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Reflective Essay on Developing Self-Awareness and Leadership as a Novice Nursing Student


This reflective essay examines the key concepts of self-awareness, leadership style, values, behaviors, responsibility and accountability in relation to the evolving role of a student nurse soon to enter professional practice. The primary aim is to critically reflect on my current level of self-awareness, preferred leadership style and capabilities, while identifying any gaps or areas requiring development. By engaging in conscious self-reflection, I can devise goals and strategies to facilitate continued personal and professional growth as a responsible, ethical nurse. The discussion will highlight the immense significance of self-awareness and adaptable leadership in providing optimal patient care while upholding the highest clinical standards.

Commencing a nursing career demands recognition of one’s strengths and weaknesses, values and leadership attributes that shape practice. Self-awareness and leadership underpin delivery of safe, knowledgeable, compassionate care. This essay will define and discuss relevant concepts including self-leadership, professional values and accountability within nursing. My specific responsibilities in registering as a licensed nursing professional with a duty to protect public safety and trust will also be examined.

This essay comprises two integrated sections. Firstly, a commentary will orient the discussion by outlining key concepts framed in the context of nursing values and the crucial accountability nurses hold in society. The second section adopts a reflective style analyzing my self-awareness questionnaire findings regarding personal strengths, weaknesses and preferred leadership manner. It will set targeted goals and actions to further cultivate insight, resilience and leadership capabilities required as an accountable nursing professional.

Insight into one’s values, motivations and leadership style is essential for every nurse to practice ethically and compassionately. This essay represents a commitment to conscious ongoing improvement and learning. Reflective self-analysis will enable me to commence a nursing career equipped with strengthened self-knowledge and leadership strategies to manage challenges. This will allow me to evolve into the most knowledgeable, capable and professional nurse possible to safely serve the community.

Part 1: Foundations of Nursing Practice

a) Understanding the Essence: Self-Awareness, Self-Leadership, Leadership, Values, Professional Behaviors, Professional Responsibility, and Accountability

Self-awareness is having conscious, accurate knowledge and realistic understanding of one’s own values, personality traits, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, motivations, emotions and how one’s actions and behaviors impact others (Showry et all, 2014). It involves the ability to neutrally self-reflect and objectively assess oneself in an introspective manner without self-judgement. Self-awareness creates opportunity for personal growth and improvement. Self-leadership is the process of influencing and managing oneself through exercising self-discipline, intrinsic motivation and self-direction (Stewart et al., 2010). It requires the self-control to resist temptation, distraction and impulse. Self-leadership also involves setting meaningful goals for oneself, rewarding progress, and constructively criticizing lapses through mindful self-examination. Through self-leadership, individuals direct their own personal development, professional advancement and productivity. Self-leadership empowers people to take responsibility for guiding their own growth trajectory (Ahmad et al., 2022). Cultivating self-awareness allows accurate identification of areas requiring improvement that can be targeted through deliberate and tactical self-leadership strategies. Enhanced self-knowledge and self-control empower self-leadership.

According to Scully (2015), leadership in nursing involves positively influencing, managing, directing and motivating fellow nurses to achieve optimal patient outcomes, experience professional growth, and perform efficiently as a team. Key leadership skills include clear communication, active listening, problem-solving, accountability, conflict resolution, delegation, crisis management and the ability to inspire others (Cismaş et al., 2016). Excellent nursing leaders exhibit integrity, clinical expertise, organization, approachability and an interpersonal manner that builds trust. They role model professionalism and compassion.

Values are the moral principles or ethical standards that serve as broad guidelines for behavior and decision-making, shaping our priorities and sense of what is right. They influence how we treat others. Core professional values guide ethical clinical nursing practice and conduct. Fundamental values include integrity, which involves being honest, trustworthy and acting consistently with principles (Ahmad et al., 2022). Honesty and transparency are also key values, as is accountability for decisions and your professional duty. Respectfulness involves valuing all patients, families and colleagues. Protecting patient dignity, rights and interests is paramount. Competence means upholding skills and knowledge befitting the noble nursing profession. Providing quality care reflects the value placed on excellent clinical standards and optimizing health outcomes. Teamwork emphasizes supportively collaborating with co-workers. Compassion is the sympathetic understanding of suffering that motivates care.

