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Rev up your resume

by Phyllis Quinlan, RNC, MS, CLNC, CEN, CCRN

I am frequently asked about the best way to revise a resume. Many nurses find it challenging to identify and present their accomplishments. Here are some suggestions for getting started:

  • Begin to revise your resume today even if you are not planning a career move. This will allow you time to truly consider your strengths and accomplishments without the pressure of submitting something by a specific date.
  • If you have practiced in a clinical setting for many years, outline your abilities in a manner that shows some range. For example, instead of documenting 10 years of experience in pediatrics, consider stating your experience in terms of “neonate to seventeen.” This offers the reader more information about where you may fit into a potential position and is especially helpful when you are applying for a position outside of the traditional settings.
  • Develop the strongest generic resume you can and use a cover letter to outline your qualifications for a specific position.
  • Your cover letter can also help to clarify your experience. Recruiters in acute care may not fully realize that your long-term care (LTC) experience is relevant to what they are presently seeking. A few sentences discussing the co-morbidity and clinical complexity of your LTC residents drives home the point that your skill set is more evenly matched with acute care then they may have realized.
  • Be sure to present your experience in precepting new staff members, participating on committees, and unit-based special projects in the best light. If you have not been involved in these areas to date, get involved.
  • If you were is a position that was not a good fit for six months or less, there is no rule that states you must note it on your resume.

Revising your resume today also gives you the opportunity to identify any skills that you should develop in the future. Is it time to attend some computer classes and work on those PowerPoint and Excel skills? Has it been awhile since you attended any continuing education? Are you prepared to claim 10 years of experience in a specialty and answer questions about why you are not certified in that specialty? Act now. Be proactive. You will be amazed at how empowered you can feel.

What’s the first step you take when updating your resume?

For more information about professional life coaching email Phyllis Quinlan at mfwconsultants@mindspring.com.

The power of improvisation

One thing you can say about most nurse managers is that they are incredible at improvising, both at work and in their personal lives. Nurse managers also know that typically-although not always-if things seem to be going smoothly, one of two situations is pending:

  • Something bad is happening behind the scenes and the scoop just has not gotten to you
  • Strap in because something is around the corner just waiting to tip your boat

I thought I had this whole back to school thing figured out. I was keeping up with assignments and my workload, even planned a trip home for mom’s birthday. And then, “it” happened. I fractured the head of my distal radius (Of course it had to be my dominant hand.) I wish I had some fancy, courageous story about how it happened while working in the ED or falling off my horse. Basically, it was a scenario where I tripped and I fell. Support is all around me, everyone is sharing their version of recovery nightmares with elbow fractures, and it’s not pretty. Did I mention this happened the week my 21-page final for one of my courses was due?

I have learned that graduate school professors can be very understanding, and by the way I got an “A” on that paper. Typing with one hand takes more time, medication, and patience. Keeping up with school reading takes longer now as the books are much too heavy (I am up to lifting one pound at this point.) As time moves along and I am starting week three after the fracture, the physical therapy journey begins. This is where you appreciate the relevance of the 1-10 pain scale. I will never roll my eyes again at a patient who responds to the pain scale with the number 100. Did I mention the thank-you note I am considering sending to the makers of pain medication?

Oh, and did you know that if you hold a jar of peanut butter between your legs and use your non-dominant hand, you can still make a pretty good sandwich for kids? And did you know that even if you cannot sign your name to your credit card purchase, the store thinks nothing of you just scribbling anything on the receipt?

Anyway, with two courses down and a third halfway completed, I begin health care delivery systems next week as my 4th class. To stay motivated through this process, one has to keep the end in sight and I have done this with a wall chart that I peek at. At a glance, I can see the courses done (or at least 50% completed) along with my target date for completion.

If I can keep my clumsy self intact through the remainder of school, I just might make that target.

What about you? Do you have a story of improvisation when you made the best of a tough situation?

Professional life coaching: Put your own oxygen on first

by Phyllis Quinlan, RNC, MS, CLNC, CEN, CCRN

So you still love nursing, but the stress, frustration, and sometimes confusion can be a real barrier to personal and professional satisfaction. You sense you want something more, although you can’t quite identify what that might be or how to achieve it. A professional life coach may be just the solution to figuring out exactly what the next step is. Nurses have a longstanding reputation for eating their young. Wouldn’t be great if there was a way to change that perception?

Professional life coaching for nurses can be one approach to doing just that. Coaching is not a clinical or therapeutic process. Coaching has its roots in wellness. The starting point for a professional life coach is that the person seeking the coaching is a healthy individual who is already competent and capable. He or she is in need of a safe sounding board, encouragement, and empowerment. The coaching relationship is based on mutual respect, trust, and honest communication.

Coaching is distinctly unique from and not to be confused with mentoring. Mentoring usually prepares you for a particular professional role while coaching is focused on a self-development process. Coaching sessions are private, conducted one-on-one, either in person or by phone. Nurses can be comfortable sharing their strengths, shortcomings, and concerns–knowing that what they share will be used to their benefit and doesn’t threaten the security of their job.

