Tips on How to Properly Support Nurse Leaders

Some might say a job is an obligation, while a handful of select individuals will say that they have been fortunate enough to pursue a career they are passionate about. According to Gallup, “eighteen percent of employees are actively disengaged in their work and workplace, while 67% are “not engaged” at all. With such a high percentage, it’s not a mystery on why leadership, as well as mentorship, has become one of the main reasons why employees either jump ship or stay at a company. You might be thinking that it is different in every industry, and you’re probably right; however, multiple factors bleed into employee performance based on the mentorship and leadership they receive at their job. In the healthcare industry, there is much room for growth and opportunities to lead others. The terrible truth of the situation is that nursing workforce projections indicate that there is an estimated shortage of nurse managers up to 67,000 by 2020, which leads me to the following tips on how to properly mentor nurse leaders who are built into your succession plans. With those projections, it’s more critical than ever to understand how to properly train, coach, and support nurse managers and leaders as the ascend into their new roles.

“A good nurse leader is someone who can inspire others to work together in pursuit of a common goal, such as enhanced patient care.” It might seem like an anomaly when I say that teamwork and colleague support is common sense when you’re a nurse, but nursing comes with its challenges of burnout, challenging hours, physical and emotional strain, finding work-life balance, and having a huge capacity for empathy. Transitioning into becoming a nurse leader without proper support leads to many of the following factors listed above. A big issue that healthcare organizations are facing with nursing leadership is: “How are you training nurses across all aspects of future leadership roles—including clinical, non-clinical, and strategic organizational responsibilities?” This leads me back to the overarching theme or nursing leadership, support and mentorship from your manager or director that will ultimately make you feel more valued and appreciated in your role. If you are transitioning into a nursing leadership role, there are important values to consider, which can also be applied outside of the healthcare industry.

Be receptive to feedback. Constructive criticism can be hard to accept. No one likes to hear how he or she might be failing or having mistakes pointed out. However, instead of taking the feedback personally, see it as a work transition on how you can become a better and stronger leader. Most negative feedback is not directed at you, but a solution to a problem or situation. As a charge nurse, manager, or director you need to be open to a two-way conversation with your nurses. You might feel like you have the upper hand because you’re the “boss” in this situation, but a big component for properly supporting and coaching your nurse leaders is also to be open to feedback. On the flipside, as a nurse leader, receiving feedback is just as important. Remember not to “be discouraged by the feedback but take the criticism as an opportunity to improve and grow.” It might be easier said than done, primarily if you invest much time, energy, and care into your career, but remember that we all have room to grow.

Learning and training are continuous. It is critical to provide the nurse with proper leadership training, coaching, mentoring, and time allotment. Senior leadership must support the new nurse manager in making the transition. “Otherwise, you are setting your manager up for a rocky ride and some failure along the way.” If you don’t start with a solid, support foundation with the right training, you are setting them up to fail. A study by economists at the University of Warwick found that “happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved 10% less productive.” Providing your employees with the right tools to succeed will help benefit the team’s productivity, but also improve their engagement. Make sure that you check off all training courses that includes, but are not limited to, operations, finance, human resources, corporate communications, quality, and strategy. Learning “on the job – clinical” responsibilities is not the only skill set required to becoming a strong nurse leader. You have to grow horizontally before you can grow vertically.

Find a coach and mentor. We all have someone we look up to and aspire to be. This is specifically for nurse leaders. Whether you are currently in a leadership role or hoping to become one, remember to pay it forward to your peers. Teach and coach others; therefore, they feel inspired to lead the next batch of aspiring nurse managers and leaders. Maybe you didn’t have the best manager, but this is your opportunity to break the cycle. When your team is happy, there is less turnover, higher productivity, and increased engagement. For managers or directors who are mentoring new nurse leaders, your decisions and actions affect your organization and trickle down for years to come. Remember, great leadership is about vision, not supervision. If you set clear goals and communicate frequently, your nurse leaders will respect you and look up to you as a mentor. In turn, they will utilize the same coaching techniques with their peers.

“The greatest among you will be your servant”– Matthew 23:11. The following quote is one of my favorite leadership quotes, and I integrate it into all aspects of my career. For nurses, pursuing a career in nursing is not seen as an obligation but a passion and desire to help others selflessly. Through the proper mentorship, coaching, and training, as a manager or director, you are developing an environment that allows nurse leaders to prosper. Always remember to provide ongoing feedback, encourage two-way communication, and collaboration between your nurse leaders outside of formal meetings. Your team is as strong as you make it be. Being a strong leader is no easy feat. It takes lots of practice, trial, and error, but in the long run, if you’re willing to work at it and put your team first, it will be reflected in the productivity and happiness of your nurse leaders.

About Hoag

Hoag Hospital is the highest-ranked hospital in Orange County in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020-2021 best hospital rankings. Since 1952, Hoag has served the local communities and continues its mission to provide the highest quality health care services through the core strategies of quality and service, people, physician partnerships, strategic growth, financial stewardship, community benefit and philanthropy.

Hoag is a nonprofit regional health care delivery network in Orange County, California, consisting of two acute-care hospitals, 13 urgent care centers, nine health centers and a network of more than 1,700 physicians, 100 allied health members, 6,500 employees and 2,000 volunteers. More than 30,000 inpatients and 450,000 outpatients choose Hoag each year.