Professional behaviors are the expected codes of conduct nurses follow within healthcare environments to uphold ethical, clinical and organizational standards. Examples include maintaining complete patient confidentiality, being transparent about mistakes, demonstrating punctuality and reliability, taking personal responsibility for your role, maintaining appropriate appearance and demeanor such as modesty and cleanliness, exhibiting courtesy and kindness towards all and strictly avoiding illegal or unethical actions. Upholding these behaviors demonstrates respect for your critical position within healthcare and commitment to patients, colleagues and the nursing profession. They enable optimal delivery of safe patient care.

Accountability means being answerable for one’s nursing decisions and actions. Nurses are accountable for upholding standards of care and professional ethics. Responsibility refers to having a duty and obligation to competently perform nursing practices to required standards. Nurses carry great professional, ethical and legal responsibility to patients, families, colleagues and the wider community.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) Code (2018) outlines the comprehensive professional standards of ethics, conduct and proficiency that all UK nurses and midwives must uphold. The Code emphasizes the immense responsibility and accountability nurses have to promote overall health and wellbeing, actively prevent ill health at individual and community levels and protect the public interest. Core provisions remind nurses of their duty to provide person-centered, evidence-based, compassionate care that empowers patients to participate in decisions about their treatment and optimizes recovery. The Code requires nurses to be open and candid when things go wrong. Additionally, the Department of Health’s Framework for Nursing, Roberts et al (2022) guides standards for holistic, compassionate and evidence-based nursing practice across all settings. It focuses on person-centered collaborative care, health promotion/illness prevention and effective leadership. These key policies shape the ethical, clinical and behavioral standards that students must embrace as developing professionals who will soon bear the responsibilities of registered nursing roles. They promote public trust in the profession.

As developing student nurses, it is imperative we cultivate strong self-awareness through regular reflective practice to gain insight into our clinical strengths, limitations, values and behaviors that ultimately influence care provision. Understanding our intrinsic leadership attributes allows us to positively engage with and influence colleagues (Therapeutic Nursing : Improving Patient Care Through Self-Awareness and Reflection, 2002). We must consistently demonstrate professional accountability and responsibility during placements to deliver safe, compassionate, ethical care and uphold the reputation of this esteemed profession. All nursing students and qualified nurses share an ethical duty to adhere to regulatory policies shaping a competent, legal healthcare workforce that serves society.

b) Safeguarding the Public: The Student Nurse’s Role in Professional Responsibility and Accountability

Student nurses have an important role and duty to protect the public interest and maintain trust in the nursing profession. This links closely to their professional responsibility and accountability. In practical placements, student nurses must consistently display integrity, honesty, reliability and transparency. This upholds their responsibility to provide safe, competent care to patients as mandated by the NMC Code. Student nurses have a responsibility to share any concerns about risks, unethical practices or impaired colleagues through appropriate channels to prevent harm. Student nurses also have a duty to report any mistakes they make, take accountability for their actions, reflect and prevent recurrence. This transparency protects patients (Ahmad et al., 2022).

As students, student nurses have an ethical responsibility to ensure they only perform clinical skills and interventions that fall within their scope of current competence and capabilities. It is important student nurses consistently follow evidence-based best practice policies and protocols to guide skilled care. Student nurses must take accountability for transparently seeking guidance from instructors when unsure or lack proficiency rather than blindly proceeding, which risks patient safety merely to appear competent. Equally, student nurses have a duty to protect the public by avoiding clinical work when feeling unwell physically or emotionally, which jeopardizes the ability to perform responsibly.

Additionally, upholding confidentiality by respecting patient dignity and privacy when delivering personal care reflects our responsibility. As learner nurses, student nurses ought to be able to politely rebuke poor practices such as wrong use of gloves in the facility staff. Student nurses will also have to prevent risks such as falls by vigilance and provision of walking aid.

Protecting the public, students must always be accountable, responsible and honest; competent in everything we do as well. We must feel empowered to speak up when necessary and take responsibility for our own development into safe, skilled future nurses. This upholds the reputation of this honorable profession trusted to care for society’s most vulnerable.

