ABSTRACT: Personal development is a life-long process that will enhance your confidence and sense of self-worth, allowing you to pass experience and knowledge on to others. Discovering your own motivations and creating a self-reliant, non- judgmental persona will enable you to encourage positive feelings and attitudes in others, including clients and students. As a clinical coach, your positive self-image will inspire and motivate student nurses and ensure you are in a position to offer genuine help and support.

There is no end to the self-development process. The objective is to build a framework for ongoing development that will enable you to review and update the information that you collect about yourself constantly, and to monitor your progression.

It is about identifying your own specific development needs – not only the courses you choose to attend, but also the experiences and activities you need to expand your skills and knowledge in order to meet your objectives.

Self-knowledge is the first step in personal development. It is crucial that you understand yourself; in order to be aware of your own capabilities and the inner resources that you have available to deal in a positive and confident way with a busy work environment, your colleagues and the clients. Uncovering hidden aspects of your character and highlighting your limitations may hold the key to better relationships and realisation of untapped potential.

The Johari window

Figure 1 shows the Johari window, named after its creators, Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham. This useful framework uses two dimensions, divided in two, to describe areas of your personality that are known and unknown to yourself and others.

Figure 1:The Johari window (based on Jo Luft and Harry Ingham [1955]

Known to all – this part is our open window, the part of us we display to clients and colleagues. First impressions are important as is developing self¬awareness. This area can be enlarged by self-disclosure.

The blind spot – this is the part of us that we cannot see, but which others can, such as our body language and aspects of our behaviour of which we are unaware. We should aim to reduce this window by gaining feedback from others.

Hidden – this window represents the hidden aspects of our nature, the ‘private self’. To some extent, we naturally wish to keep work and personal life separate. However, if we are too much of a ‘closed book’ we risk appearing unfriendly or disapproving. At the opposite end of the scale, too much inappropriate disclosure may unsettle working relationships. There is a need, not only for self-awareness in this area, but also to maintain a balance.

Unknown to all – this is our closed window, the part of which we – and others – are unaware. It can include our motivations, unconscious needs and undiscovered potential. The aim must be to reduce this area by gaining insight and increasing self-knowledge.

Personal development plan

Creating a personal development plan (PDP) can give you a better sense of who you are and what you want, allowing you more control over your future. (Please note that the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons uses the same acronym to describe its Professional Development Plan training, CPD and career monitoring scheme).

An ideal way to start is with an ‘achievement log’ that lists and evaluates achievements in your life thus far. Think about how each achievement is significant to your work/life in the present – for example, experience in a school debating society may have given you confidence when talking to clients.

There will be skills and competences attached to many tasks and activities you have undertaken and it may surprise you to see how many personal skills you have acquired already. Focusing on your achievements to date will also give you a clear picture of the starting point in your programme of self-development.

The next stage in the creation of your PDP is to use reflection. Think deeply about who you are and what you are striving to achieve. Reflection will allow you to become aware of your individual strengths, qualities and ambitions, and also your weaknesses and limitations.

Feedback from others

The ‘blind spot’ in your Johari window will show you that others may see you differently to how you view yourself. For example, what you consider as ‘speaking your mind’ may come across to others as aggressive or uncompromising.

Ask your colleagues – both allies and critics – for some thoughtful feedback and be prepared to receive some surprising observations – possibly even hurtful ones. Keep an open mind and reflect on the reasons for the comments. Ask for examples and use your own judgement as to the validity of the feedback you receive.

Setting your objectives

Setting personal objectives allows you to deal with various action plans in a clear and well-targeted way. Having drawn up your PDP, you have already charted the significance of your achievements so far and reflected on the route you now wish to follow. The next step is to draw up a plan of action which must be focused, so that you are aware of what you are trying to achieve and you can measure your progression against specific goals in order to move forward.

Keep the number of objectives small and concentrate on the main tasks or key result areas. You don’t need to translate everything you do into an objective. To begin, choose three challenging objectives and be realistic about the time they will take to complete.

When defining your objectives, make them SMART to ensure you have clearly identified the path to your goals. A SMART objective is:

Specific – it describes exactly what you want to do in detail

Measurable – you will know when you have reached the objective

Achievable – it is feasible and within your reach

Relevant – it has relevance within your long-term plans

Time-bound – it is time-limited and has a deadline

So, for example, one of your key objectives may be to collect feedback on your effectiveness from colleagues. Thus: ‘I will gather constructive feedback from the rest of the nursing team on my management of the laboratory since taking over in May. We can discuss this in the next nurses’ meeting’.

It will be necessary to track your performance on a continuous basis and make sure that you are achieving your objectives. If you find you are falling short of your goal, check that the objective is realistic and achievable and update it as required.

Personal responsibility

Taking charge of your own development means being responsible for your own training and forward planning. You will need to be proactive and ask for the resources and the support you require to develop your potential to the full.

te training may come from outside the practice – an evening course in computing, for example – or from within. Use your PDP to identify your own needs and set yourself attainable goals for the future.

Once you have created a realistic development plan for yourself, ask your head nurse or practice manager for a development planning session to work through your objectives (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Ask for a development planning session to work through your objectives

Above all, ask for the help and support you need, gather feedback and review your progress regularly. Once you ‘know yourself’ and are sure of your own motivations, you are ready to help others in a non-judgemental, caring and supportive way. 


Gill Gadd RVN VPAC

Gill is an experienced veterinary nurse who has a passion for client support and a special interest in the human-animal bond. She gained an OCN qualification in pet bereavement in 2006, having also trained and worked for Cruse Bereavement Care in the field of human bereavement counselling. She works full time as practice administrator for a small animal practice in Reading and has recently gained the ILM Diploma in Leadership and Management.

To cite this article use either

DOI: 10.1111/j.2045-0648.2012.00183.x or Veterinary Nursing Journal Vol 27 pp 235-236


• Vol 27 • June 2012 • Veterinary Nursing Journal