a fairly substantial reach.  But there is no point just tweeting it out once.  For the first couple of days after I’ve published a blog I will tweet a link to it every few hours – especially at the times when I know my followers will be likely to look at their Twitter accounts – lunchtimes and evenings.  I then retweet the link a couple of times a day for the next few days and at the end of a week I will do a couple of Tweets with ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) and the link.  This way you will catch more of your own followers and they will in turn catch more of theirs in a retweet.  Some people I know feel slightly uncomfortable about ‘pushing’ their blogs in this way – I did at first – but if you don’t keep resending, then you simply won’t reach as many people.  Just think how much stuff rolls through your timeline that you don’t ever see – that’s your blog tweet rolling through there, unseen.

I also allow comments on my blog – again you set this up when you start.  I allow comments but I always see and approve them before I let them appear on the blog.  I respond to comments if they need a response, and even if they don’t, I always respond to say thank you, or to ‘like’ a comment.  I think that not enough people comment on blogs – I love it when my blogs attract a comment!

My blogging process goes something like this:

  1.  Write the blog. Publish. Tweet a link to the blog saying something like “Here’s the latest on the nursing blog…(link)”
  2. Tweet a link to the blog to individuals who I think might be interested in it, so it    appears in their Notifications rather than just in their Timeline
  3. Retweet a link to the blog every time I use my Twitter account over the next day or two and retweet a link to the blog every day for a week
  4. Retweet a final ICYMI link just a few hours before I post my next blog.  I do this to keep me fresh in their timelines as a blogger.

And that’s about it really.  You just have to start doing it, and see what works for you.  It takes a while to build a followership, but if you’re interesting, then you will get readers and if they like what you say, they will become regulars.  In summary then, here are my points for blogging about nursing:

  • Read blogs by other nurses to get a feel for how they approach subjects, style, format etc.
  • Think about your subject matter – topical, controversial, educational, illuminating, musing – be focussed, then go for it.
  • Be careful about unintentionally identifying people or patients. Be mindful of your professionalism and don’t blog anything you wouldn’t say out loud in a public place.  Because you are saying it out loud and in a public place.  Follow the NMC Code of Conduct and their social media guidance.
  • Check your blog before you publish it and edit and format it properly.
  • Be part of a social media community/ and build some followership BEFORE you start blogging if you can.  That way you have a ready-made audience.
  • Respond to comments positively.
  • Remember that what goes out there, stays out there.

 

Go on – give it a go! And tag me into your first blog link!!

 

 

 

A blog on blogging…

Coming late to a WeNurses Twitterchat last week, I caught the last bit of a conversation on nurses and blogging.  I think it was called ‘Why don’t nurses blog?’ or something similar – you can find it here .  I made a few comments but I was really too late to join in the main conversation and I was cross with myself because I wanted to contribute.  I’ve been blogging for nearly four years and I’ve learned quite a lot about the process in that time.  If you’re thinking about starting a blog and you’re a nurse or a student nurse – then just do it.  Try it.  Don’t betray any confidences,  don’t abuse people,  be sensible in terms of the NMC Code and their guidance on using social media.  Find a platform (of which more later) and get what you want to say out there.  If you enjoy it,  and you’re not frozen by fear of what people might think, then start to work at it a bit more seriously.  Looking at some of the questions and concerns from the Twitterchat, the following might be useful.

What would I blog about? Blog about anything that moves you enough to want to share a view.  You might give your blog a theme.  This blog is about nursing, but sometimes I write about other things on here.  This question really should be Why would I blog? Here are some reasons why I blog:

To give my opinion on something I feel strongly about.  To provide information, or to add information to something if I think it might be useful.  To agree with something and to be  persuasive to encourage others to agree, or at least, to think again about something.  To disagree with something or to challenge something.  To tease, needle, irritate or provoke.  To be controversial and start a discussion.  To berate or to rant if I’m cross enough about something.  To educate or explain or debate.  To sympathise, empathise or otherwise show solidarity.  To describe and share an experience or my feelings.  To encourage people to think and think again.  To help myself think a bit harder.  To rethink.  To amuse.  To make contact.  To entertain.  Lots of reasons.  Often I am prompted by a snippet of conversation, a news item, a Tweet, something I’ve read or heard.  Sometimes people ask me to blog about something in partiular.  There are no end of motives for me.  You will find your own motives, and when you do, you will want to write.

