Sometimes it’s okay to celebrate your achievements…

Sometimes, it’s perfectly okay to be proud of your personal and professional achievements every once in a while. And for Clare Manley and my tiny seed of an idea, “Retaining the Passion: Journeys Through Nursing”, a podcast for nurses and those interested in nursing issues, hosted by newly registered nurses to be recognised by and featured in Sigma European Region’s October Newsletter really does mean the world to us.

It is a true passion project for us. And although we often struggle to find a work life balance, for us this doesn’t feel like work. There also appears to be real tangible benefits. And not only are Clare and I learning from our reflections but we appear to be helping other student, novice and more experienced nurses too.

So, thank you Sigma Nursing for the recognition. And long may PodRTP last for as long as you want us.

All our love and appreciation.

Craig and Clare.

Finding your authenticity.

Apologies for what may appear a word dump, but I just had a couple of thoughts in my head I wanted to get out there.

I have been doing a lot of self-reflection recently. Now, I want to avoid this being a navel-gazing post. No one wants or needs that. Navel-gazing is generally associated with being self-absorbed and very “me-me-me”. And I guess the point of this blog post is that this is what I want to avoid.

I do not want to be a self-promoter. And I am acutely aware that I have been guilty of this in the past, I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t. Now, I do not blame social media, and I think it has some outstanding advantages, particularly peer-support, sharing best evidence, and providing a space to vent and reflect with our colleagues. It is also an amazing way of flattening perceived hierarchies.

But social media allows us to create a public persona, a “character”, one that may not be our true authentic self. And I am painfully aware that I’ve been guilty of this in the past. I’m trying to improve. I’m a human being, and I make mistakes.

I don’t know if being an actor from the age of twelve, hiding behind a “character” has had something to do with this. So, I often struggle with who the real me is. Who is Craig? What drives me? And ultimately, what is my authenticity? Also, my acute mental health experience in 2015, where I was admitted as an inpatient following a stress-induced psychotic episode, now makes me view myself through a microscopic lens, overanalysing every single thing I ever say or do. For those who don’t know me in person, I am actually an acutely shy, introverted person and happier in my own company with close friends than in a crowd.

Returning to social media, too often it is used to share our accolades, our successes, our triumphs. I have been guilty of this. I’m not alone in doing so, but I am conscious that I have. Don’t get me wrong, there have been achievements that I have been proud of and worked hard for; some, possibly, I may not have always deserved, however, I am grateful for them anyway. But they do not make me, and they are not my authentic self.

So, that is my new focus, finding my authenticity. I’ve had great discussions this week with three inspirational women, who I hope consider themselves friends, but who most definitely are mentors and real inspirations to me. And they have genuinely helped me with having these frank, honest and difficult conversations about finding my authenticity. I want to give them a shout out because they are amazing. They are my RCN Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum colleagues Sally Bassett and Angela Sealy, and my new mentor for the Sigma Nursing Nightingale challenge Dani Collins. Also, I would be remiss not to mention my people Clare Manley and Jess Sainsbury and my colleagues at RCN Newly Qualified Nurses, who are a constant source of support. I want to thank each and every one of them publicly.

So what is my authenticity? What drives me? I’m not sure I know entirely yet. But what I do know is I believe in a world desperately in need of health equity for all. For our patients and service users, whichever they wish to be known as, to be at the heart of every decision made regarding their care, by working in coproduction with services. For us to achieve better standards for nurses in terms of professional development, pay, terms and conditions. And for us to always strive for equality, diversity and inclusion. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

I do not want to discourage people from celebrating their successes because we need to celebrate nursing. But these cannot be our sole drivers. From now on in, I am going to try my best to ditch the public-facing, online persona I’ve created for myself. And to be the real me.

I am a work in progress; we all are. That is the nature of humanity and authenticity. I hope you have a fantastic weekend.

All my love Craig 

Coming Out Day

Today is #ComingOutDay. Serendipitous that it comes after #WorldMentalHealthDay.

I always knew I was “different”. Aged five, my first ever crush was the Little Mermaid’s Prince Eric (I mean, who didn’t love those blue eyes?).

