Why I wanted to be a nurse leader and how I set about achieving it
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Why I wanted to be a nurse leader and how I set about achieving it

Lynne Pearce Health journalist

Three nurses reflect on how the Internationally Educated Nurses and Midwives Online Leadership Programme has affected their UK careers

While many internationally educated nurses work at senior levels in their home countries, their experience and expertise is unlikely to be recognised when they first arrive in the UK.

Nursing Management. 31, 1, 6-8. doi: 10.7748/nm.31.1.6.s2

Published: 01 February 2024

But the Internationally Educated Nurses and Midwives Online Leadership Programme developed by the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF), working with the Burdett Trust for Nursing, aims to change this.

Here, three overseas nurses discuss how the course helped them achieve their leadership goals.

‘If you want to progress further, a leadership course is a good place to start’

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Johniel Jagonap is a senior staff nurse in anaesthetics at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Roehampton

Feeling at a standstill in his career, Johniel Jagonap opted to do the leadership programme in the hope it might help him progress.

‘I had been in my post for five years,’ he says. ‘I felt like I had become very skilled but I was still on band 5. I was promoted after doing the course.’

He credits the course with achieving his first band 6 role as a senior staff nurse in anaesthetics at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. ‘I learned how to speak up and be confident in my communication. Even small things from the course have been helpful,’ he says.

After qualifying in 2008 in the Philippines, Mr Jagonap worked as a theatre nurse. In 2017 he came to the UK, following in the footsteps of his sister who was already a sister at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey, where he secured a post working in a urology ward.

But gaining his UK registration was challenging and after failing his objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) twice, he felt despondent. ‘All of my dreams were shattered,’ he says. He had to wait for six months before starting again from scratch and this time he was successful.

‘I can be stubborn when I am under pressure and I didn’t want to give up even though it was tough,’ he says. But he believes his struggles have been beneficial. ‘I’m able to use my resilience now,’ he says.

Once he achieved his PIN, he successfully applied for a post at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital, where he was initially a scrub nurse before moving into anaesthetics, where he stayed for the next four years.

‘I wanted to see what healthcare in the UK was like and where Mary Seacole had trained. It felt like a calling’

Lelete Holson-Patterson

In August 2023, he started his new post as a senior staff nurse in anaesthetics, based in the surgical treatment centre at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Roehampton. ‘It is the highlight of my career so far,’ says Mr Jagonap.

During the FNF course, he enjoyed discovering his own leadership style and learning how to present himself well, including understanding the importance of body language. ‘It helps me to get my message across, and has helped to improve my confidence,’ he says.

‘I recommend the course, especially to those who feel stuck. If you want to progress further, a leadership course is a good place to start.’

‘I reflect on an aspect of the course every single day’

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Lelete Holson-Patterson is a clinical sister at Medway Maritime Hospital

Clinical sister Lelete Holson-Patterson has put her leadership course learning into practice, initiating a quality improvement project on her ward to improve discharge for patients.

‘It has helped me carry out some strategies in my clinical setting,’ says Ms Holson-Patterson, who works at Medway Maritime Hospital, part of Medway NHS Foundation Trust. ‘Sometimes there can be challenges when discharging patients,’ she adds.

Working with colleagues, Ms Holson-Patterson created a new system to help expedite safe discharge and improve patient flow.

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Picture credit: iStock

She qualified as a nurse in Jamaica in 1998 and moved to the UK in 2019. She initially worked in care homes in London, Suffolk and the Midlands, achieving her UK nursing registration two months after she arrived.

Seeking a career change inspired her original decision to relocate. ‘It felt like the right time,’ says Ms Holson-Patterson. ‘Most of our nursing education in Jamaica refers to the UK. I wanted to see what healthcare in the UK was like and where Mary Seacole had trained. It felt like a calling.’

She took up her current band 6 role two years ago before seeing the leadership programme advertised in two organisations where she is a member – the Caribbean Nurses and Midwives Association and the Nurses Association of Jamaica (UK). ‘Both encouraged its members to explore it, so I applied,’ she says. ‘I was so happy when I got through. It was an eye-opener.’

She found the first module on personality enlightening. ‘It looked at how we share and talk in the workplace and understand each other. It was refreshing and gave me another perspective,’ she says.

Other highlights include modules looking at co-consulting (a method of action learning) and personal development. ‘This is about how you present yourself, your confidence, how you articulate your concerns and how to gain attention,’ she adds.

