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Help! It’s my first month on the job!

A nurse manager’s first month on the job is often a hectic time. Adjusting to a new set of responsibilities, new issues that demand your attention, and new coworkers make it hard to stay focused and productive. Still, you need to.

Make the theme of your first month “meet and listen.” Each week, take time to plan a schedule of meetings to acquaint yourself with those who are in key positions supporting you and your unit. This can include:

  • Members of the unit-level management team (including the interim manager, charge nurses, educators, house-wide supervisors, staffing office clerks, etc.) in group meetings or one-on-one
  • Key department directors, such as pharmacy, materials management, admitting, etc.
  • Nurse managers responsible for units that work collaboratively with yours
  • Medical director of the unit or a physician who frequents the unit
  • Employee relations manager in human resources or the nurse recruiter

Keep these meetings to 30-45 minutes each, and use lunch or breakfast meetings as needed to expedite the scheduling process. Attending the shifts and making rounds two to three times a week to visit with patients is another way to get to know staff and begin your assessment of practice issues or system problems.

You also might want to take notes at these meetings and use a consistent format for them. This format could be initiated with questions, such as, “What’s working or not working, and what do we need to do differently?” or an open-ended question like, “What do you see as priorities for me relative to the needs of patients or staff working with me?”

How do you get acclimated to a new position?

Study finds medical blogs risk patient privacy

Blogs have emerged as great tools for nurses and physicians wanting to spread healthcare information. For some, they serve as emotional outlets to share experiences with others in the field. But could they be relaying too much to the public?

A study recently published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine examined 271 medical blogs to determine how often nurses and physicians wrote about patients, violated patient privacy, or displayed a lack of professionalism. Of the findings, 42% of blogs had content describing private interactions with patients. Seventeen percent of blogs disclosed information sufficient for patients to recognize themselves or their doctors and about 18% portrayed patients “negatively.” A few displayed pictures of patients in which they could easily be identified.

Tara Lagu, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar and an internal medicine specialist held the study, who also found 65% of the blogs were written anonymously, with the remaining blogs identifying the names of the authors. View an abstract of the study.

What are your thoughts after seeing these results?

No crisis zone!

Do you have a small space from which you can create a relaxing nook for your staff? It may be just a corner of your break room or one end of your locker room. Designate that space as your unit’s relaxing nook.You could even make up a catchy name for it:

No Crisis Zone! Radiology Rejuvination Area! My Space!

Don’t allow phone calls in the space. Ask staff if anyone has an old lazy-boy recliner they’d donate. Also, see if anyone has a magazine rack they’d like to donate. Have staff bring in magazines after they’ve read them. Or inspiring, pick-me-up books that can be read quickly, like the Chicken Soup series.

How about a poster or two for the space? A lamp? A couple of throw pillows? A CD player with earphones? A tabletop battery operated rippling water fountain? A kitchen timer so no one accidently goes over their allotted break time?

We all know we’re more productive when we take a few moments to re-group, yet so often we run from crisis to crisis and never take that opportunity. Think of our staffs, and the number of crises they manage daily. Would they benefit from a small nook designated entirely to replenishing their soul for a few moments? Would our patients benefit?

“It appears that the techniques which have the greatest motivational impact are practiced the least, even though they are easier and less expensive to use.”
– Dr. Gerald Graham, distinguished Professor of Management; Wichita State University

Grasp your new grad nurses

Transitioning from nursing school to the bedside can be difficult for new nurses. And literature reveals a hefty amount of new nurse graduates depart from their first position within two years of hire. So, why are they leaving? Like many of us, new nurses want to feel valued, be rewarded, have strong relationships with their managers, and enjoy a work-life balance.