And I vehemently do not buy into the fact that sexuality is a choice. But I wish I was braver and came out earlier, saving myself years of trauma. But only do it when it’s right for you.

One of the reasons I didn’t come out till I was 18 and essentially ran away to London to study acting, where I could come out and be my authentic self, was because I was scared of letting my family, my parents and especially my dad down. However, they are now among my biggest supporters.

I know that sadly everyone isn’t that lucky. Coming out will always be difficult. For me, coming out to myself was the hardest thing. I was heavily involved in the church as a child, and couldn’t understand how God could have made me “wrong”. Also, I grew up in the times of Section 28. A devastating time. I was bullied at school for being “gay” before I’d even acknowledged it to myself. But teachers couldn’t discuss with me that being gay was okay. Therefore, I internalised my homophobia: the biggest regret of my life.

That is why allyship and supporting our #LGBT+ communities is so important. No one should feel forced to come out if they don’t want to. Never forget: your journey is your journey. If you ever need to talk, though, my dms on Twitter are always open.

Live your life, be you, and love whoever the hell you like! #ComingOutDay2020

All my love now and always, Craig www.twitter.com/CraigDavidson85

5 top tips in nursing…

I cannot quite believe the 30-day blog challenge for NHS Horizons ‘transforming the perceptions of nursing and midwifery‘ has come to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed reflecting on my thoughts, writing them all down, and putting them out there into the ether. I cannot thank you enough for all your comments and engagement. It has been overwhelming.

As for the other wonderfully brave bloggers and vloggers who have joined in with the challenge, I have loved reading and watching your contributions each day, and feel as though I know you all a little better. When your opinions have aligned with mine, it is nice not to feel alone; and when they haven’t, it has expanded my thinking and offered me an alternative viewpoint.

This challenge has made a blogger of me, and I hope to continue for a long time; as long as people want to hear what I have to say. And maybe even when they don’t – I’m not scared to put my head above the parapet and challenge for what I believe in, backed up with evidence, of course.

So, the time has come for the last topic of this challenge: “5 top tips in nursing”. I am just at the start of my nursing journey, still in education, and have much to learn. I hope it is a long and fruitful career, and that my passion for nursing continues as I develop and progress as a nurse. Therefore, I feel a little ill-equipped to offer “top tips” to others in nursing. That is why I am choosing to offer tips for myself to follow as I progress throughout my nursing journey instead. I think they may apply to other student nurses, and perhaps even qualified nurses too.

Always remember why you chose to be a nurse:

There will be times when you are exhausted; times when you are pushed beyond what you think is possible; times when you want to break down and cry. That is okay. Hopefully, the safe staffing legislation that is getting rolled out by RCN Scotland and the Scottish Government will help, and you must always fight for this: to protect both patients and yourself. But there are times when you will question why you ever wanted to be a nurse.

I hope this doesn’t often happen, as you love what you do, and I don’t want your passion for the profession ever to be extinguished. But, when it does happen, and it will; remember why you chose to be a nurse. You wanted to make a positive difference to people’s lives; you know you can. You wanted to be that nurse that people always remembered fondly with a smile, who went the extra mile for them and their families. The nurse who cared, but who was also really good at their job; the nurse who always acted in their best interests. Be that nurse. That is who you are, and why you chose to be a nurse above anything else you could have been.

And Craig, remember that looking after your self is equally as important as looking after those you care for. Make time for yourself, your family and friends.

Use your voice to champion the nursing profession:

You know you will always do this. You have been doing it since you first started your nursing education. But remember how important your voice is: your one voice. Your one voice can make all the difference. Be that voice. Be a nursing advocate, a nursing champion.

Inspire and encourage others to use their voices. And if they feel they cannot speak up then advocate for them, remembering to channel their voices without a personal agenda. Welcome new voices into the fold; never exclude people or make them feel intimidated or unwelcome. Never become one of the people who shoot down those with different viewpoints.

