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Ask the expert: Switching nurse specialties

Changing specialties has become an integral part of a nurse’s career growth. We spoke with Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, Associate Dean, Nursing Graduate Programs at American Sentinel University about this trend and what nurses should consider when making a change.

“Nurses have a powerful thirst for knowledge and a stron­g desire to learn and grow, and this often translates into motivation to make a career change. Many will reach a time when they would like to experience different professional opportunities,” says Foster. “In the nursing world, we need to actually help people plan out their career strategies, and it would help new nurses if they received more guidance; we don’t spend a lot of time painting the overall picture of healthcare.”

So where should a nurse considering a career change start? Foster advises that a nurse should start by researching their areas of interest and finding a specialty that fits them. “Read articles, talk to nurses in that field, assess the job market in your area, and learn everything you can about the specialty you are interested in.”

Another important factor to consider is education: does the specialty require more education or certification? Foster notes that in the past, it was more common for nurses to receive on-the-job training and end up in management positions without formal training, but in recent years, nurses require formal education and credentials to advance their careers.

After conducting your research, Foster suggests talking to people currently working in the field. Networking is crucial to making a career shift, and making a connection with an experienced nurse in your field provides plenty of benefits. Shadowing a nurse in your field gives you first-hand experience with the day-to-day demands of the position, and if you do end up pursuing the new specialty, your contact could provide job leads or even become a preceptor in the future.

Finally, before you make a career change, Foster advises that you reflect on the benefits and consider the costs. “Think about how this change will impact you in the future and what you might have to give up now to get that future five years down the road,” she says. “It took ten years to get my PhD; I had to give up a few things, but I’m grateful that I did.”

For more career-shift strategies, check out American Sentinel University’s guide.

Rock Your Health: My favorite wellness tips for the holidays

1. Determine the primary health goal that you want to keep alive and well during the holidays.

Write it in BIG LETTERS on BIG PAPER so that you can see it every day and so that it will keep you on track. Don’t give up on yourself and all the great work you’ve been doing to stay healthy by caving in to over-indulgence.

2. Stay nourished while you are on the go so you will avoid fast food temptations.

I love a smoothie to go that is packed with nutrition. Let me know if you need recipes.

3. Have a healthy snack before you go to a party to avoid overindulging. [more]

Rock Your Health: Respecting your inner voice

Your internal voice—the voice of your truth—may be giving you messages and needs to be heard. Access this important information by taking time to slow down, quiet your mind, get comfortable with stillness, and find a way to meditate that is right for you. Turn off the world’s input for a while and just “be”.

How can you practice quieting your mind? Consider methods such as meditation, prayer, gentle movement, or walking in solitude.

Become aware of what happens to you when you have quieted yourself. Do a quick body scan from head to toe. [more]

Rock Your Health: Tips for being a great manager

What kind of manager are you? What do others say about you? Here’s a list of qualities that I like in a manager.

M - Meets employees where they are and accepts them.

A - Assesses their attitude daily and keeps a positive attitude.

N - Notices greatness and share with others.

A - Ask questions rather than giving advice.

G - Greets everyone they see with a smile.

E - Engages employees in the decision making process.

R - Recognizes achievements and celebrates regularly.

Try This: Build nursing team self-esteem

Hierarchy of Voice

Excerpted from Ending Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility, Second Edition, by Kathleen Bartholomew

Try the following exercise that I often use to encourage nurses’ self-esteem. I call it a “hierarchy of voice” because each step results in greater empowerment. Addressing specific behaviors that are a challenge to a nurse stimulates meaningful conversations about that individual’s stumbling blocks to empowerment and self-esteem.

In performance evaluations, share the following list and ask team members to pick 10 meaningful actions that they would like to [more]

Join our nursing book review group

HCPro is seeking enthusiastic nurse managers, nurse leaders, and nurse educators to join an ad-hoc group interested in reading and reviewing prepublication drafts of books and training materials in your areas of interest and expertise.

Our editors will send you periodic emails listing upcoming projects available for outside review. If you’re interested, just let us know. We’ll send reviewing guidelines and give you an idea of our timeframe. If it works for you, we’ll send the draft chapters as they’re available, and a printed copy of the book when it’s complete. In addition, you will be recognized as a reviewer inside the printed book.

