Which hat?

Which hat ?


Teaching ?                            Mentoring ?                                 Coaching ?


I love working in education, it s real privilege,  but working with learners can be challenging sometimes !  I know I am not the only one.  When I talk to tutors who have a personal tutoring role or who are supporting learners in practice (often terms mentors or supervisors) I know they have similar concerns and issues that I do from time to time.  So, how can we adapt out approach maybe ?  So, if I am primarily concerned with developing this learner in front of me to become autonomous and to have confidence in their skills/abilities, which hat do I wear ?

If you’ve been to one of my sessions or conference presentations you will know that I like to use the metaphor of hats – literally (I have no shame really, I will wear them as I talk !).

In a nutshell:

  • if my aim is to pass on knowledge then I need to be wearing my tutor hat (the mortar board in this metaphor)
  • if my aim is to develop someone’s experience or exposure (to develop a depth of understanding and skill in practice very often) then I need to be wearing my mentoring hat
  • if I know this person has the knowledge and they have had the relevant experience then I probably need to think about my coaching hat.

But remember this is a continuum – I can move back to ‘tutor’ hat if I or the learner, identifies a knowledge gap for example.

Next blog I’ll start to explore some ideas for how ….


Hot topic right now and (luckily?) the focus of my MA Ed thesis !

  • People generally enter a healthcare profession because they want to care/ want to make a difference
  • This requires emotional labour
  • These experience of caring can be rewarding/flourishing
  • Can also sometimes cause ‘self’ to suffer
  • Students in particular are often ill prepared for this emotional and cognitive labour of caring
  • McAllister (2009)

So, what is resilience ? Interestingly there is no clear definition; this in it’s self raises allsorts of issues because how can we ‘research’ it if the definition is unclear ?

The classic definition of resilience revolves around ‘bouncing’ or ‘recovering’ after an event or stressor.

An ability to bounce back from adversity/set backs


But, is this the case ?  In my research I asked 44 students (who had no prior teaching to influence their perception) what their definition of personal resilience was.  The results are fascinating:

categories of resilience


Does it matter if we don’t have a clear definition?

Does the language someone is using matter to their perception of personal resilience?

Does the language someone is using matter when it comes to how they may develop or protect their resilience ? Do different things work/not work ?




being the ‘bull in a china shop’: an exercise in vulnerability

This is a tale of the consequences of trying not to let others know that you need some assistance: a bull in a china shop story.

It can be hard to live up to others expectations, or perhaps you are comparing yourself to others around you or you have high expectations of yourself.  Not always a bad thing, this can motivate you to change, grow and develop of course.  But what if these expectations are false or even too high right now ? What then? 

This is a tale of trying to be something you are not – not yet anyway.  And that is competent at a task.  So, you’ve had the lesson, you’ve read a book or two and you think others (whoever they are) will expect you to be competent at this task.  Perhaps others are ( or seem to be) competent and you think you should be too.  So bluff it…. How bad can it be? 

You know sometimes ‘faking it’ can be ok, if it is purely a confidence issue rather than a competence one.  But what happens if faking it doesn’t pay off when it is a competence based task…. All sorts of trouble that’s what.  It may even mean that someone else pays the price.  And this is what can sometimes be seen in healthcare practice.

So here’s the coaching question; how do you feel about admitting weaknesses ?

Difficult ? You are not alone and knowing this you now need to know it is possible to move forward.  I’ll discuss more about compentence and confidence in a future blog, but for now consider for yourself – what would you need to know in order to be more comfortable admitting weakness or lack of knowledge ? What makes it possible to share this ?



Empathy in healthcare

Are we working in a system (or in a society) where there is an empathy deficit ? Obama would have us think we do and although his comments are obviously US centric it does raise the question of whether care and compassion ‘fatigue’ is behind some of the recent high profile failures within the NHS. So, if this is a real phenomenon how do you spot if you are suffering a deficit? how does this link in with your core values and behaviours ? What about your wider professional responsibilities? if you did notice you were or becoming ’empathy deficient’, what would you do about it ? should you do something ? How do you live and work authentically ? How would you show courage?

Lots of questions here !


on being your authentic self

Authenticity is so important and yet (in my experience) often neglected.  So how do you connect with your authentic self, what does that even mean and why might this have important ramifications for life and happiness?


What are your core values ? 

Wow, that’s a tough question ! This means thinking about yourself for a while, and how often do we do that ! OK, still finding that tough, not sure ? Consider this, if someone or something violates one of your core values you will feel:

  • Angry
  • Irritated
  • Violated
  • Etc..
Strong emotions ! 
For example, one of my core values is compassion; I would be prepared to step in and act as an advocate if I felt compassion was being compromised.  I would speak up even if that made me feel vulnerable.  That is a core value.
So, take some time this week to work out your values; write them down, draw them…. Whatever works for you.  If you are not sure then work with someone you trust, or a coach, and work out your list of values.  Keep this list safe and review this regularly.  
How to use this ? At times of challenge review your list.  Are you violating or being asked to violate won’t of your core values ? Is this why you feel challenged at this time ?   If it is then a coaching conversation may be of use in enabling you to move forward and back into a world where your values are upheld.


Time to care

So here’s a question I posed recently to a class of year 3 undergraduates in a discussion about care and compassion – “when did we stop caring ?”.  This stopped the debate about the Francis report in its tracks ! Every student could tell me what they needed to do, what they should do.  Why then, I asked, was it so different there?  Why then do staff have to be reminded to care (let’s face it , that is what the 6cs does) ? Arhh, well we are busy, we don’t have time, we only see patients for very short periods of time (so it doesn’t matter?), it’s what others do (so they copy or become habituated?).  Quite depressing really.

So, as a coach what do I think the issues are and what (maybe) the answers might be? I don’t know about you but i worry about being a patient again one day if this is what I may encounter; care shouldn’t be a lottery.

Some of the answers may lie in  Robin Youngson’s book – Time to care.  Boy does this resonate with me ! Youngson talks about the medicalisation of patients – they become pathologies not people.  I see this echoed in radiographic practice too.  Indeed I presented a paper called ‘the curious incident of the disappearing patient – and not just in the nighttime’ (homage to a favourite book there) On that very theme.  We x-Ray thumbs and chests and scan abdomens and heads…. And I challenge that reductionist approach as I feel it dehumanises that person, discourages care and compassion.

Back to my question – how might coaching fit in here.  I see the potential for coaching to be utilised as part of a professional’s reflective practice – and as part of everyday reflection, not just when things go wrong.  I believe that only by looking after ones own health and well being can one hope to deliver care in a compassionate, courageous way.  And in today’s pressurised imaging department it is so easy to focus on numbers, speed and efficiency – how quickly can you scan or x-Ray that patient.  Job done, next please.  But, time to think (Kline) and taking care of ones own well being, through reflective practice, is vital too.

So, my coaching advice to any healthcare professional (inc radiographers) next time you have a busy day (probably every day !) take some time to reflect on how you made a difference to your patients today.  And if you can’t think of any moments (and assume here you would want to have considered at least one) really do think about whether you might benefit from a coaching conversation.  Take care of yourself.

Youngson R (2011) Time to care.  New Zealand, Rebelheart Publishers.

Other reference is  to Nancy Kline’s book Time to think.