In today's economy and work environments, it's more important than ever for nurse managers to demonstrate marketable skills. Maybe you'd like to continue in your current role as long as you like or maybe you'd like to transition to another position. Or maybe you'd like to establish your own personal market brand and venture into an entirely different career. Life-long learning and self-improvement have always been a part of our professional roles as we address evolving trends and changes in healthcare. Rapid healthcare and economic changes require specific knowledge, skills, competencies, and talents to extend your career shelf life and ensure continued success in the workplaces of today...and tomorrow.
Consider these strategies
Healthcare trends and system changes require nurse managers to continuously update their knowledge and skill base. The following suggestions will assist you to focus your maintenance and self-improvement goals.
Be a life-long learner. Continuing education (CE) improves knowledge, performance, and patient outcomes. It's also useful for making sustainable team and organizational improvements.1 Well-designed CE incorporates new technologies to improve learning. As you research CE opportunities, consider options that include informatics, human patient simulation, electronic medical records (EMRs), and/or increased interprofessional education.2 CE offerings should be practice-based to ensure knowledge retention, transference of skills, and improved patient care.3 Human patient simulation activities offer well-designed interprofessional education and clinical-based opportunities to refresh previously learned techniques, practice advanced techniques, and improve service delivery quality.4 Informatics CE increases competencies in computer and information literacy, EMR modalities, and leadership skills, and helps transform professionals into knowledge workers rather than task performers.2 Although accessing CE may be challenging during periods of employee and funding shortages, increasing healthcare complexity will make workplace learning and interprofessional education increasingly important.
Life-long learning via technology is increasing access to academic courses through distance learning, and it offers flexibility of content, courses, and learning methods. When selecting distance-learning opportunities, investigate online programs based on the following merits:
- Accreditation and reputation. Make sure the university is accredited by one of the eight U.S. regional accrediting agencies. Also, ensure that your employer and/or professional association recognize courses from the university. Speak with program alumni to gather feedback.
- Instructional technology. Be sure the course or curriculum you're considering utilizes a variety of technologies and teaching methods. Determine if the curriculum is based on practice- and/or problem-based exploratory learning. Ask to preview course syllabi.
- Funding. Determine if the university accepts or offers state, federal, and other types of scholarships and/or grant funding. Healthcare professions are fortunate in that many agencies and associations offer funding opportunities based on service time payback upon degree completion. When pursuing funding, be sure to research state, association, employer, and other scholarships, as well as those from financial centers.5
Engage yourself in learning. Researchers have found that self-development activities improve job satisfaction, clinical performance, and nursing practice.6 Keep a book handy. Join a group to learn something or teach something to someone else. Life-long learning is a key strategy for maintaining and developing new knowledge, skills, and competencies. Invest in yourself because you're worth it!
Keep passion in your workplace. Reignite your passion and compassion for people. Healthcare is a “people profession” and quality care of patients and staff is a daily goal of every nurse manager. Look for opportunities to improve your unit's quality of care and workplace. Communicate ideas clearly and listen to your staff members' suggestions. Involve them and look for opportunities to inspire and excite them. Develop change agent skills that allow you to facilitate the change process. Assist staff to appreciate individual differences, create a shared mindset of values, set realistic goals and objectives, and develop new strategies for improved models of patient-care delivery.
Improve the value of your valuables. Objectively assess the value of what you bring to your workplace. Focus management and improvement efforts on strategic organizational initiatives. For example, if administration has set hospital-wide patient satisfaction goals, and your unit has already surpassed those goals, share strategies that you feel helped your unit excel. If a goal has been set for a particular quality improvement initiative, harness the collective power of your staff to meet or even surpass the goal. Staff and unit accomplishments or failures are ultimately perceived as being attributed to the nurse manager.
Create added value for your organization. Lead staff participation in a health-related volunteer event that provides self-satisfaction for your nurses and visibility for your organization. Recommend staff for organizational, state, and national awards. Encourage staff members to present at national conferences. Consider writing a journal article for a national publication. Each of these strategies can improve the perceived value that you bring to your employer.