Managers work so hard to get nurses in the door that it makes sense to work hard to retain them. It’s important to let new nurse graduates know they are welcome on the unit and will be a valued part of the team. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Create welcome flyers. Make welcome flyers and post them around your facility-not only in nursing areas, but also in places physicians will see them.
  • Get to know them. It can useful to get to know new graduates before assigning them a preceptor or a mentor, because that way you have a better idea of their personality and can make a suitable placement. To accomplish this, consider spending the first two weeks of new nurses’ orientation with them as much as possible.
  • Check in weekly. Most new nurse graduates are beginning their first-ever full-time job. The reality of this can be overwhelming, so check in weekly to make sure they are not overwhelmed.
  • Recognize the new nurse at staff meetings. Before you begin the weekly staff meeting, take the time to introduce everyone to the new nurse. This is a great way for the new nurse to remember faces and feel a part of the team.

How do you make your new grad nurses feel appreciated?

Editor’s note: This excerpt was taken from the book, Nurse Retention Toolkit: Everyday Ways to Recognize and Reward Nurses. For more retention tips, look out for its release in early September.

Benchmarking report explores state of nurse-physician collaboration

The nurse-physician dynamic has been found to shape various aspects of the healthcare environment. Research has uncovered that nurse-physician collaboration can affect patient care, patient satisfaction, hospital costs, and turnover. But as a nurse, how do you see it affecting your facility?

HCPro, Inc., recently surveyed 67 nursing professionals in the healthcare industry about the issue of nurse-physician collaboration within facilities of various sizes and settings nationwide. Participants responded to questions about nurse-physician collaboration barriers, strategies facilities are using to improve nurse-physician collaboration, and the influence poor nurse-physician collaboration has on stress. Take a look at some of the results:

  • 91% of nurses that rated their facility as having “excellent” nurse-physician communication came from organizations that employed fewer than 100 nurses
  • 82% of nurses surveyed said positive steps have been taken at their facilities to create work environments with better nurse-physician collaboration
  • 80% of nurses said poor nurse-physician collaboration brought stress to the workplace
  • 75% of nurses admitted to knowing other nurses who have vacated positions due to poor nurse-physician collaboration

What are your first impressions of these results?

View the rest of the results from this benchmarking report

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

Informal reward ideas!

giraffe_iiEstablish an informal reward that can be passed along. For example, in my department we have a STICKING YOUR NECK OUT AWARD. Every other month or so, someone is given a toy giraffe for going beyond their usual job duties. You can implement this and give a new giraffe each time, or have the recipient choose their successor and pass it along.

To avoid becoming a popularity contest, set some ground rules. For example, no one can win more than twice/year.

Be creative with this ~ A model brain could represent a QUICK THINKING AWARD; a pouch of toy gold coins can indicate YOU’RE SUCH A TREASURE; play money could represent YOUR ACTIONS ARE WORTH A MILLION or even be used to symbolize meeting departmental budget goals.

Please feel free to share some of your own ideas!

“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought to be distilled into actions, which bring results.”
Florence Nightingale

“Never settle for average; its as close to the bottom as it is to the top.”

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?

Energize and motivate staff to conduct research

A motivated nursing staff is key to achieving outcomes of excellence. All facilities require motivation from nurses to increase productivity and service in a creative, efficient manner. However, this isn’t always an easy task, especially when you are trying to motivate your nurses to get involved in research.

Some organizations may tie research into professional development expectations, such as in a clinical ladder or other career advancement program. Others may reward and celebrate nurses who engage in research, such as recognizing them as “change champions” and allowing them time off from the unit to participate in committees or team-building projects. Consider doing the following to get your staff excited about conducting research:

  • Send thank-you cards and e-mails
  • Present employees with certificates to hang on the wall (you can make professional-looking certificates with any desktop word processing software)
  • Provide team/ peer recognition (e.g., in a hospital newsletter)
  • Encourage team members to aim for advancement
  • Provide designated parking spots for employees who have excelled
  • Present new challenges to team members (do not let them “coast” once a project has been completed)

How do you boost staff motivation at your facility?

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

Does professional life coaching interest you?