The literature demonstrates that the cost of recruiting and training a new employee to fill a vacated position can be equal to a nurse’s annual salary. Perhaps nursing leaders should consider collaborating with their human resource departments to embrace the use of coaches to retain nurses.

Nurses actually get a kick from helping other human beings when they are most in need. This is an amazing characteristic that usually does not end when the shift is over. We’ve chosen giving and nurturing as a way of life. Self care is not something we place high our lists. However, we could take a huge lesson from the airline stewards. Put your oxygen on first so that you are safe and therefore capable of helping others.

For more information about professional life coaching email Phyllis Quinlan at mfwconsultants@mindspring.com.

Does professional life coaching interest you?

Learning a new definition of health

Starting next week, I will be carrying two courses at a time, and I am told it can be done. I have spoken to several other classmates who have management jobs, families, etc., and some of them are actually taking a bigger course load. I don’t think I will ever go there. Just the thought makes my critical thinking skills kick in and ask, “Are you nuts?!”

The three credit course I am in the midst of is related to public health nursing, and I know what you are thinking-the same thoughts I had as I poured over the course objectives. With a bottle of Phenergan at my side, I was ready for boredom and nausea. What I found was an inspiring faculty member whose pointed questions got me thinking about healthcare and how it is delivered to the patient, the family, and the community. The course puts an emphasis on the effects of prevention on public health and assessing the health care needs of communities. Think of all the times staff approach you whining on and on about non-compliant patients. The course delves into the compliance obstacles for some of our population, such as making bad choices in their lives.

The most important questions we had to ask ourselves is to define the word health: What does it mean to each of us? Now I am asking you for your definition of health, and also your staff’s definition. Mine is printed below:

Health: A state of wellness for that individual

I anxiously await my grade for my mid-term paper, which brought back memories of why I do not work the night shift anymore. My final paper is due mid-June and no, I have not started it yet. For my final exam, I have to find a grant available for a vulnerable population we identify in our mid-term paper. Can someone please help me? I feel ischemia creeping into my brain. What was it I identified? Can Phenergan ever be used to help brain perfusion? Hmmm…..

Lessons learned from my first class

When the Leader’s Lounge was born, I started the blog with my decision to return to school in my mid-50s. What was I thinking? It is hard to believe that my first course has already ended, and that I am preparing for the next one. Wondering how it went?

Better than I expected.

I took the one course that was only for two credits, as I knew the load would be less and I could plan from that for the other three- and four-credit course loads. I found out today I received an “A” (I never read so much in such a short time period; eat lots of carrots!) and found the overall experience was good. Getting a good grade certainly helped with that perception. I would prefer to be in a live classroom as I thrive on that interaction, but “life” gets in the way of that. Online courses can be interactive in their own way, but I miss the voices, tones, and facial expressions. Call me a product of my generation compared to the younger ones who don’t use the phone much (they text message).

I learned a great deal from my first course on Issues in Health Care Informatics. Along with the acquired knowledge of real substantial material that I can use, I learned how to study at an airport with people around you talking (shouting) into their blackberry’s, I learned how to scan articles for what I have to read, and mostly, I learned that my nursing experience, every bit of it, is relevant.

Additionally, because this was a two-credit course, it did not take nearly the time away from my home life as I thought it would. Being able to do a great deal of the work while on the road, left little time taken away once I was home.

Are you still on the edge about going back to school? What’s holding you back?

Going back to school

p>by Shelley Cohen, RN, BS, CEN

Welcome to the Nurse Manager blog, “The Leaders’ Lounge!” I am thrilled you made time to log in and stop by to see what everyone is chatting about. I have yet to meet a nurse manager that didn’t have anything to say! But this is more than a blog; it is an opportunity to do exactly what this Web site focuses on. It’s a chance to strategize, plan, and develop an approach for your success in a nurse leadership role.

The ground rules for our blog are no different than any you would set for staff: no blaming others not here to represent themselves, take accountability for what you own, and agree it is okay to disagree. Some of the topics we’ll see will make us want to cry, and others will elevate our blood pressure to places we never thought it could go.

This blog is a sharing of all our journeys and I am here to get the proverbial ball rolling. Along the way, I’ll also be the person to laugh with, and the person to provide the rubber pad when you feel like you need to bang your head against the wall.

With all that said, let’s get started:

As I continue to work with nurse managers, charge nurses, and other healthcare leaders, I reflect on my days as a manager and realize all I continue to learn. Like many of you, I am heading back to school to obtain a degree in nursing with constant affirmation that learning is a lifelong process.

Why now, at the age of 53, am I deciding to go back to school? Two important reasons:

  • the shortage of nursing faculty to continue
  • validating my qualifications to perform in my role as a consultant

Although you may have heard me speak nationally or may be familiar with one of the several books and articles I have authored, I need a master’s level nursing degree to teach as faculty for a school of nursing. The shortage of faculty is directly impacting how many students are accepted into nursing programs.

Have you thought about going back to school? Why or why not? What factors are impacting the type of degree you select? What are you having to change and balance in your life so you can accomplish this?</p