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Find your power by doing what empowered nurses do

Winding down another speech, I was certain I had laid out the most comprehensive, easy-to-follow primer for attaining the most sought-after nursing quality in 2018 — personally and professionally rejuvenated, wake-up-tomorrow-totally-different, “I am nurse” nurse empowerment.

That is, until Elizabeth, red-faced and yelling, stood up in the audience and nailed me. “You’ve been talking all evening, and you didn’t tell me how to be an empowered nurse,” she said.

She just didn’t get it, I thought. But maybe I didn’t either, because this confrontation was different than past seminar disruptions. Elizabeth yelled at me, as if I was letting her down.

She unsettled me because I was so used to preaching to the saved, speaking before the assenting, nodding heads of colleagues who attend these lectures to validate already empowered behaviors. This time, I got Elizabeth of the lateral, side-to-side head rotation movement, demanding the formula.

“I want to be empowered! Tell me, what’s the procedure?” she asked.

I couldn’t advise a simple approach, like in a hospital policy and procedure manual with a straightforward purpose, objective and list of equipment. No such procedure exists in my repertoire.

So I shut up and listened.

Elizabeth speaks her piece about being empowered

Elizabeth had been a nurse for quite a while, working the same job on the weekend shift since she graduated from nursing school. She didn’t belong to any professional organizations, didn’t read any nursing journals and knew very few nurses beyond the weekend staff on her unit.

She left her professional identity at her workplace when she went home and left national concerns to other nurses. She didn’t have a clue about what was going on in her hospital, let alone national healthcare issues.

Recently, her workplace had warped into an alien landscape: jobs shifted, units combined and closed, managers had equal footing with staff through shared governance and some staff seemed to report to no one.

She knew her hospital was changing and the change might eliminate her job. Her safe, familiar work world was out of her control. Although she had never been to a conference, Elizabeth had come to this one alone, determined to become empowered.

All nurses, not just Elizabeth, rightfully feel a need for control, influence, power or authority — empowerment by any euphemism — to obtain the resources necessary to accomplish the professional obligations with which society has charged them. And nurse empowerment comes by way of information: the ability to discern the important from the trivial.

Empowerment is as important as love and joy

Empowered nurses are assertive in human interactions but aggressive about knowledge. They entrepreneurially scan the environment for new opportunities, and they intrapreneurially monitor their organizations for ways to make a difference. They look for new solutions to old problems. They are in control.

On one level, this is a group activity. These nurses spend their time with similarly charged nurses, pooling resources and energizing each other. The uncertainties of healthcare reform had pushed Elizabeth toward the circle and into a search for an elusive quality. She sensed its importance and wanted it.

Empowerment can hardly be overemphasized. It falls into the same category as love, joy, commitment and other tools of life, and it translates into better patient care.

Nurse empowerment helps a nurse do his or her job and is necessary for anyone in Elizabeth’s situation.

I remembered a story I heard from my minister when I was a boy. He had grappled with the difficulty of a parishioner who approached him and pleaded, “I feel so alone in turbulent times. How do I get the faith to go on?” The preacher replied, “Abide with believers. Do what they do and act as they do.”

Walk it, talk it, be it — do what empowered nurses do.

Later, after a strategic retreat, I watched Elizabeth searching for clues while trading opinions with local leaders. She had agreed to accompany another nurse to visit a congressman who lived in her neighborhood. They were going to talk about healthcare reform.

I couldn’t help thinking, “Elizabeth, you’re becoming empowered!” Because there she was, hanging out with the saved.


Courses related to ‘nurse empowerment’

WEB329: Empowering Your Nursing Career
(1 contact hr)

Do you feel empowered to navigate your career? Are you trying to decide which specialty to pursue, how to begin your professional nursing career, or how to make a change to an existing career? Learn about how you can make your personality characteristics work for you by considering correlated nursing specialties and environments you might enjoy more than others. Learn about leadership and lifestyle choices to create balance and motivation for your nursing calling!

CE639: Structural Empowerment
(1 contact hr)

Structural empowerment includes staff involvement in structures of an organization that result in an empowered nursing professional practice. Empowerment refers to the ability to fully practice as a professional nurse. Structural empowerment also increases nursing autonomy, promoting the highest levels of clinical excellence and professional practice. The empowerment structures of an organization include its policies, councils and processes. More specifically, the following are included: policies and procedures development, effective staffing models, staff membership in leadership and administrative councils, professional development and shared governance councils. Workplaces that are empowered are linked to positive organizational environments, behaviors and attitudes, and these characteristics are linked to increased retention of nurses. Nurses in these environments enjoy job satisfaction, autonomy and dedication to their organizations.

CE635: Shared Governance
(1 contact hr)

Shared governance is an organizational model that provides a structure for shared decision making among professionals about practice and clinical outcomes. Shared governance legitimizes nurses’ decision-making control over their practice while extending their influence to some administrative areas previously controlled by managers. The popularity of shared governance is largely due to the rise of the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program’s acknowledgement that professionals need a professional structure to sustain professional behaviors and excellence in clinical outcomes. Magnet applicant hospitals must meet the criteria for the structural empowerment of nurses — that is, demonstrate structures and processes that enable nurses from all settings and roles to participate in organizational decision-making groups that affect nursing practice. A successful shared governance program satisfies this requirement.

By | 2018-06-25T20:39:46+00:00 June 25th, 2018|Categories: Nursing careers and jobs|0 Comments
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is OnCourse Learning's executive vice president and chief clinical executive. He also is founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance (www.SharedGovernance.org). As an editor for Nurse.com, Hess penned editorials on career topics. As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career.

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