Connecting, learning and reflecting through COVID-19: Lindsay McNinch

Lindsay McNinch

Before commencing the Nightingale Programme, Staff Nurse Lindsay McNinch was given some ‘light reading’ and from that, one particular phrase remains fixed in her mindset: –

‘Everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach’.

In our Northern Nightingale Blog this week, Lindsay tells us how true this has been during a pandemic. She describes her own personal learning, the unique learning opportunities gained through the Global Leadership Development Programme, and the personal experience of care from a young age that led her to be such a strong advocate for patients and their families.

As long as I can remember, I always wanted to follow a career into nursing. My grandfather lived with us in my late childhood, and I assisted with the caring side of the role, and this strengthened our relationship, right up until his death. My mother was also sick, and although the care she received was not up to standard, this strengthened my desires to continue on the journey into a nursing career, with my aim to always do my upmost best when caring for patients, with the mind set – ‘What if this was my relative?’

It was this personal experience of care from a young age that led to me being a very strong advocate for patients and their families. I have been nursing 11 years, and currently work in respiratory medicine, and have done so for approximately six and a half years. Prior to this I worked in plastic and maxilla-facial surgery in the Ulster Hospital for just over four years. I am a staff nurse within the ward setting and last year I was seconded to the role of respiratory specialist nurse for four months and this was a wonderful learning opportunity. I aspire to becoming an advanced nurse practitioner with an interest in respiratory medicine.

‘Privileged to hear from global leaders’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared 2020 the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife and I was really excited to be nominated onto the Northern Ireland Regional Global Leadership Development Programme. This regional programme is part of the Nursing Now Nightingale Challenge to celebrate the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife and is led by Global Health Consultant, Catherine Hannaway. Being accepted onto the Global Leadership Development Programme has been a huge honour, and at the beginning I really did not know what to expect. I have been very privileged to hear from a number of global leaders, from our own Northern Ireland Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, Elizabeth Iro, Chief Nursing Officer with the World Health Organisation, and Howard Catton, Chief Executive Officer, The International Council of Nurses (ICN).

When the pandemic began, workshops were put on hold, but as a group we adapted as nurses do best, and attended workshops virtually. In the first workshop of the programme, we had the opportunity to explore our goals for the year ahead; some of my goals are to become more confident, develop my leadership skills and improve my public speaking abilities. We were also encouraged to complete online modules through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Sigma Nursing. Thankfully before the pandemic began, I had the opportunity to complete these. We were also advised that as part of the Global Leadership Development Programme we would complete a quality improvement project. The Northern Nightingale Challenge Trust Lead Orla Mathews organised a bespoke Quality Improvement Level 2 Training package, delivered by the Trust’s Innovation and Quality Improvement Lead Gill Smith, and this was really helpful and of great benefit to us.

Within the programme, I have developed professional networks, not only through the Global Leadership Development Programme but also locally, within our Trust. At the Northern Ireland launch for The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife at Stormont, we heard from Dr Tedros, Director-General (WHO), Rodney Morton from the Public Health Agency, Howard Catton, Charlotte McArdle, Professor Brain Dolan OBE, Director of Health Service 360, and the newly appointed Health Minister Robin Swann MLA. Facebook groups have been set up and global associates were invited to join, and we were also encouraged to join Twitter so we get to engage with people participating in the Nightingale Challenge all around the world. I have also had the opportunity to attend a conference in Dublin, organised by the Royal College of Surgeons Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery. At this event I had the opportunity to meet Lord Nigel Crisp, Nursing Now Co-chair, Elizabeth Iro, Annette Kennedy, President of The International Council of Nurses and Heather Finlay, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, Department of Health. I have also attended the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council conference, and virtually attended a Covid 19 webinar, hearing from international leaders. It has been enlightening to hear from these leaders who are so passionate about the nursing and midwifery profession, and they always show a genuine interest to hear about the Nightingale Challenge Programme and the positive impact it is having on young nurses. They act as positive role models and make every participant feel valued, are approachable and leave you feeling so empowered.