Don’t blog if you haven’t got anything to say, or if you really don’t want anyone to hear/see what you say.  The whole point of a blog is to have your words read by other people.  Some people say that a blog might be helpful as a reflective tool just for them personally, and not shared with anyone.  It might.  It probably will.  But that’s not a blog.  It’s a diary, or a personal journal.  A blog is meant for an audience.  It is public.

Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?  This is the question on every start-up blogger’s lips.  And there are quite a lot of answers to this; it’s a much more sophisticated question than it seems.  First – You are part of a very large professional group.  So even if you don’t have very much to say, quite a lot of people will just swing by and read it anyway, just because you are a nurse, and so are they.  They aren’t reading YOUR blog, they’re reading a blog by another nurse.  Sorry to prick your ego straight away, but there you are.  The trick is to get them coming back to read YOUR second, third and fourth blogs etc.  And that’s about content, which is Second – Your blog is interesting/informative/topical/thought-provoking/amusing.  These are the things that bring people back.  If people get to know that your blog is interesting/informative/ topical/thought-provoking/amusing – they will come.  Your blog may not quite be their ‘Field of Dreams’ but it will engage them sufficiently so that they want to hear what you have to say.  Note that list doesn’t include ‘exquisitely written’, ‘grammatically awesome’, ‘spelling perfect’.  Not yet.  If you are interesting etc. then your readers will forgive quite a lot in terms of indifferent writing skill at the beginning.  That’s at the beginning – so don’t ignore the Third – Your style is easy to read.  Craft your blog a little more.  A Joyceian stream of consciousness is fine occasionally, but not all the time.  It’s difficult to read.  As is text with very poor punctuation, very bad grammar, a lot of spelling mistakes.  Very long sentences.  Very long blogs.  Eventually, it will put people off.  So work on your writing.  Be concise.  Go easy on the adjectives.  Use paragraphs shorter than this one.  Edit, edit, edit.

So, when you start, it’s less about what you have to say and more about what you are saying and how you are saying it.  Lots of blogs are written by people who aren’t ‘famous’, don’t hold positions of power or authority; their names are not well-known within the profession – and their blogs are very successful.  Sometimes they’re anonymous.  Nobody knows who is the writer and it doesn’t matter because the content brings the readers in.  Using your name or being anonymous is a matter of choice.  If you’re employed and you want to be controversial and you are scared it may have repercussions at work, then anonymity may be the way to go.  But what happens if you also want to write stuff that you would be proud to put your name to?  That you actually want people to know who has written it?  Just think this through and I’ll address it a bit more in part two of this blog.

How do I blog? Google how to blog.  Find a platform – there are free ones – WordPress and Blogger are two of the most widely used.  This blog is written on WordPress.  It’s reasonably simple to use, fairly intuitive to set up as long as you are patient, and there are good choices of template to use.  Generally speaking, you will need an email address, a name for your blog, and a name for your account.  A photo or two may be useful.  A bit of customizing, which can all be done through menus, and off you go.  Ask someone who already has a blog to help you.  At the top of your blog menu there will be a page called ‘About’, or something similar.  This is where you tell people what to expect from your blog.  Whether it’s focused or eclectic.  Whether it’s weekly or infrequent.  Whether it’s truth or fantasy.  You might also want to give a little information about yourself.  Maybe a photograph.  Take a look at my ‘About’ page above.  Read other blogs to see a variety of format and layout.  Keep it simple to start with unless you are a whizz at these things.  Once your template is set up, write your blog, tidy it up, be sure you are happy with the way it looks (you should be able to preview it) and press the ‘publish’ button.  Your words will be out there – available for however many zillions of people may choose to take a look.  That feels a bit scary at first.  Less so when you check your stats and see that only 6 people have viewed your post…and 3 of them are probably bots.