Ms Holson-Patterson completed the course in May 2023, and feels it will have a long-lasting impact, expanding her professional network and shaping her future career aspirations. ‘It has definitely provided a useful road map for me, especially coming from overseas,’ she says. ‘It has helped me to see the opportunities that are here.’

Looking ahead, she hopes to move into education and research: ‘I reflect on some aspect of the course every single day,’ she says. ‘I have been recommending it to everyone. It helps you to grow, not just professionally but personally too.’

‘Life is short not to pursue your dreams’

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Paul Jared De Jesus is a clinical educator at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

Just weeks after arriving in the UK, Paul Jared De Jesus was promoted to a band 6 role. ‘Back then, I didn’t understand the band system or appreciate it was a big thing for an internationally educated nurse to achieve this,’ he says.

With 16 years’ experience as a qualified nurse in the Philippines, Mr Jared De Jesus moved to Birmingham in October 2021, initially taking up a post as a theatre nurse at Solihull Hospital, part of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

‘The pandemic made me realise that life is short, and I needed to pursue my dreams of working overseas,’ he recalls. ‘Like many internationally recruited nurses, you want to provide a good life for your family, but also do something for yourself and explore the world.’

Three months later, he successfully applied for a clinical educator post at the trust, where he supports international nurses to pass their OSCE – a vital component of becoming a registered nurse in the UK.

Professionally, he became active on social media, where he first heard about the FNF leadership programme.

Among several aspects of the course he has found invaluable is taking the Myers-Briggs personality test. ‘I’d done it before and it showed me as highly introverted, but now I’m in the middle,’ says Mr Jared De Jesus. ‘As we grow in our profession, our personality changes and it’s important to have that awareness – for yourself and when you’re interacting with others.’

What is the Internationally Educated Nurses and Midwives Online Leadership Programme?

Developed by the Florence Nightingale Foundation (FNF), with the Burdett Trust for Nursing, the Internationally Educated Nurses and Midwives (IENMs) Online Leadership Programme is a free course open to all IENMs practising in the UK, in the NHS, social care or private healthcare.

The eight-month long online course started in 2022, attracting 2,500 applicants for 1,000 places. The course offers IENMs the chance to develop their own authentic leadership style, enhance their skills and improve their career opportunities.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible, practitioners must have gained their primary nursing or midwifery qualification outside the UK and be UK registered or going through the process and practising here.

The course takes about 30 to 40 hours of studying and there are five modules, which include personality preferences and performance in teams; leading with presence and impact; and using your authority and influencing change.

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Picture credit: iStock

‘Internationally educated nurses start off at band 5, which is a travesty when we’re desperate for talented nurses in our health system,’ says FNF director of nursing and midwifery leadership development Lucy Brown.

Self-belief and being heard

‘We looked at what internationally educated nurses need to progress in their careers and spoke to individuals,’ says Ms Brown.

‘A lot centres on empowerment, which is about giving nurses a voice and a seat at the table. It’s not just about banging on the door, but kicking it open, making sure they are being heard.’

Due to demand, a second course started in autumn 2023. ‘We are hoping to run it subsequently, perhaps even twice a year. But we are looking for funding,’ says Ms Brown.

Self-belief and finding their voice are the two biggest takeaways from the course, Ms Brown believes. ‘Nurses suddenly look inwards and realise how incredible they are. We just hold a mirror up,’ she says.

Quality improvement

He also found the sessions on quality improvement useful. ‘International nurses need to speak up when we want to see change,’ he says. ‘I have learnt how to approach this now. You need to give reasons and data before you ask to do a quality improvement project.’

‘The pandemic made me realise that life is too short, and I needed to look at my goals and pursue my dreams of working overseas’

Paul Jared De Jesus

Since completing the course, he has been appointed to a newly created band 7 role as a safer staffing educator, starting this month. ‘I’m delighted to get it,’ he says. ‘The inspiration I took from the course has definitely helped me and I would encourage others to do it. You will not only develop your leadership skills, but how to speak up and present yourself too.’

Now he hopes he can inspire others to fulfil their potential. ‘I never shy away from telling my story to international nurses,’ he says. ‘Feedback has helped me develop my career and I am keen to pay it forward, passing on my knowledge and experience to help others advance.’

Find out more

Florence Nightingale Foundation (2022) Internationally Educated Nurses and Midwives Online Leadership Programme.

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