Clinical leadership case study: nurse and chief nurse

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Arlene Wellman, Chief Nurse, Epsom & St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, on becoming a clinical leader.

My journey

My journey towards executive level leadership began in 2008 when I attended the first Towards Strategies for Successful Women programme during which I was able to explore my strengths and weaknesses. This excellent programme challenged me to develop my strategic thinking in preparation for progress as a leader in the NHS.

I have been a matron and senior matron in elderly care nursing and continued to improve my education, successfully completing an MSc in Clinical Healthcare Practice in 2011. I gained significant strategic leadership experience by undertaking a secondment to the position of divisional nurse.

I was fortunate be selected to undertake the National Clinical Leaders Network, Eminent Leaders Development Programme in 2012, which was aimed at black and minority ethnic (BAME) clinicians with the capability to develop into regional and national scale roles. 

The turning point

Obtaining a scholarship with the Florence Nightingale Foundation gave me the exposure needed to be aware of what was available strategically.

Key barriers/challenges and how I worked through these

Key barriers were/are integrating with an established board. Gaining support through coaching and accessing support from NHS Improvement and NHS England have supported me with this. 

Organisational support to make this happen

I have been fortunate to have worked in organisations, and with senior nurses, who supported my continuing education and professional development through funding for courses and coaching and mentoring.

My top tips

  • Seek opportunities to shadow board members.
  • Get a coach and/or mentor to help support you to work through identified gaps in your knowledge/experience.

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