Your web browser is outdated and may be insecure

The RCN recommends using an updated browser such as Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome

Can novice nurses be leaders

Craig Davidson 26 Aug 2020

Having held various official student leadership roles, Craig questions if this leadership journey can continue as a novice nurse?

I have just completed my first twelve weeks as a newly qualified registrant. And I find myself at an unusual intersection in my nursing career. Unusual, because I was perceived to be a leader throughout my nursing education, holding various official leadership positions. However, I have gone from being the “expert” student to the “novice” nurse. With so much learning and theory to consolidate and put into practice, leadership is often far from my mind. Instead, I am embracing my new follower status, learning from more experienced nurses and multidisciplinary team members. 

While I love my new role, the seismic shift from leader to follower, from expert to novice, has left me with “imposter syndrome” as a steering committee member of the RCN Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum. Can newly qualified registrants be leaders? What does it even mean to be a leader?

However, on reflection, I can think of various ways we can continue to lead. Firstly, in our actions and values. We can continue to lead in the way we deliver care, following the most current evidence base. We can constructively challenge and advocate for patients and families when we feel care practices can be improved. We can bring a fresh perspective and suggest innovative new approaches. Just because something has always been done in a particular way does not mean it should be. However, challenging is not always easy. As we acclimatise to our new surroundings, it can be easy to conform and forget our values in favour of socialisation and acceptance. I believe that however difficult, leaders always stay true to their values. A leader requires followers. And followers want someone in who they can believe.

Secondly, many of us have made excellent connections as students. Continue to nourish these. Having the ability to establish and cultivate networks is a vital leadership skill. Networking also helps to open up a world of opportunities. Good leaders, I believe, also help to open up and share these opportunities with others.

Next, as leaders, we can build upon the platform and voice we created for ourselves as students. Why were we considered student leaders? What was our vision, our goals?  Let’s not forget this. We can continue to use our voice in our new roles as we develop as leaders. I believe, even as novice nurses, it is never too early to be strategic. Work out where you want to get to and establish what you need to do to actualise your vision and goals. Find an inspirational mentor. One who can help guide you with career planning and continuous professional and academic development. 

Lastly, and I think most important for all leaders, whether experienced or novice, remember humility. Having the moral courage to admit when you were wrong shows you are human. We all make mistakes; we all have much to learn. Good leaders do not forget this. So, I think novice nurses can be leaders. And I think we see them lead every day.

Craig Davidson

Craig Davidson

RCN Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum steering committee member.

Community public health staff nurse.

Craig is a registered nurse who recently took up a post as a community public health staff nurse in the Asylum Health Bridging Team for Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership. His first staff nurse post was in the Infectious (Communicable) Diseases department at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in May 2020.

Craig is a former Scottish representative on the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) Students' Committee from 2018- 2019, assuming the chair's tenure in 2019. In addition to being an an RCN Newly Registered Nurses working group member, Craig is also a steering committee member of the RCN Nurses in Management and Leadership Forum.
Together with his friend and fellow registered nurse, Clare Manley, Craig hosts a fortnightly podcast, "Retaining the Passion: Journeys Through Nursing".

Craig is undertaking a Master of Public Health at GCU. He is interested in global, public, and sexual health, particularly blood-borne viruses and health protection measures. He hopes to work on global and public health policy as a nurse researcher and academic one day. 

Craig is passionate about representing minority populations and advocating for health equity for all. To this extent, he sits on the working group developing NHS Scotland's Rainbow badge inclusion initiative.

Page last updated - 18/05/2022