Encourage discussion, debate and resolution, always with a questioning mind. Remember that you are not always right; allow yourself to be informed by those who know better, without being defensive. But, don’t be afraid to champion your cause when it is something you passionately believe in and can back up with evidence. Don’t bow down because it is the easy option or you feel scared that people won’t like you for saying something against the status quo. Just because it’s the way it’s always been done, does not mean it’s the way it always should be done.

Craig, remember that with all nursing voices together, we can create a revolution. We can make a difference: for patients, their families, and for nurses. Help lead the revolution.

The best leaders lead by example:

Being a leader does not mean being the boss or the person in charge. You are leading by example now in your advocacy and activism work while you are still in education.

When you become a staff nurse, you can lead by example by always being a critical-thinker, a problem-solver, and by following the best evidence to guide your practice. Lead by example by helping others. Try to be the nurse that others look up to. Not because you’re special – you’re not – but because you wouldn’t be happy in yourself if you weren’t pushing yourself to be the best nurse that you can be.

Craig, if you do ever enter a management role, remember that respect is earned, not given freely, and works both ways. That team cohesion and productivity is best achieved when everyone feels respected and valued. Lead by example then. Never ask someone to do something you either haven’t done or wouldn’t do yourself. Don’t breathe down people’s necks. Delegate and trust others. Offer support and guidance when needed. Know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses; celebrate their strengths, and help them develop their weaknesses. Don’t govern by fear and intimidation, be nurturing – remember what you heard at Congress: “I have your back, you’ve got my ear.”

Never stop pushing yourself to learn and develop:

You are ambitious, there is so much you want to achieve. Keep that fire burning. But, learn how to be a good staff nurse first. There is no point running before you can walk. Have goals; but, keep them manageable. And don’t feel like you’ve failed if you need to change or adapt them. That being said, never stop pushing yourself to learn and develop as a nurse.

Keep questioning; keep reading; keep going on additional training courses. Please promise me you will go back to university to push yourself academically and to develop professionally.

Craig, you can do it. Just do it. Believe in yourself. Yes, it may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. And you can make a difference.

Inspire student nurses – they are the future:

Remember the tweet you read:

You love being a student nurse, and you have had some fantastic mentors. Take elements from all of them and add in a pinch of what is unique to you. Always, support and inspire students to be the best they can be. Find out their learning style, what works for them, and foster growth. Be proud of them.

Challenge them, but never, ever ridicule them or make them feel stupid or less than. Student nurses have given up so much in their pursuit of nursing, and we ask so much of them. Remember, nursing is not easy. University is not easy. Remember not to “eat your young” – you won’t, but you find that expression hilarious, though strangely apt for some nurses.

Lastly, Craig, remember student nurses will often have just as must to teach you as you them. They are the ones being taught the most up-to-date information. And nursing education will evolve; so, adapt with it. Things change for a reason. It’s usually for the better. Don’t look at your history with rose-tinted glasses. Look to the future of our nursing profession – our student nurses.

So that’s that. With this final post, the 30-day challenge is over. Thank you so much for reading. And I hope to be back blogging again soon. I will miss talking to you all every day.

Craig

@CraigDavidson85

10 people you should follow on Twitter…

I follow nearly 1,960 people on Twitter, so how am I supposed to pick just 10? They are all amazing, and I follow each for very different reasons. I love Twitter (perhaps too much at times – I am a bit of a social media addict) and think it’s a great platform to engage with people from all around the world. The accounts I follow are not all nursing based – I do enjoy having a life outside of nursing – but for this post, these ten accounts are from the nursing world.

@RCNStudents

Putting myself forward for the RCN UK Students’ Committee was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The committee is made up of representative student nurses from all across the UK. Follow to engage with the work we are doing. Also, why not put yourself up for our upcoming vacant seats? Or become a Student Information Officer (SiO)? SiOs report directly to their country/regions committee member to affect the change they want to see local to them.

@StNurseProject

The Student Nurse Project is a remarkable group of people, and you should also follow all of their individual Twitter accounts. They provide a peer support network, and a safe space to reflect, engage and debate about issues relating to student and newly qualified nurses.