Next post – how do I get people (other than my friends and family) to read my really interesting blog?  To be continued…

 

Relax, refresh and renew…

When I gave up full-time employment in March of this year, I was looking forward to a change in lifestyle.  Six months later I am reflecting on that change and how it feels. It feels good.  I expected it to be a positive change – I had planned for it for a while – but I have been surprised at how comfortable it has been to slip the traces of routine, commitment, power and influence.  I still engage informally with my discipline and with the higher education sector and that’s enjoyable and interesting.  At first, I still got irritated about things and picked up old frustrations, but I find, over time, that the old issues are less significant to me and I am finding I let things pass by in a way I would not have done twelve months ago.  I am consciously choosing what to spend my intellect on, rather than reacting on auto-pilot to what I see.

In the first few months I was keen to keep up with former colleagues and accepted invitations to meet.  More recently I find that I am looking for personal value in relationships, rather than ‘keeping in touch’ for reasons that are often unclear if I stop to examine why something is in the diary.  This has surprised me.  I am a gregarious person and enjoy the company of others, but new people are cropping up in my life and although they do not replace old friends, they are gently easing aside former acquaintances.  And I find it is increasingly easy to distinguish between friend and acquaintance in a way that I hadn’t previously.

I knew when I gave up employment that I would want to continue to make a contribution somehow.  I have been surprised by not really knowing what that means.  For example, I put myself forward for a couple of things that I thought would be interesting – they were the kind of things that you would probably expect me to be interested in – but as time went on I found that actually, I couldn’t raise that much enthusiasm. That puzzled me for a while and I thought that perhaps my energy was low, but slowly I realised that they felt like ‘ought to’ rather than ‘want to’ and I recognised that actually, I just didn’t want to.  This is one of the benefits of not working that takes a little getting used to.  You don’t have to do what you don’t want to (except for necessary chores, of course, and going to the dentist etc).  I still don’t always say no soon enough, but that’s coming too.  I still work and I’m still available, but in a much more focussed way.

I am spending time and brainpower on the things that I promised myself I would – the garden, writing, cooking, my remaining family, reading – and I’m about to enroll on a Masters in Research in History.  The MRes is not something I was planning but it presented itself to me through a conversation with a friend and I thought, ‘why not?’.  And throughout the excitement of finding a course that suited me, the tedium of the application process, the novelty of being interviewed before acceptance, I have maintained an enthusiasm and curiosity about studying again that has delighted me.  I am really looking forward to it.  And to being a student for a while.  The thought makes me smile.

I’m sure the next six months will bring more changes – and more choices.  I love the intellectual freedom, the physical freedom and the lack of obligation.  Who knew it would be so good?

 

Refocus…

If you are interested in the continuing story story of my mum’s dementia care, I’m still blogging about it, but on a separate site here . It was helpful to get those words down on the page, but not appropriate for my ‘professional’ blog pages.  And that started me thinking…

So why isn’t it suitable for my professional blog pages? After all, I don’t keep separate Twitter accounts for personal and professional. I mix the two, and I think it works well, and I’m very comfortable with it. On that particular social media platform it seems okay to show something of myself, to mix professional and personal conversations, to tweet to everyone who might be interested, not just a particular group. But the blog? The personal stuff just didn’t feel right. Too exposing? Too emotional? I’m not sure. I don’t even think it’s the content, I think it might be the context.

The paradox – and the beauty – of Twitter, is that for a platform that is totally open and accessible it feels comfortingly intimate. Once you’ve built up a cadre of regular co-respondents there is a sense of chatting just with them, and a satisfying predictability that whatever you put ‘out there’, someone you’ve come to know will pop up in response. All those random unknowns who may come across your tweets just don’t seem to exist.

The blog, though, that’s very different. More….crafted. Created. Deliberative. The blogs about my mum didn’t fit that – they were too unconscious, too instinctive. Too raw.

I suppose I’m reflecting on where and when to be spontaneous and where to be more restrained, without losing any sense of authenticity. It’s an interesting dialogue with myself as I refine my relationship with social media. I’d be interested in your thoughts, too.

 

A list – inspired by Anne Cooper

I was reading Anne Cooper’s blog yesterday (here) about the adjectives she would like to have applied to her. She gives a list of those descriptive words and some insights into what feedback she gets from others. That feedback seemed to major on ‘kind’, and I detected a little frisson of disappointment that although it was lovely to be recognised for one’s kindness, there were a whole load of other attributes that Annie was putting out there. It made me smile at her honesty and authenticity (a word I am growing to dislike and distrust – but not in Annie’s case, I hasten to add) and at her pondering on the effect she has on others. At the end of her blog she asks which adjectives her readers might like to have applied to them. It got me thinking. Not least about how we see ourselves and how others see us.

