The present state of 21st century health care has begun to spur a greater need to reevaluate what should be expected of nurse leadership — especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many academic studies and articles, transformational leadership has been identified as the model framework for nurse leaders to learn and demonstrate. Although the components are foundational, there is always room for nurse leaders to grow their leadership skills.
In your experience as a nurse leader, you’ve probably participated in professional development workshops, conferences, or on-the-job training. Through these instances, you may have considered how they influenced your leadership behaviors. These moments show how certain leadership abilities and traits can surface through any experience. The following nurse leadership behaviors highlight elements current and emerging nurse leaders can consider.
1. Stay informed on innovation in healthcare technology
It’s hard to imagine providing quality care without the use of healthcare technology and information systems. Even though you may not have the responsibility of finding technological solutions for your organization’s challenges, it’s important to understand the products in use at your facility, as well as what’s on the horizon for healthcare technology. By keeping up to date on current tech tools, you can:
- Earn a seat at the decision table when technology products are being presented or purchased.
- Expand your thought process, knowledge, and innovation by using these products.
- Allow for proactive decision making in anticipation of product updates or changes.
For example, researching the company that developed your organization’s electronic health record (EHR) expands your skill set in several areas. You could explore current research and evidence-based practice studies by using data collected from the EHR, the history and background of the company’s leaders, current developments or enhancements, as well as the opinions of nurses and nurse leaders who currently use the product.
It’s difficult to overstate the role of data and technology in health care today, which is why capturing your own insights and perspective and having an educated voice on the topic can benefit you and your nurses.
2. Engage in mindfulness
The thought processes needed to develop high-level innovation can be intense. As a nurse leader, you spend countless hours researching, investigating, and developing practice changes, improving patient outcomes, and engaging emerging leaders. But how many of those hours are dedicated to your own holistic development? This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness can involve time spent without distractions to better:
- Develop innovation.
- Improve knowledge.
- Build self-awareness.
- Foster reflection.
- Promote personal and professional growth.
To nurse leaders, this concept may seem unobtainable and nearly impossible — to remove yourself from your day-to-day operations. However, making time for moments of mindfulness is time well spent.
A study on mindfulness in nurse managers found that those who participated in mindfulness weekly had an improved professional quality of life over time. By setting time aside for mindfulness during their work week, nurse managers decreased their risk of burnout and increased their job satisfaction. While nurse managers and leaders share different responsibilities, mindfulness can be a method that benefits both.
Like the nurses you lead, your role is multifaceted. You hold a key position within your organization, managing and collaborating with nursing staff, leading meeting discussions, overseeing patient advocacy, and more.
Engaging in mindfulness can create space for more meaningful professional development while fostering resilience.
Studies have shown that implementing mindfulness not only fosters resilience in the professional setting — it also promotes positivity, nurtures growth, builds stronger social connections, and encourages self-care.
In your off time, you may find yourself running through the challenges of your day — meeting discussions, difficult conversations with staff or patients, malfunctioning technology. During these moments, your brain may develop checklists, opportunities for improvements, revised workflows, and other innovative solutions. If these moments occur, a mindfulness practice can help you to funnel your thoughts in a more productive way.
An example of such a practice could be taking a couple of personal days every other month to focus on your professional mindfulness. This can present opportunities to create work that is meaningful to your professional development, as well as the nurses that rely on your leadership.
3. Prioritize mentoring opportunities
Mentorship can be an unwritten expectation within nurse leadership communities. To some, it may be a rite of passage to seek out an opportunity to mentor an emerging leader, and for others, it can be a learning experience to guide future leaders down the winding pathways of professionalism and leadership. As novice nurse leaders seek mentors, mentors must also research and investigate potential mentees.
Evaluating a mentoring opportunity should involve informal interview sessions with potential candidates. This will help you to decide not only whether your personalities and behaviors align, but also see the candidate’s priorities and passion firsthand. Making informed decisions about whom to mentor can help avoid negative personal feelings attached to work relationships.
Mentor/mentee relationships require numerous meetings, emails, and impromptu discussions, which is why it’s important to wisely give your time to individuals who seek the same level of communication, enlightenment, and engagement. Mentorship is a collaborative journey, involving personal time, energy, and commitment. So don’t hesitate to point out a mismatch and help a potential mentee find a better-suited mentor.
Climbing the ladder of nursing leadership can be strenuous, but this journey allows you to realize your goals and growth potential. By exploring and recognizing your thirst for knowledge and innovation and then applying what you learn, you can create new expectations and behaviors for modern nurse leaders.
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