@WeStudentNurse

Like the Student Nurse Project, WeStudentNurses provide a network for nursing students and frequently hold tweetchats. Again, the individual curators of this network are well worth a follow too.

@CharlotteRCN

As I’ve mentioned before Charlotte is the Louise to my Thelma. You should give her a follow. Charlotte is an inspiring nurse, and her passion for the profession resonates from her. She also created this blog challenge. So you have her to blame for me becoming a blogger!

@FionaCMcQueen

I was lucky enough to meet Fiona at RCN Congress this year. She was lovely, and it was great to meet her in person. I think it’s important that we follow and engage with the Chief Nursing Officers in our countries. Fiona has been gracious enough to participate in a few online discussions with me. It’s great that she takes the time to engage with student nurses.

@alisonleary1

Alison is a brilliant person to follow on Twitter. Her tweets are always insightful, and she engages and debates with passion and vigour backed up by substantial evidence. She is also a champion of patient safety.

@stueymckenzie

Stuart is a proper inspiration to this wee ‘Weegie (Glaswegian) boy. He was Chair of the RCN Congress when I attended for the first time this year. Stuart ran the show with professionalism, kindness, fairness and authority. You really should give him a follow. He is a great guy.

@swayoung01

Stu has provided me with much support and encouragement throughout the last year. He sits on the RCN Agenda Committee, and he gave me the confidence to get up and speak this year. Stu formerly was the Chair of the RCN UK Students’ Committee and the student member of the RCN Council. He is a big inspiration, particularly the work he does for the LGBT+ community, promoting diversity and inclusion.

@pauljebb1

Like Stu, Paul was the Chair of the RCN UK Students’ Committee and the student member of the RCN Council. I find Paul’s tweets interesting and have engaged with him frequently online, particularly around the subject of global nursing. I agree that we should all consider ourselves part of a global family of nursing who all share and learn from best practice to provide optimal care for patients.

@EvenSteven

I first met Stephen this year at RCN Congress. Alongside David Ferran, Stephen led the agenda item on the resolution of men into nursing. He is a great guy, and in addition to his tweets on nursing, I find his environmental activism inspiring.

I thoroughly suggest you follow all these brilliant nurses and nursing accounts on Twitter. Their presence on the platform makes it a better place.

Craig

@CraigDavidson85

What 6 things make me happy…

Now, for a change, this one is easy. There are lots of things that make me happy, in fact, I could write a list as long as my arm, but top six – easy peasy!

My family:

I am extremely close to my family: my mum, Carole, dad, Adam, and siblings, Kevin and Jennifer. They were a major contributing factor behind me moving back to Scotland, because I missed them so much.

They have always been there for me, particularly when I went through an extremely dark period before moving home. During that time, my mum saved my life; I owe her everything. And I am eternally grateful to all of them for their unwavering support and unconditional love. I can truly be myself with them, warts and all.

I was so worried about coming out to them as gay because their opinion matters so much to me. This worry led to much inner self-loathing, and internalised homophobia – toxic, as I essentially hated myself for the way I was born. I didn’t want things to change. I didn’t want them to view or treat me differently.

I have been so lucky with the way things have turned out. They were terrific, and they are truly the most supportive, lovely people you could ever hope to meet. All that has changed is I can now be my most authentic self around them. I wish I’d never put myself through the years of torment it took for me to be brave enough to admit it to them. The thing was I had to accept it and admit it to myself first. I want to assure you – it does get better.

The only issue I had initially was with my dad, but I blame that on the fact when a person has to “come out”, parents are then forced to view their child as someone who has a sexual identity. No parent wants to do that, which is why I hate the fact we have to “come out” at all. Straight people don’t have to do that. But, over time things changed, and my dad and I now have a better relationship than ever. I am so proud of him – and he is the loudest cheerleader I have, always fighting in my corner.

So, I love my family, and they are my favourite people in the world. My only complaint: I wish my siblings and their partners would hurry up and have kids so I can be fun Guncle Craig.

It was Kevin’s 30th birthday recently. To mark the occasion we decided to recreate some old family photos. Hope you enjoy. It was such a laugh, and I would highly recommend it.