The list of adjectives that I’d like applied to me are:

  • Fair
  • Funny
  • Clever
  • Loyal
  • Committed
  • Open
  • Generous
  • Attractive (sorry, but there it is)
  • Wise

I’m sure there might be others, but those are the ones I would really like. At first glance they look like pretty good attributes to have, and I do know from feedback that most of these adjectives have been applied to me by colleagues, managers, people I work with. But I also know that some of these attributes are not unfailingly positive and they don’t make me some sort of paragon of the workplace. Far from it.

I am well aware, for example, that being fair and being loyal can often mean conflict. That putting fairness before loyalty can feel like unfairness to the person who expected me to be loyal, above all else. So, in others’ eyes I might appear unfair and disloyal when in fact I’m being scrupulously fair and loyal to my values.

I love making people laugh – the smart remark, the quick response, the over-the-top anecdote when everyone is looking at me and listening and shrieking with laughter – there’s no better feeling than entertaining one’s friends and colleagues and knowing that it’s you who have made them rock with laughter. So I know I’m funny. I also know that sometimes, in order to be funny I can be cruel. Not with an intention to hurt, but with an intention to amuse. Humour stands on many platforms – I have to try hard not to stray from one to another inappropriately. Especially when I’m on a roll and all attention is on me.

Committed, open and generous – what’s not to like? Who wouldn’t want these things said about them? Commitment is one of my most closely held values – I work hard, I expect others to do the same, I expect people to do the ‘right thing’ and to stand up for what they believe in. When I sense a lack of that commitment I can sometimes react too quickly – impatient, irritated, quick to judge and to dismiss. After all, everyone should feel as strongly as I do, shouldn’t they? Not so good. I had some feedback recently that made me really think about this – it wasn’t hard to take and I recognised the meaning exactly. Someone said “Ah, that’s June. She runs a bit hot sometimes.” It’s a brilliant description of my occasional lapses into astonishment that not everyone shares my strength of feeling all of the time or about the same things. That phrase was a useful mirror reflecting back to me that commitment to something requires nuance and finesse, flexibility even – even though that might feel like a contradiction in terms.

Openness – now that is something that I hear in feedback, ‘completely open and transparent’ and I really couldn’t be any other way. I am often heard saying “…so, now you know as much as I do. When I know more, you will too.” I can bide my time, I can hold on to information until an appropriate time to transmit it, but there has to be a very good reason for me to hold back information. I trust people and more often than not that trust is rewarded. There is a but though – I am open in other ways too. I struggle to dissemble, I am an appallingly bad liar, my body language is a body-language-reader’s dream. I am, as they say, an open book. When new people join my team, it’s one of the first things I say to them: ” I am very open and transparent, and that means that you will know how I’m feeling – you’ll know when I’m happy or pleased, you’ll know when I’m cross, you’ll know when I’m anxious and you will always know exactly where you stand’. Or something like that. So far, it’s worked well. I don’t play games and I don’t expect game-playing from others. It’s an approach that’s served me very well – and I think it’s one of the reasons I attract good people into my team – and keep them.

The organisation I work in has a set of core organisational values that I helped to define. One of those core values is ‘generosity of spirit’. They appear in our documentation, on the website, and underpin how we work. Generosity of spirit is the one value that most people think best reflects our organisational ethos. I think this is why I love working where I do – because it reflects my own sense of what is important. I try to be generous with my time, with my knowledge and experience, with advice, with encouragement, with lessons I’ve learned. The people who were generous with me are the people I remember. Sometimes being generous means that you get asked to do a lot. Or that you’re near the top of the list when someone needs a favour. That’s not a downside.

And wisdom? Who would claim that for themselves? Well, if it’s not too immodest, I’d like to. If wisdom comes from working through and learning from success and failure, then yes. If wisdom comes from finding out about myself and understanding why I am who I am, then yes. And if wisdom comes from recognising the positive attributes but not beating myself up when the flipside puts in the occasional appearance, then absolutely yes. I would happily accept and recognise all of the above neat and tidy list of labels. And I also happily accept that they’re not always neat and tidy. That makes me….me.