1) Improve your coaching mindset – Retaining nurses will require adjusting styles to adapt to a new generation of nurses What nurses expect from their leaders is changing. Gone are the days of command control leadership when staff were expected to be grateful because they had a job. Today’s nurses, especially the Millennial workforce, want their leaders to be coaches who help them to learn and grow as professionals. Retaining nurses requires adjusting styles to adapt to this new generation. When nurses don’t receive the coaching and feedback they desire, they may be more likely to leave, as evidenced by high nursing turnover in many healthcare organizations. In 2019, think about how to create a competitive edge by adjusting your leadership style.
2) Be a continuous learner, and encourage your staff to do the same Lifelong learning offers individuals the opportunity to keep current skills up to date, and to pursue a wide variety of interests. Healthcare is a constantly changing field with advances in medicine, expansion of evidence sources, new treatments and care model/regulation updates. For CNOs, new challenges affecting the clinical workforce require leaders to take management courses, obtain certifications, attend conferences, and stay current on updated regulations and care model delivery to be effective.
Advocate for your staff to be continuous learners as well! A nurse may want to consider learning another clinical area and/or obtain a specialty certification to augment current knowledge; encourage staff to stay informed and share their learnings with the unit.
3) Prepare nurse staff to lead In 2019, there is excitement and intention around preparing less experienced nurses for future leadership roles. While looming Baby Boom nurse retirements are on hospital leadership radar, C-Suite Nursing leaders are acknowledging the valuable role that first-level supervisory nurses play. Preparing inexperienced nurses to lead will help them have more informed conversations with Nurse Managers, will aid in nurse retention, job morale, and will set the stage for nurses to have a positive first experience as a leader. Nurses who have a bad first leadership experience (usually in the Charge RN role) often do not pursue future leadership roles.
4) Practice self-care, and realize you cannot do everything This sounds like a no-brainer for busy executives. We know that self-care involves obvious health practices: physical activity, self-pampering, adequate sleep, quiet time for reflection, putting your phone down every now and then, and shutting your door sometimes so you can get work done.
While self-care as a stress management tactic is necessary, don’t forget to consider the root causes of the stress. Instead of accepting the explanation of “I have too much on my plate,” write down the key stressor(s). Is there an unrealistic deadline looming? Are the yearly goals you’re aiming for a moving target? Figure out how to fix the issue, rather than only managing the stress felt as a result. If too many tasks are the main stressor, think about a shared governance model to boost production, leading to group problem solving. Delegating scheduling to another person can help get back chunks of time during the week. Acknowledging that you cannot do this role alone is a great step in self-care.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to say “no.” Executives may tend to think they achieved their position by saying “yes” to every challenge that came their way. But don’t get trapped into that line of thinking, and don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
5) Encourage staff (and maybe yourself) to coach new nurse graduates New graduates entering the workforce may not be ready for 12 hour shifts and the stress of their new role. These graduates often become frustrated as they experience the real world of healthcare. Many nurses will burnout and find new employment opportunities after only a few years. Successful coaching will make a significant difference in reducing frustration of novice nurses, and can help with retention. Some experienced nurses may feel burned out and not willing to make a commitment to coaching, but this year challenge these nurses to volunteer to coach. Remind your team that a coaching contribution could have a more profound effect than anything else they do as a professional.
6) Build nurse networks outside your organization
Unfortunately, social/work networking comes easier for most nurse executives than developing professional non-work networks. After all, most nurse leaders originally come to the nursing profession to help people, not to “schmooze” like a sales person. To make networking palpable, think of networking as a tool to “knowledge share”and help with mutual professional development. A network of nurse executives in other organizations can help you find information, give referrals, and offer someone to confide in for guidance and support. Remember- the best time to build your network is before you need it! Start with events to build your network. Leadership summits like CNO Academy can help you to network within smaller cohorts.
7) Seek and give timely feedback This is truly a two-way street. It is important to not only give timely, specific feedback to your staff, but to also proactively seek feedback about your own performance. This is one of the best ways to continue career growth. Don’t hesitate to coach up nurses who are not performing as well as they could be, and let low performers go quickly when necessary. They can begin to drag on the organization quickly, so make sure to give timely feedback in 2019.
8) Nominate staff for recognition When leaders fail to thank others, or take all the recognition for themselves, staff feel devalued. A key part of encouraging staff is to recognize contributions in a way that is valued by the person and celebrated by the team.When nurses in your organization make significant impacts that deserve recognition, be the first cheerleader to celebrate that contribution by letting the company know. Being the top advocate for the nursing profession at your health system means sharing recognition, whether internal or external. Be sure to attend recognition celebrations in person.
9) Build a nurse succession plan
In the coming year, top nurse executives are focusing on consistent development for nurses, including those nurses who are at the start of their leadership path. Systems don’t stumble on a strategic succession plan, it takes preparation and organization buy-in. So, in 2019, be intentional about identifying talent and teaching the next wave of leaders, especially young ones. Equipping Gen Y nurses with the leadership and business skills needed for advancement is an important step in developing nurse leader pipelines. Provide this generation of young nurses the ability to handle communication, conflict resolution, and challenges in managing change that they will face. To learn about NCharge: “Nurses Learning to Lead” please click here.
10) Up your game in technology – Be ready to advocate for it A CNO should play a critical role in how an organization selects, implements, and adopts technology. In an ideal setting, the CNO creates a culture of shared decision making by asking others to participate in technology planning. However, technology implementation efforts can sometimes be unsuccessful and have unintended risks or issues. In 2019, embrace new technology, or work to simplify old tech processes. Be the first to volunteer to attend classes and serve as a champion for new technology or changes in practice. This could be the symbolic leadership gesture that gets buy-in needed from nursing staff.
“Develop a Coaching Mindset with your Nurses” November 3, 2018. Webinar with Dr. Rose Sherman and Catalyst Learning Company
“5 Ways To Practice Self-Care, Even as a CEO” Brian Wong, Inc.com magazine, August 31 2018
“The Value of Lifelong Learning Throughout a Healthcare Career,” HealthStream, Diane Hanson, CNO at EBSCO Health, October 11, 2018
“12 Networking Tips Executives Need for Success” by Louise Garver
“If I knew then what I know now: Advice for Nurse Leaders from a former CNO,” Studer Group September 2018
“Leadership goal setting for the New Year,” Rose O. Sherman, December 28 2017, Emerging RN Leader
“6 Reasons to Budget for Charge Nurse Development in 2019,” Catalyst Learning blog, January 2019
“Nurse leaders discuss the nurse’s role in driving technology decisions” American Nurse Today