My partner, Patrick:

Fate was smiling on me the day I met Patrick for a coffee. One of the many things I love about him is that he is very intelligent and challenges me. We may have different views on some things, and our friends may laugh at our political debates – I’m sure he thinks I am some crazy far-left liberal. But, he forces me to expand my mind, and challenge what I believe.

We are very different; I wear my heart on my sleeve and am an open book, Patrick is much more reserved and considered. But that is why we work. We compliment each other. Two of me definitely wouldn’t work in a relationship. I don’t think two of him would work either.

I am not always the easiest person: I expect a lot, can get easily stressed in my personal life (though not in my professional life for some reason), and I guess you could say I’m a little high maintenance. However, Patrick always tries his best to help me through these times, even if I don’t always seem to appreciate it at the time, and I love him for that.

It cannot be easy to be in a relationship with a student, and he supports me so much. I cannot wait until I qualify so that I can contribute more financially to our relationship and I can pay to put in our dream kitchen to our new flat.

I am aware I’ve made myself sound like a terrible boyfriend. But I hope Patrick would disagree.

My friends:

I love spending time with my friends, and I could sit here and list them all. However, I have chosen two of the most special people to me: Lisa and Rachel.

This is my best friend Lisa and me at her wedding earlier this year. I was honoured to be asked to do a reading and fought back the tears throughout. Because Lisa isn’t just a friend, she is a second sister. She was one of the only people, other than my family, that was there for me during one of the worst moments of my life. And more importantly, she was there for my mum. I can never thank her enough for that. But she did it without question, that is who Lisa is.

She still lives in London, where she works as an incredibly successful actress – we went to stage school together in Glasgow, and then trained together in London – so I don’t get to see her as much as I would like. However, when we do see each other, it is like we have never been apart. That is friendship.

This is Rachel and me at Glasgow Pride where we marched together with the RCN. Again, like with Patrick, fate was smiling on me the day Rachel and I sat together, purely by chance, on our first day in class in our second year. We have since become inseparable at university.

We both articulated into the second year, but from different colleges. I am in awe of Rachel because she is completing her nursing degree while bringing up two amazing little girls, who marched at Pride alongside us. She has become a confidante and a true friend. I continuously overthink everything and am a notorious people pleaser. Rachel helps me get out of my head. I am so grateful that she came into my life and we have such a giggle together, which helps us get through the stresses of a nursing degree. We also both have a shared love of “Queer Eye”.

Animals:

I love animals! Like I have mentioned, I have a tendency to get stressed, and there is something about stroking a pet, and the unconditional love they give that makes that all melt away. I have two cats, Clara-Rose and Captain Jack (named for Harkness, not Sparrow). Can you see the Doctor Who connection? I may be a fan. They now live with their Granny and Grampa – my mum and dad – because they wouldn’t be able to go outside at our house due to the main road. But I still see them for cuddles all the time, and they love living there.

The other pictures are of my brother and his wife’s Labradors, Baba and Manu, and Patrick’s dad’s dog, Honey. I love them and get lots of attention when I go and visit them. Though “no kissing faces!”

Holidays:

I don’t think I’m unique in that I love holidays and the sunshine. But I do! In fact, I’m currently on holiday now. I started this blog post on the plane out to Gran Canaria and am now finishing it by the poolside.

The sun makes me so happy. As a Scotsman, I feel I definitely may have been born in the wrong country. I also love visiting new places, and there are so many I want to see. One of my only regrets is that I never took a gap year out to see the world. But, I am sure there will be opportunities to visit some of the places on my bucket list.

The pictures below are of mine and Patrick’s first holiday together last year with his family to Ibiza. We had such a great time.

Harry Potter:

Last, but certainly not least, I love Harry Potter, and I am a Hufflepuff through and through.

I remember picking up the first book at a school book fair before the hype had really blown up around it, and I was hooked straight away. I grew up reading the ‘Worst Witch’ books, and there was something slightly reminiscent of those, but it was so much better.

