Nursing Leadership – that’s what I do. I need to tell anyone who’s interested in this career pathway that it’s not an easy path to take, and one which I sometimes feel very torn about.
I love clinical nursing practice and have been a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Consultant – yet someone has be a leader and when the opportunity came to manage a large team – I took it.
Unfortunately, Nurse Managers/Leaders aren’t always looked on very kindly by their nursing team and often for good reason. My experience has taught me that when a nurse moves into management, loyalties are challenged and all good intentions can be stomped over by the upper health echelons who expect nurses in management to see their nursing world differently and betray their colleagues. It’s almost as if nurse managers get sucked into the “Dark Side of the Force” and forget their nursing roots of caring and compassion because they have to meet budgets and maintain a precarious relationship with powerful health executives or face oblivion!
So how does a nurse remain true to Nursing Philosophies and core beliefs and not get sucked into the Dark Side of health management?
I like to look at working in health management as being torn between 2 sorts of forces. There’s Corporate Governance which I think is the “dark side” and the prevailing power in the health system; and then there’s Clinical Governance the emerging force that threatens the power of corporate governance and the force which enables nurses to remain true to their core nursing values. Working within a Clinical Governance framework and fostering particular leadership qualities is the how a nurse interested in pursuing a career in management can remain a caring nurse as well as being a good and useful Nurse Leader.
So here the types of qualities I believe make an effective Nurse Leader that nurses can admire and respect:
- Effective Nurse Leaders see their nursing team as their clients. These Nurse Leaders care about and advocate for their team just as the clinical nurses care and advocate for a patient. The Nurse Leader is the nursing team’s representative within the corporate health framework to ensure that nurses are listened to and well-resourced so they are able to perform their clinical duties to the best of their ability.
- Effective Nurse Leaders know that relationships are of primary importance to human beings and therefore must establish a respectful, trusting relationship with their nursing team.
- Effective Nurse Leaders work to empower their team, listen to their ideas and value these ideas.
- Effective Nurse Leaders fully empathise and accept all the members of the team for who they are and the abilities they each bring to the team
- Effective Nurse Leaders have general and self awareness that enables them to reflect on their practice as well as foster reflection in their team.
- Effective Nurse Leaders build on individual and team strengths and are deeply committed to the growth of every individual; individual differences are celebrated and learning is is encouraged and nurtured
- Effective Nurse Leaders understand that when mistakes are made it’s probably because a particular system has failed NOT a person and the system that has failed has to be examined and improved to ensure that similar mistakes aren’t made again.
- Effective Nurse Leaders must never forget their clinical roots and must be able to pitch in a help out their team at a moments notice and lead by example. They must be able to lead with expert clinical knowledge and keep up-to-date in that knowledge.
- Effective Nurse Leaders use persuasion NOT coersion and build consensus within the team to ensure that high quality work can be sustained
- Effective Nurse Leaders need foresight to anticipate and avoid difficulties that the team might experience.
Is all of this a big ask? Yes it is but it is very worthwhile to enabling clinical nurses to practice to the best of their ability. These leadership qualities are what ensures that nurses work within a Clinical Governance framework.
These leadership qualities ensure that all that Clinical Governance stuff (team work, evidence-based practice, continuous quality improvement, learning organisations, accountability, sustainability, care that is integrative, participatory, coordinated, safe, excellent, fair, responsive, inclusive blah, blah, blah!) that everyone harps on about can be a reality.
So there you have it – Fran’s Brief Guide to being a Nurse Leader; and a leader who doesn’t get lured into the dark side of the health management work-force.
Image courtesy of Patrick Purcell