Nurses at every level of leadership — from unit charge nurses to systemwide chief nursing officers — substantially impact not only patient outcomes and satisfaction scores, but also the attitudes and diligence exhibited by the staff they lead.
Here, three nurse leaders discuss a top principle they use in their leadership role.
In her new position as ED nursing director at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, Sharon Sandt, BSN, RN, considers clear communication a key component of leadership. Upon starting this role, she instituted a daily huddle as a foundation of communication among all ED staff.
Sandt said meeting consistently with nurses going off shift and those coming on keeps her in close touch with clinical events and patients, enabling discussion about barriers to optimal care and troubleshooting incidents that are impacting the unit. She folds into this 15- to 20-minute interprofessional meetings about security, education and new directives, such as a recent sepsis worksheet. She aims to keep the sessions informative and interactive.
“Nurses realize, by my consistency, that I’m committed to being here with them, face to face,” she said. “It’s a time for staff to ask questions or make a personal appointment with me.” She believes establishing clear communication through the daily huddle has built trust between her and her staff, enabling nurses to understand her expectations from the start and realize she is serious about effective, ongoing communication between all parties.
Mentoring & role modeling
Lisa DeLong, BSN, RNC, advanced clinician at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, Calif., invests in mentoring and role modeling, which counteracts the common misconception, she said that “nurses tend to eat their young.”
When working in a leadership role on the labor and delivery unit, she invests fully in the systemwide mentoring program with new nurses, making sure they have the resources and support during their first year or two in the
profession. “It’s about really nurturing them in this critical time,” she said. “And this is absolutely critical for recruitment and retention.”
Her efforts continue to strengthen the preceptor program where, after completing orientation, a buddy system provides ongoing support for new staff. Preceptors also are being trained so each teaches the same skills and content, making it easier for preceptees to move between preceptors seamlessly.
DeLong exemplifies her belief in mentoring and leading by example, whether or not she has an orientee at her side. “I also encourage new nurses to get involved in project improvement, letting them know it’s nice to have their fresh perspective,” DeLong said. “When they have a personal stake in a project, it increases their job satisfaction for sure.”
“My top priority is transformational leadership,” said Paige Burtson, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, nursing director for inpatient oncology services at UC San Diego Medical Center in California.
She believes this leadership quality works because it involves much shared decision-making. Her role necessitates frequent meetings with her managers, working with them to resolve issues at their levels of management. At the staff nurse level, she promotes and develops the unit-based councils that work to problem solve unit issues.
In supporting her own managers, Burtson engages with them to review unit outcomes and effective strategies and share ideas. Much of her role as a transformational leader requires listening to staff and managers. She learns how their work is going, where the stresses are, and then shares what’s happening at the organizational level to keep them informed.