‘Everyone has something to learn…’

Throughout the programme, we have been introduced to different leadership models and frameworks, and as nurses, we each have different elements of these attributes within ourselves. By working collectively, we can improve patient outcomes and experiences. Before commencing this programme, we were given some ‘light reading’, and I read this phrase, which has stuck with me: ‘Everyone has something to learn, and everyone has something to teach’. How true was this during the pandemic! For me as a future leader, and during the pandemic this means clarity, openness, effective teamwork, good communication, listening to other staff members, being patient, adapting to changes, using initiative, being flexible, empowering staff, and ensuring staff feel valued. I have learnt that it is vitally important to share our learning with other team members and the multidisciplinary team, as leadership is the responsibility of all.  Within my own workplace I have observed different types of leadership, a transformational leader, a collective leader, and a directional leader. With transformational leadership, both pre Covid-19 and during the pandemic, the need for change was highlighted and a vision created to guide this change, with the commitment of all team members. During the pandemic, I also observed directional leadership, with all staff being kept up to date with new emerging information that we as a team needed to be aware of. And as part of resilience training and staff self-care, staff were engaged with and listened to in a collective leadership style.

During one of workshops we had a presentation from Dr Bob Brown from the Western Trust and we discussed looking after our own health and wellbeing, self-care and finding joy at work. This has been so helpful. Personally, we have reflected with each other, listening, and supporting one another when we faced challenging circumstances. This was insightful as most of the other staff were feeling the same way. We all found it difficult that patients could not see our faces due to Personal Protective Equipment, experience the elements of non-verbal communication, such as a smile or even therapeutic touch when a patient was nearing end of life. It was extremely difficult that patients nearing end of life where not allowed to have visits from their loved ones. As a team we organised for relatives to speak with their loved ones over the phone, arranged for them to see their relative through a window, and ensured that a nominated contact was updated on a daily basis, on their loved ones condition. Personally, Covid 19 has been very isolating for me as I live alone. I found it very difficult not being able to interact with friends and family, missing birthdays, and generally being able to de-stress. Thankfully, as a team, we have been the backbone and support for each other during this very difficult and challenging time.

The pandemic has impacted on most of the goals I set myself at the start of the year and there have been challenges in the completion of the programme – For example, I found it difficult to obtain baseline data for my quality improvement project due to the pandemic and I had to think outside the box and utilise other reports and audits that had already been carried out. Our patient profile has also changed and this has impacted on the project. However, this programme is providing me with the tools, resources and knowledge to face these challenges head on by developing leadership skills and to improve quality of care for patients, so I know I will get there eventually with support from my peers, my mentor Caroline Speedy, the Programme Lead and my fellow Nightingales.

Lindsay McNinch, A4, Respiratory Medicine, Antrim Area Hospital

Lindsay is one of  five Northern Trust nurses participating in the Northern Ireland Global Leadership Development Programme which is part of the Nightingale Challenge, launched by Nursing Now, to enable the next generation of nurses and midwives to play a bigger role in multi-disciplinary teams, working together to improve health and influence policy.  The campaign encourages healthcare employers to support at least 20 nurses and midwives to develop their leadership skills during the 2020 International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Nursing Now is a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing to improve health globally in collaboration with the International Council of Nursing and the World Health Organisation.  

@NHSCTrust #NorthernNightingales
@NursingNow2020 #NursingNowNI #NightingaleChallenge

Other Northern Trust Nightingale Blogs

Gemma McClean, Hospital Diversion Nursing Sister
Judith Shevlin, Community Mental Health Nurse
Denise O’Donnell, Acting Ward Manager, Covid-19 assessment ward
Eleni McCrea, Community Midwife, Whiteabbey Hospital
Stacey Barclay, Midwife, C2, Antrim Area Hospital
Vanessa Best, Community Mental Health Nurse, Oakview House
Kirsty Wallace, Staff Nurse, Antrim Area Hospital
Christine Beare, Staff Nurse, Neonatal, Antrim Area Hospital
Laura Smith, Midwife, Causeway Hospital, Coleraine
Mandy Young, Deputy Sister, Laurel House Chemotherapy Unit, Antrim
Nerell Browne, Practice Development Nurse, REaCH Team, Northern Trust
Chantelle Crowe, Deputy Ward Manager, Causeway Hospital
Michelle Angelone, Community Learning Disability Nurse
Catherine Middleton, Rehabilitation in Mental Health, Holywell Hospital
Lauren Campbell-Withers, Staff Nurse, Whiteabbey Hospital

Northern Nightingales

2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife logo

1st October 2020

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