Please have a minimum of five years of nursing experience and be in an educational, supervisory, or leadership role within your organization.

For more information or to sign up as a reviewer, please send an email including your areas of interest and expertise to Rebecca Hendren at rhendren@hcpro.com.

The Image of Nursing: Speak Up!

In a comment on one of my posts last week, Stefani suggested (strongly) that to improve the image of nursing, we need to speak up. I’m reposting her comment below to draw your attention to it.

I’d like to hear your thoughts about why nurses might not speak up when, by staying silent (out of fear?), their personal self-esteem takes a hit and—more importantly—care standards aren’t maintained. Have you developed techniques that help you overcome fear of confrontation so that you can truly speak up?

Speak Up image

Here are a few resources related to speaking up:

  1.  A terrific article from Susan Gaddis, PhD: Positive, Assertive “Pushback” for Nurses
  2.  A table you will be able to download from our reading room in a few days: Say This, Not That: An Empowerment Glossary for Nurses. Look for it on or before 3/19/15.
  3.  Books written by Kathleen Bartholomew, RN, MN, including Speak Your Truth and Team-Building Handbook: Improving Nurse-Physician Communications.

Ben Franklin’s advice to nurse preceptors

Tell me and I forget.
Teach me and I remember.
Involve me and I learn.

How do you provide preceptees with constructive advice Ben Franklin2
or feedback? Do you tell them what they did wrong and spell out how to correct it? Or do you encourage them to use critical-thinking skills to truly ingrain a personal understanding of ways to improve their practice?

Look at these two approaches to feedback, and see which you think would be more effective. (More examples excerpted from The Preceptor Program Builder can be found in the Reading Room.)

The preceptor observes the preceptee greeting the manager correctly, giving her name, and stating that she is a preceptee. However, she was not wearing her name tag.

Evaluative feedback
Your name tag is missing, and the manager
won’t like it!

Descriptive feedback
You greeted the manager according to the facility protocol.
Can you think of anything that would help your manager remember you?

The descriptive feedback encourages the preceptee to use critical thinking, which illustrates Ben Franklin’s timeless recommendation to “involve me, and I learn.”

If you would like to share “aha” moments and techniques for constructive feedback, please feel free to comment below…

Do you have a compelling idea for a nursing book?

As a leading publisher of nursing and other healthcare products—including books, newsletters, webinars, and online training—HCPro is a great place to publish. If you have an idea for a book or other product that will benefit the profession of nursing, we would like to hear from you.

At HCPro, we value our expert authors as the foundation of our business and strive to build long-term relationships with them. We collaborate with our authors—a diverse and knowledgeable group of people focused on creating a personally satisfying and improved healthcare workplace for themselves and their colleagues. The nurses, nurse educators, and nurse managers who read our books appreciate our focus on quality, from project inception through collaborative development, publication, and distribution.

Whether you want to write a book, blog post, or article, or create a webinar, we’ll provide you with the feedback and tools you need to be successful. Contact us for more information.

Some topics we’re interested in: Managing intergenerational teams, delegation and supervision across the care continuum, charge nurse insights, creating a culture of safety, effective communications.

Making the leap from “one of us” to “one of them”

One day you’re part of the group. Helping each other out, complaining about never having the supplies you want when you need them, and chipping in for pot luck holiday meals. The next, you’re promoted to manager and suddenly you become “one of them.”

Becoming a nurse manager is a tough transition for anyone, but it’s even harder when you become manager of the same unit where you worked as a staff nurse. Suddenly, you’re the one with the power—you can finally make the decisions you’ve always wanted to—but you also have all the responsibility.

One of the hardest issues to navigate is reconfiguring the relationships between yourself and your former peers. It’s key to acknowledge that the relationship has changed and that your new role is quite different.

Shelley Cohen, RN, MS, CEN, president of Health Resources Unlimited, and staunch nurse manager advocate, has written that the first things to do is obtain a copy of your job description and share it with staff. That was, they understand what you’re accountable for and what your priorities will be. [more]