Sunday, 25 September 2011

Making a Start, Making Progress, Making Time

The week was a busy one and one that was rich in experiences, emotions and challenges and opportunities. Monday was the start of the new academic year and some 900 nurses, midwives, social work, counselling and social policy students joined the School to begin their studies. At times the noise and movement resulting from these students exploring for the first time their new campus, was fantastic and a real fillip after the somewhat quiet days of August. I really enjoyed welcoming the students and it was great to see the 300 seats in G21 filled to capacity on each of the three occasions it took to deliver my  talk this year.

Tuesday was the last day I was at the University before leaving for Europe – so was crammed with planned meetings and those ‘can I just have 5 minute ones’. However, I did manage to get to talk to the one person I missed talking to the previous week, which allowed the silence to be broken and conversation to recommence. Sadly, Tuesday also brought the dreadful news of the untimely death of one of our valued colleagues working in another College. For me, the news reinforced the fragility of our lives and the need to ensure we find ways each day to live the lives we want to live.

Wednesday started at 03.00 and by 04.30  was at Manchester airport on my way to Lithuania. Wednesday became a 22 hour working day. Lithuania is a wonderful place - and one full of contrast. New modern buildings stand next door to buildings crumbling away through neglect. I was there as part of the EmpNUR project - a project aiming to empower nurses through mentorship. University’s for seven European countries have come together to develop a mentorship programme that will transform nurse education across Europe. And the good news was we had made progress in achieving this aim.

Working on a project that aims to work across a multi cultural consituency is always going to be difficult. However, our group has succeeded in finding a way to embrace difference and recognise the cultural, political and organisational challenges facing each of the participant countries. We have established an evidence base for the benefits of mentorship as a way of improving learning in practice.

Our hosts in Lithuania were brilliant. The hotel was the most laid back place I had ever stayed in. Cool seemed to run through the veins of every employee. They really delivered on making staying with them a wonderful experience. During the trip we were able to visit colleagues in practice and spent a great afternoon with students and tutors exploring their experiences of becoming a nurse or a midwife. Afternoon tea included a range of cheeses served with a thick honey – sounds strange but actually it was very tasty.

Friday was a bitter sweet day. On this day four years ago my little brother Christopher died. He endured a whole load of health problems throughout his life but always remained optimistic, and  enthusiastically embraced life. He never had a bad word to say about the doctors and nurses who provided for his care. He never tired of singing my praises, most of which was undeserved. It was really good to spend the journey travelling between Lithuania on Friday afternoon trading stories of childhood experiences, good and bad, with my friend and colleague Karen. Christopher died the day before my interview for the Head of School role.

The four years since then have passed very quickly. They have been four rewarding years, and thanks to the contribution of my colleagues, as a School we have been able to move forward in achieving our strategic aims at an exponential rate of progress. And as a new School, we will need to continue to find time to ensure that what we do is what we need to do. Just like the project group in Europe, all my colleagues in the School will need to remain open to new ideas, be prepared to be brave enough to try something different and creative, and have the confidence in our collective abilities to continually find innovative ways of developing and delivering our programmes.