Come the revolution

Introduction Text:
Ukraine has been in turmoil over the past few months.  It’s been in turmoil for many years, and it looks like this will continue.  With Russia as your neighbour, the omens are not good for Ukrainians.

JDI was last there five years ago, and the capital Kiev was peace and tranquillity, if not a wee bit cold.  I’ve therefore followed the events with more than passing interest.

I’ve asked myself: Would I have been at Independence Square?  I’d like to think the answer would have been ‘yes’, but it takes extraordinary self-commitment, and sacrifice, to be there and be part of that type of change process.  In reality I probably would have been a half-committed participant – there for some of the time, but going home to bed at night.  I went on the odd march to Washington to protest against Vietnam, campaigned some for McCarthy, and took the easy option of coming to Britain when my draft number was 72.

What would you have done in Kiev?  It takes one or a few to start a movement, but then it picks up momentum.  Arlo Guthrie sang about this in his 1967 protest song, Alice’s Restaurant:


One person, singing a bar

2 people do it, in harmony

3 people do it, an organisation

50 people a day, a movement

What resulted was the ‘Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement’, one of the pieces in the jigsaw puzzle that ended the Vietnam War.

The focus on developing a movement for change is very relevant when it comes to the NHS at this time.  Nursing is the largest group in the workforce, and their leadership development has been a recent focus of the NHS Leadership Academy.  As a faculty member I have had the privilege of working with many up and coming nurse leaders in small impact groups.  Without exception I have been wholly impressed.  Post-Francis, it has reinforced for me the value of nursing, and the profession’s prospects for the future.

But what impact on patient care will a few nurses have among the many thousands in their profession?  A similar thought was probably in the minds of the early Independence Square protesters, but they stuck with it, showed their passion, built up momentum, and became an unstoppable movement.

I’d like to see this happen in nursing.  The nurse leaders going through the Academy programmes are in a sense a revolutionary corps.  They have greater insight to their leadership styles and their behaviour, are better able to have effective conversations and influence change for the better, and are more aware of how to build teams and the impact that these teams have on patient care.  This is the link that Michael West has clearly demonstrated – effective teams, relationships and conversations result in better patient care.

A sign is going to be hung over NHS England soon that says “Under new management”.  This new management will be looking for the leaders who can make things happen.  Dwight Eisenhower in his day was one of those leaders waiting to be discovered.  He was a colonel in 1941 – by 1944 he was a 5-star general.

Come the revolution in the NHS, there are many nurse leaders out there who will be the Eisenhowers of tomorrow.  Are you one of them?  What will you do to find them?

4 replies on “Come the revolution”

  • enlighting & thought provoking

  • I like the way you write John. Sara

  • John,
    Very thought provoking. For some time now the nursing profession has been guilty of punching below its bodyweight when it comes to influencing the health agenda. More recently the Francis report left it with a sense of shame, and whilst some may say quite right too, the question is how did it/we reach that point? Your article has made me think about disenfranchised groups, nations, races who’ve had their language suppressed by an oppressive force. I’m sure many nurses could identify with the decay that has taken place as the sound of targets, results, KPIs, performance management have resonated around the theatre and silenced those of care, empathy, consideration, collaboration,compassion. The 6C’s are arguably a good first step towards resurrecting the native language but they need to be developed. In the words of the great Douglas Hyde, “we must teach ourselves not to be ashamed of ourselves”, we must use the language of our patients and carers, where necessary become skilled translators, develop a clear and strong message about the profession and what it represents so much so that when people hear it they want to engage and feel motivated by it. We must ensure the sound bites are not relied upon to tell the story, there is a huge public relations exercise still waiting top happen in the wake of Francis and the emerging nurse leaders must drive this.

    Perhaps an action could be a national seminar to consider raising 6Cs bar i.e how can we ensure today’s aspiring nurse leaders can up the level of debate across professional, research, educational and political audiences.

    Welcome your thoughts.

    anthony Contributor
  • Good perspective Anthony, and good analogies. I think the time may be right to reflect on what the 6Cs mean to nursing. There will be a new/renewed focus on nursing, its mission and the place of the 6Cs as NHS England looks at its direction – something like you suggest may fit into this agenda. When IBM was reappraising its vision and mission, it launched a massive engagement of all staff. This is risky since it opens up a Pandora’s box, but it is effective. People will support change it they’re part of the process, rather than being done to. J

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