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You Have Just Become a Nurse Leader. Now What?


Imagine you have just been promoted to your first nurse leader role. You completed orientation and you are finishing up a good mentorship program.

Your first day in the new role is approaching rapidly. The training wheels soon will be off and you'll be on your own. The feelings of excitement and anticipation you had when you were appointed are being replaced by apprehension and anxiety. You are beginning to wonder why you ever thought going into management was a good idea. Here are some tips to help you prepare for this important role and get started on the right foot with your team.

How to start off on the right foot

1. One of the most important things to do right at the start is meet with your new staff. Set it up as soon as possible to send a clear message they are a priority. The old saying, "First impressions are lasting," comes to mind. You know you need to be at your best right away and that starts with a professional demeanor. 2. Be positive and welcoming, and remind yourself you are now the leader they have been waiting for, and they are glad you are coming on board. They will be looking to you for direction and information as well as your thoughts, plans and ideas about them as staff, patient care, management of the unit and more. Include as many of these things as you can on your initial meeting agenda. 3. Let them know as their leader you not only will lead and manage them and their patient care, but you also will be there to help them in every way by representing them, speaking on their behalf and sharing unit goals and objectives, budget plans and hospital news with them. Tell them you consider it a privilege to be their spokesperson, defender, champion, adviser, advocate and confidante. Assure them you will work to be someone they can look up to and be proud to have as a boss. 4. Spend time speaking on the characteristics you believe a leader should have and characteristics you admired or appreciated in your bosses. Talk about traits you see as positives or negatives. Drawing on your past experiences with managers, share with them styles and traits you liked or admired. The goal is to let them know what to expect. 5. Define what you see as important when it comes to patient care, quality and safety. Make it clear you are ready to meet the challenges of your new role. Tell them a little about your past and why you have taken this management role on at this point in your career. Show your confidence and your strong commitment to being accountable and responsible for the unit and for them. 6. Talk about your work ethic and your expectations for yourself and the staff. Let them know you will communicate with them as often and as clearly as possible. Tell them you want to hear from them and that you will always place value on their input, and promise you will listen to them.

Speak to staff individually

After this staff meeting, try to set up appointments to meet individually with each staff member to talk privately about questions or concerns he or she may have.

Use those one-on-one meetings to discuss their experiences and histories with previous managers and what they want from you. Encourage them to be open and honest, and ensure them of your confidentiality -- a trait they will value and admire and count on always.

Tell them to feel comfortable to come to you, that your door is open, and that you will listen to them and always make them feel valued and included. There's no question that getting staff to work with you and one another as a successful, cohesive group isn't easy. You want everyone to function well and be happy and successful. The unit is yours, and an environment where staff feels good about coming to work, growing and seeing individual and group goals met is yours to create. Accomplishing these things will take a lot of commitment, hard work and enthusiasm on your part. Start by being ready on day No. 1 to let your staff know you are going to put your all into your new role. Will you be perfect? Probably not. But be sure they know you will try your best.  

Courses related to 'leadership':

Developing Your Leadership Potential (1.25 contact hrs) As the largest healthcare profession in the U.S. and the profession positioned on the front line of patient care, nurses are crucial for leading change and advancing health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine made recommendations to transform the nursing profession in their report, "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health." A key message from the report is the recommendation that nurses be full partners together with physicians and other healthcare professionals in redesigning the country's healthcare system. This activity will provide practical strategies to help you develop your personal plan for developing your leadership potential regardless of your chosen career path. 

Learning to Lead (1.0 contact hrs) All nurses are leaders. They not only support patients in doing what they are unable to do for themselves, but they also manage their care and lead them toward a vision and personal goal of better health. Most nurses find themselves in a position to lead a group of colleagues in a team or on a patient care unit. The concepts in this course focus on the skills to manage the patient, as well as a staff caring for an entire group of patients. Implementing leadership and management strategies -- such as conflict resolution, interprofessional communication, coaching, delegation and assessment -- is outlined and demonstrated in case examples.