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A future leader: Jen selected for leadership programme

Successfully securing one of only 20 places on the inaugural Florence Nightingale Foundation Leadership Programme for Mental Health Nursing Associates, Jen, an Assistant Practitioner in memory and later life services, has been with the NHS for over 19 years and recently completed her Healthcare Assistant Practitioner Apprenticeship with the Open University.

“I love working with people; being sociable; meeting and caring for people is just who I am. My first role in mental health was a bit daunting, but I wouldn’t do anything else now!”

The new programme aims to create a critical mass of Nursing Associate (NA) leaders who are motivated to unlock the potential of their role and shape the future direction of NA practice in mental health settings. The participants will develop their leadership style, impact, and confidence whilst learning to lead practice change and resilience.

First hearing about the new programme in a team bulletin, Jen knew she had to give it a shot and commenced the application process. “I had to include information about me, my career, training and evidence of my work and ambition – all my reasons for applying. My manager was really supportive and wrote a wonderful reference for my application too.”

“When I was applying, I thought I had little chance as assumed they’d be looking for practitioners and associates who’ve been in practice for a long time. But since starting the programme, I’ve learned that most of the 20 people has qualified in only the last few years. We’ve got a whatsapp group, so I have a new network of colleagues too.”

Amongst the learning opportunities on the programme there are ‘presence & impact’ workshops delivered by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) – an element that Jen is particularly looking forward to as a confidence boosting experience. “RADA is so prestigious! And I hear it’s led by someone who’s been with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on telly”.

The course presents so many exciting opportunities for Jen, including an invitation to attend the annual celebration of the life and work of Florence Nightingale at Westminster, as well as lifetime membership to the Florence Nightingale Foundation Alumni.

“At work, I don’t always have the most confidence in myself and often look for reassurance so I hope this programme will help me to be more confident and trust my judgement more.”

Throughout everything, Jen’s inspiration mostly comes from home. As a mother, she is a role model demonstrating ambition and hard work to her two young children – who have been learning all about Florence Nightingale at school.

“They don’t understand what the course is, but they’re really excited and ‘proud of mummy’ - even when assignments may disrupt family time. They spur me on.”

Jen’s journey is a story of progression: from a personal trainer at a gym to teaching cardio rehabilitation, roles in occupational therapy to speech therapy, before joining mental health services. It was here that Jen was offered the opportunity to study with the benefit of employer sponsorship provided by the Trust.

“My friend had done a six-year course and recommended it (the OU) as he had studied whilst still working alongside raising his family. And for me, giving up work to attend university full-time just wasn’t an option. This was ideal that I could study flexibly around my job and family to obtain a foundation degree.”

Barbara, Jen’s OU staff tutor is really pleased to hear this news: “During the two years of her studies with the Open University Jen was a model student, and I am thrilled she has been afforded this opportunity.”

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