Part 2: Nurturing Growth and Insight in Nursing Practice

a) Unveiling Self-Awareness: A Reflective Journey in Nursing

As I emphasized in my podcast, self-awareness involves deeply understanding one’s own personality, strengths, limitations, values, emotions and how they affect others through regular introspective reflection (Showry et all, 2014). Conscious self-awareness empowers nurses to make positive changes that enable professional development and delivery of quality compassionate care. As a student nurse transitioning into professional practice, intentionally developing insightful self-awareness through activities like reflective journaling is critical. This supports provision of holistic, patient-centered care by equipping me to manage my emotions, behaviors and reactions in patients’ best interests. Self-knowledge lays the crucial foundation for continuous self-improvement as a novice nurse.

I recently completed a self-awareness questionnaire assessing personal attributes, feelings and behaviors. The questionnaire suggested some of my strengths such as empathy, optimism, and creativity which I also discussed in the podcast. Empathy enables me to have a better understanding of patients’ points and standpoints when they are most vulnerable. It facilitates establishing rapport. This leads to perseverance in even adverse scenarios, such as dealing with an agitated and confused patient. Creativity allows me to come up with alternative explanations of complicated health concepts or a way to divert attention from pediatric patients during difficult procedures.The questionnaire also revealed tendencies towards impatience and difficulty delegating when working under pressure. These qualities have the potential to erode teamwork, as I covered in my podcast. I would rather take my time and make thoughtful decisions than make snap decisions that might impede my ability to act quickly in an emergency.

These findings, however reflective they were of the need to realize patient’s strengths such as empathy so that patients felt valued. Monitoring unhelpful features is also equally important to prevent undermining care. The impatience I have could make me look insensitive towards elderly patients who take longer. If I am unable to delegate when overwhelmed, it may lead me to fail in utilizing help from other colleagues and overextend myself. But keeping focused on the positive that I can do better helps reinforce change.

I am better able to recognize harmful reactions during clinical placements and purposefully adopt more professional responses that are patient-focused because to the self-knowledge I gained from the podcast and questionnaire. With practice, I hope to become more adaptive so that, in dire circumstances, I can act quickly. I will also practice tactical delegation to manage stressful situations without sacrificing healthcare quality. Consciously modeling the compassion, patience and teamwork I admire in senior nurses will help ingrain these behaviors. Discussing strategies with mentors could provide personalized guidance tailored to my attributes. Overall, cultivating self-awareness enables managing emotions, behaviors and reactions in patients’ best interests. Reflective practice promotes continuous self-improvement.

b) The Essence of Leadership in Nursing: An Introspective Dive

Leadership is integral within nursing to positively influence and motivate colleagues to collectively provide optimal patient care and advance the profession. As outlined in my podcast, key nursing leadership styles include autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, transformational and servant leadership (Stanley, 2022). Each has strengths and limitations that respectively empower or disempower staff. For instance, while autocratic leaders can swiftly address urgent issues through unilateral control, they risk demotivating teams. Democratic leaders foster unity through group decision-making but may cause delays. Laissez-faire leaders promote autonomy by delegating extensively, yet may fail to provide direction. The style adopted impacts team collaboration, care provision and professional development.

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate staff to achieve change through communicating a compelling shared vision and exhibiting passion for nursing advancement. However, teams may develop unrealistic ambitions exceeding capacities. Servant leaders prioritize staff needs and development over organizational goals (Azaare & Gross, 2011). However, some pressing issues may be left unresolved. As identified through my leadership questionnaire and acknowledged in my podcast, I exhibit a democratic leadership style, aiming to foster teamwork by promoting group discussion and collective decision-making. However, I must remain mindful of the potential for excessive prolonged debate among staff to ultimately delay efficient progress and delivery of timely patient care. As a democratic leader, I must utilize team input while also keeping the group focused and aligned on achieving defined goals.

Developing strong self-leadership is also vital within nursing. This involves self-motivation, discipline and desire for self-improvement. As students, we must demonstrate self-leadership in placements by proactively seeking learning opportunities, asking questions and undertaking supervised challenges to expand our competence (Azaare & Gross, 2011). For example, in my previous aged care placement, I requested to assist with wound redressing, which developed my technical skills. I also independently reviewed residential diabetes management plans to improve my clinical knowledge.