Sell your unit. Look for opportunities to promote unit accomplishments. Identify strategies to develop your staff because a perception of the nurse manager role is “if the staff looks good, you look good.” When items are requested for organizational newsletters, take time to submit some of the important things happening on your unit. Include brief stories of staff members who are going above and beyond normal expectations. Encourage your personnel to participate in organizational fundraisers. When social gatherings are planned, encourage your staff to do a skit or put together a recreational team and engage in healthy competition. If your organization holds a function where dancing is involved, encourage your staff to practice a line dance on break or after work and perform it. The rest of your organization will perceive that your unit has exceptional teamwork! The goal isn't to deceive, but to promote your unit's positive attributes and outcomes.
Develop your personal market brand. Whether you choose to continue in your current nurse manager role or are considering other ventures, you may want to develop your own personal market brand. Your personal market brand is the perceptions of others about who you are and what you do. One strategy for creating a personal brand is a business card. You might also write a brief biography that demonstrates your experience and expertise in a variety of areas. Another strategy is to develop a portfolio of past achievements, such as awards received, types of units managed, development of service lines, quality care improvements implemented, and professional development programs you've completed.
In today's electronic age, personal market brands can be created through development of an e-mail address or a personal web page. You can also create visibility for your brand by setting up a LinkedIn or Facebook profile.7 Displaying your biography on these sites provides national and international access to your personal market brand. This strategy can provide prospects for connecting with fellow nurse managers who have similar interests or it may even introduce you to new career possibilities.
Flex your flexibility. Make change a part of your daily operations. Identify positive outcomes of change and minimize personal losses. To decrease feelings of uncertainty, imagine and visualize how the change will affect you. Remain open-minded and willing to try new things. Remind yourself that many advances that people felt they couldn't adjust to, such as copiers, voicemail, e-mail, PDAs, and smart phones, now we couldn't imagine doing without. Who knows what other technologies will be introduced in our remaining years in the nursing workforce!
Remain flexible with your nurse manager roles and responsibilities. Evolving practice models and informatics systems may require development of new management skills while making some skills irrelevant. For example, the introduction of computerized staffing systems has dramatically decreased demand for nurse manager pen and paper scheduling skills.
Maintain and improve your personal health. A major factor that influences career longevity is personal health. Exercise at least 30 minutes, four to five times weekly. Know your family history. Avoid tobacco and eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Develop personal strategies for stress reduction and participate in regular immunizations, checkups, and screenings.8 Maintaining and improving your personal health allow you to work as long as you like.
Life-long learning and continued passion for quality nursing care can assist you to improve unit outcomes. Life-long learning can also provide added value to the nurse manger role, which can promote retention and/or advancement in the healthcare system. Development of a personal market brand can assist you to focus your experience and expertise, and can provide additional opportunities for career advancement. The goal is to have a personally and professionally fulfilling career in which you have a variety of options.
1. Robertson MK, Umble KE, Cervero RM. Impact studies in continuing education for health professions: update. J Contin Educ Health Prof
2. Jenson R, Meyer L, Sternberger C. Three technological enhancements in nursing education: informatics, personal response systems, and human patient simulation. Nurs Educ Pract
3. Wilcock PM, Janes G, Chambers A. Health care improvement and continuing interprofessional education: continuing interprofessional development to improve patient outcomes. J Contin Educ Health Prof
4. Nehring WM, Ellis WE, Lashley FR. Human patient simulators in nursing education: an overview. Simulation & Gaming
5. Ghaffari A. The role of distance learning tools in increasing the efficiency of adult education. J Am Science
6. Nelson JM, Cook PF. Evaluation of a career ladder program in an ambulatory care environment. Nurs Econ
8. Santa J, Lipman M, Avitzur O, Mosquera J. You asked and our doctors answered. Consum Rep