I was 11 when the first book came out, so if J.K Rowling had continued to write one each year, I would have been the same age as Harry throughout the series. I will forgive her; they did get considerably longer.

I still listen to the audiobooks to this day, as I can’t fall asleep without having white noise in the background. I honestly never tire of the stories.

Below are some photos of my colleagues and me from Glasgow Caledonian University. We went out on an educational exchange placement to California State University, Long Beach. While we were there, we went to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Oh my goodness, I had the time of my life. I even got selected by Ollivander’s assistant to have my wand pick me. Yes, the wand chooses the wizard. I now have a willow wand with a core of dragon heartstring. Yes, I am sure they just selected the grown adult in the “Hufflepuff Quidditch Team Captain” t-shirt because they knew I would be an easy wand sale, but don’t spoil my fun.

Again, this has been more of a confessional than I originally intended. But, I guess this is what the 30-day blog challenge is doing to me, and it feels good to share. I hope you enjoyed and got something out of it.

Craig

@CraigDavidson

3 self-care ideas…

Undertaking a nursing degree is all-consuming; it is without question physically, emotionally and mentally challenging, which is why self-care and mental health support is so essential. A nursing degree isn’t like a standard degree at university. On top of all our academic work, we must complete 2300 clinical practice hours on placement so that we can join the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register.

Due to this, we do not have the long summers off that other courses do. The majority of student nurses have to work additional hours on top of placements to manage financially. In Scotland, we may still have the NHS funded nursing bursary, which helps; but it is only a token amount, not a sustainable living wage. Also, many nursing students are completing their studies while raising and supporting a family. I take my hat off to these incredible parents. I am in awe and think it is so inspirational for your children to see you working towards a degree; because we all know you are working hard.

Back to self-care: with university, placements, assignments, exams, work, oh, and raising a family, where do people find the time? There are three things I try to do; maybe they will work for you.

Sleep:

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I love to sleep. My bed is, without a doubt, one of my favourite places in the world. The importance of a good night’s sleep should not be overlooked. Good sleep health helps reduce stress levels, and it allows our brain time to process all we are learning, both in class and on placement – because we are learning a lot. I don’t know about you, but my brain continually feels fried. We should all try and aim to get between 7-9 hours a night to function at our best. I know that can be challenging and may not always be possible, which is where my other favourite comes in – naps! I love a Grampa nap. Most days, when I come in from university or placement, I will have a nap. Then I’ll get up and get on with the work I have to do. Napping helps me to freshen up and resets my factory settings. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to focus. I know finding time for a nap may be difficult, particularly for those with families. However, research done by NASA shows the optimal nap length to be 25 minutes. Can you find 25 minutes?

Family and friends:

Spend time with your loved ones, please. The demands of our course and chosen profession means we can be guilty of neglecting them. I know I am, and this is a public apology to my wonderfully supportive partner and family, who probably wish I focussed a little more energy on them and a little less on my course and other extracurricular pursuits – please know I love and appreciate you so much. Our loved ones are a big reason why we are all doing this, right? To have a better life – for them or with them? I know that I always feel so much better when I switch off from it all and focus my energy on them – and I mean switch off, as in: “Turn of your phone Craig!”. Life is too short. Yes, our studies are important, but so are our loved ones.

Binge watch:

I love film and TV. More than anything, I love finding an excellent series on Netflix, Amazon or Sky and just binge-watching away. Recent binges have included: Queer Eye, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, 13 Reasons Why, Damages, The Killing, Homeland, and Stranger Things. Please feel free to suggest some more for me to watch in the comments section below. I love the escapism that comes with getting involved in a good series. If you can’t watch it all in a binge, then find a series you like and ration the episodes. You still get the benefit of forgetting you are a student nurse for 45-60 minutes and becoming an enraptured viewer. To avoid the procrastination guilt, you could even treat yourself to an episode every time you get a piece of work done. Might have to start trying that one myself.

So, there are my three self-care ideas. In no way do I profess to be a self-help guru. I can’t wait to read all of yours. Please leave some ideas in the comments below.

Craig

@CraigDavidson85