However, I was reluctant to lead medication rounds alone when offered. In future placements, I aim to seek such opportunities to build self-confidence and leadership capabilities with appropriate support and supervision. I will volunteer for challenges that develop responsibility and accountability. Setting time-bound learning goals and reflecting on achievements with mentors will help strengthen self-leadership skills essential for professional nursing practice. Leadership empowers advocacy for optimal care. Overall, developing self-awareness of my leadership style and self-leadership limitations through this reflective exercise provides a pathway for growth.

c) Navigating Opportunities for Growth: A Strategic Approach

As acknowledged in my podcast and evident from my self-awareness questionnaire results, critical areas requiring further development to strengthen my self-leadership abilities and nursing knowledge were revealed. Fundamental gaps highlighted include building deeper self-insight into my strengths and limitations as a novice student nurse, as well as enhancing key capabilities like communication, delegation and stress management. In order to facilitate targeted growth in these identified aspects, I have created a detailed action plan outlining specific attainable goals and strategic steps to achieve them within set timeframes (Stanley, 2022). Crucial strategies include consistently maintaining a reflective journal after clinical placements to consolidate experiential lessons, seeking constructive feedback from peers and mentors to gain external perspective, attending educational seminars to build knowledge and intentionally practicing emerging skills under supervision. Committing to this plan through proactive engagement will enable me to harness opportunities to expand my self-awareness, self-direction and competence. Focused development in areas of need will ultimately help fulfill my potential to deliver safe, compassionate and professional nursing care.

Another goal is developing adaptive self-leadership techniques to manage stress. I will identify specific stress triggers during placements to consciously monitor my reactions. Incorporating relaxation practices like mindfulness into my routine can help maintain composure and focus when challenged. Discussing strategies with mentors for demonstrating leadership during difficulties will provide guidance tailored to my attributes. Setting realistic daily goals and prioritizing effectively will improve time management and reduce anxiety.

Improving my delegation abilities is also a goal to enhance teamwork efficiency. I will actively identify situations during placements where responsibilities could be delegated rather than taking on too much alone. Attending delegation training will build theoretical knowledge. I aim to progressively apply these skills under my mentor’s supervision and seek feedback on my delegation’s effectiveness.

My podcast and questionnaire revealed communication skills development would enable me to independently undertake patient admissions by my first placement’s conclusion. In my action plan, I have expressed activities such as attending communication workshops, extensive reading on different techniques and watching senior nurses interacting with clients during admissions to identify and analyze the best strategies. I will then use learnt skills under supervision.
Attaining these objectives will involve conviction, introspection and actively pursuing learning opportunities. However, deliberately approaching zones that foster self-consciousness and self management will in the long run lead to me delivering quality care and realizing my potentials as a nursing student. This means that reviewing and if necessary, making further adjustments to my action plan will ensure it remains a useful self-improvement tool.


This reflective essay has highlighted the immense importance of self-awareness and adaptable leadership skills to safe, caring nursing practice. Self-awareness facilitates objective self-reflection that allows a person to manage his or her values, emotions, behaviors and reactions. Empowered by leadership skills influencing teams are able to provide quality care. In the retrospective analysis of my self-awareness questionnaire and identified democratic leadership style, I have identified such strengths as empathy and teamwork orientation, however also weaknesses that need improvement such as communication skills.

The reflective discussion has yielded deep personal understanding of further growth areas to unleash my potential as a new student nurse. Suggested strategies include keeping a reflective journal with the aim of recording experiences and lessons gained during placements. By actively soliciting feedback from mentors and peers, an external view would be provided on capabilities. Educational seminars will help develop theoretical notions connected to self-awareness, communication and leadership. Through conscious practice of emerging skills under observation and subsequent reflection, capabilities are developed.

Setting goals and documenting them in a comprehensive action plan provides defined steps for achievement.

Fundamentally, commitment to continual self-assessment and improvement will enable me to enter professional practice with enhanced insight into my abilities. This will equip me to manage potential limitations through targeted strategies. Developing self-awareness and adaptable leadership should remain central developmental goals throughout my career. Embedding reflective practices into routine allows self-critique against professional standards, facilitating growth. With dedication to cultivating these attributes, I can fulfill my potential to become the caring, dedicated and accomplished nurse I aspire to be in the service and care of others. This is a rewarding, lifelong journey.


Showry, M., & Manasa, K. V. L. (2014). Self-Awareness-Key to Effective Leadership. IUP Journal of Soft Skills8(1).

Stewart, G. L., Courtright, S. H., & Manz, C. C. (2010). Self-Leadership: A multilevel review. Journal of Management37(1), 185–222.

