A renewed purpose

Joanne Bosanquet, FoNS Chief Executive

I’ve been thinking a lot about my identity as a nurse, and how this is so deeply embedded in my head, heart and soul. The further into my career I get, the stronger this becomes, and the stronger it gets, the more it aligns with my sense and understanding of wellbeing.

As I head towards my fifth year at FoNS, I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

Our readers may recall that a while back, FoNS became part of a social movement of like-minded nursing, health and care organisations focused on nurse wellbeing. This really started in earnest during the first year of the Covid pandemic when we were faced with the unknown yet had nowhere to turn to for the answer.

Early reports of burnout gradually moved into moral distress and then moral injury. Nurses were redeployed from their own specialisms that had literally shut down. I worried a lot about the loss of one’s own identity as a nurse when lifted and shifted from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

Over time, as a result of continued redeployment, professional identity in nursing began to hit the various nursing fora, in our own conversations and online. This didn’t happen in day-to-day conversations in the UK prior to 2020 and I started to search for clues and seek out the researchers and thought leaders in this space.

I reached out through my global professional nursing association Sigma Theta Tau to my own Chapter here in the UK and also to colleagues in the U.S. We started to talk, often quite late and any day of the week when days became weeks. I was steered towards a series of webinars on You Tube hosted by Sigma on Professional Identity in Nursing and found a group of amazing nursing leaders.

There is a global movement called the International Society for Professional Identity in Nursing (ISPIN) based at the University of Kansas and members are scattered across the world. Five webinars were recorded in total and I have been back to these time and time again to help me to process what I intuitively believe, that our professional identity and nurse wellbeing are intrinsically linked and influences person-centred practice and leadership.

As we venture out of the other end of a sustained global emergency, a myriad of nurse researchers are completing their PhDs and Professional Doctorates in this space and members of the ISPIN are publishing at a rate of knots.

FoNS has joined various conversations along the way, from in-person events to on-line webinars and written opinion pieces. From tweet chats to Facebook Lives. But then I got to go to the U.S a couple of weeks ago and meet members of the ISPIN in person.

Grace and I were invited to facilitate a half day pre-conference session on reflective practice as part of our involvement in Sigma’s annual conference Creating Healthy Work Environments in Washington DC. It was thrilling to meet so many like-minded nursing colleagues who share our values and who are working to support nurses right the way across their careers and across, what they term ‘Faculty’ to the workplace. The relationship between academia and practice seemed much more connected. This felt absolutely right but I fear that we have some way to go in the UK to achieve such synergy.

Later, I co-facilitated a session alongside an amazing professor from John’s Hopkins University, Cynda Rushton who has the same twinkle in her eye that I have! We bonded immediately and became a tag team around the values, purpose and identity of nursing, asking questions such as, ‘who are you and what do you stand for?’. The whole room appeared to lean in at this point. ‘We’re on a roll!’, I thought. The session became much more than the two of us relaying information to a room full of nurses. It became the start of a much bigger discussion which went far beyond anything I could have wished for. My assumptions of nursing in the U.S were so outdated, that I was slightly embarrassed. I spent the next week purposefully rectifying this at every opportunity, sitting beside my great friend and colleague Rhoda as we drove across 5 states back to her home town. The next week was full of all things Magnet™ (further blog to follow!) and I wish I’d been 20 years younger as this model of nursing recruitment and retention is right up my street.

Ultimately, networking with our peers is something we all can and should do as a matter of course. It’s free! It’s also hugely rewarding and helps us to access what’s already inside us.

We start to form our own professional identity when we commence our studies and what happens at this stage impacts everything. If there is a gap between academia and practice, it is likely that one’s professional identity is thwarted at the first hurdle.

I am therefore setting my own intention, which is to contribute to the review of the NMC Code of Professional Conduct over the next year or so and ensure it is fit for the future and supports the student journey as they build their own identity as a nurse or midwife. I will support the NMC in their vital work to consult on the regulation of advanced practice and continue my own journey of exploration into person-centred leadership.

Join me and let’s talk about #ProfessionalIdentity

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