Ahmad, M. K., Abdulhamid, A. B., Wahab, S. A., & Nazir, M. U. (2022). Impact of the project manager’s transformational leadership, influenced by mediation of self-leadership and moderation of empowerment, on project success. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business15(5), 842–864.

Scully, N. J. (2015). Leadership in nursing: The importance of recognising inherent values and attributes to secure a positive future for the profession. Collegian22(4), 439–444.

Cismaş, S. C., Dona, I., & Andreiasu, G. I. (2016). Responsible leadership. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences221, 111–118.

Leigh, J., & Roberts, D. (2018). Critical exploration of the new NMC standards of proficiency for registered nurses. British Journal of Nursing27(18), 1068–1072.

Understanding Decision-Making in nursing practice. (2022). Roberts, Debbie – Holland, Karen – SAGE Publications – Torrossa.

Therapeutic Nursing : Improving Patient Care through Self-Awareness and Reflection. (2002). Freshwater, Dawn – Sage – Torrossa.

Azaare, J., & Gross, J. (2011). The nature of leadership style in nursing management. British Journal of Nursing20(11), 672–680.

Stanley, D. (2022). Leadership Theories and Styles. Clinical Leadership in Nursing and Healthcare, 31–60.


Action Plan for Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Leadership

The goals will be written as SMART goals (reference) and will focus on my development as a student nurse and how I will develop into a future leader as a staff nurse.

Goal Actions Achieved by
1 Enhance self-awareness of strengths and weaknesses as a student nurse.
  1. Complete a self-reflection journal at the end of each clinical placement week, highlighting personal experiences, challenges, and lessons learned.
  2. Seek feedback from peers and mentors regarding communication and teamwork skills.
  3. Utilize a self-awareness assessment tool to identify areas for improvement.
  4. Attend workshops or seminars on self-reflection and mindfulness.
  1. End of each clinical placement week.
  2. Monthly check-ins with mentors and peers.
  3. Within the first month of the next clinical placement.
  4. Attend at least one workshop within the next six months.
2 Develop adaptive self-leadership strategies to manage stress and challenges.
  1. Identify specific stress triggers during clinical placements.
  2. Engage in stress management techniques, such as mindfulness or relaxation exercises.
  3. Seek guidance from mentors on effective leadership in challenging situations.
  4. Set realistic goals for time management and prioritize tasks effectively.
  1. List of identified stress triggers within the first month.
  2. Incorporate stress management techniques into daily routine within the next three weeks.
  3. Discuss leadership challenges with mentors during monthly check-ins.
  4. Implement time management strategies within the first month.
3 Improve delegation skills to enhance teamwork and efficiency.
  1. Identify areas where delegation is needed during clinical activities.
  2. Attend workshops or training sessions on effective delegation in healthcare.
  3. Practice delegation skills under mentor supervision during clinical placements.
  4. Seek constructive feedback on delegation effectiveness.
  1. Identify delegation opportunities within the first two weeks of each clinical placement.
  2. Attend at least one delegation workshop within the next three months.
  3. Demonstrate improved delegation skills within the first month.
  4. Receive feedback on delegation effectiveness during monthly check-ins.
4 Develop proficient communication skills to independently undertake patient admissions and identify their needs with minimal support by the conclusion of my first placement.
  1. Engage in communication skills workshops and seminars to acquire theoretical knowledge.
  2. Read relevant articles and books on effective communication in healthcare, making comprehensive notes.
  3. Observe the communication styles of experienced practice supervisors and assessors during patient admissions.
  4. Identify effective techniques employed by supervisors that align with my communication goals.
  5. Recognize and note techniques that I find challenging, and consider their applicability.
  6. Initiate discussions with practice supervisors/assessors to gain insights into their successful communication strategies.
  1. Completion of workshops by the end of the theory block.
  2. Completion of extensive reading within the first month of the placement.
  3. Observation and analysis of communication styles by the end of the second week of the first placement.
  4. Identification of effective techniques within the second week of the first placement.
  5. Identification of challenging techniques within the second week of the first placement.
  6. Discussions with supervisors/assessors completed by the end of the second week of the first placement.
  7. Completion of a supervised admission by the end of the fourth week of the first placement.
  8. Debrief session conducted immediately after the supervised admission.


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