Department: Guest Editorial
Associate Executive Director, Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, Lenox Hill Hospital/North Shore-LIJ Health System, New York, N.Y.
Take on an audacious project, enroll in your next degree program, or apply for that new position!
Do you get a gut-wrenching feeling as you step into the unknown? Maybe it happened when you traveled alone to a new city, or the first time you spoke in public to a large audience? What about the first time you led a project for an undertaking larger than your usual scope of influence? I urge you to seek and accept such challenges, leave your comfort zone, enjoy the short-lived anxiety, and subsequently grow both professionally and personally.
Inertia can be powerful, and fear of the unknown can paralyze us. Don't give in to it! Reframe fear into excitement and jump in. Now, I'm not suggesting you go on a reality show and swallow tarantulas. After all, comfort and familiarity aren't bad feelings and some level of predictability does keep us sane. But evaluating the risk-benefit ratio of a change can lead to a balanced decision that's right for you. Even the worst-case scenario you can imagine is likely overshadowed by the benefits of growth and opportunity. And your comfort zone widens with every step forward.
Healthcare is changing rapidly in the United States. Value-based care, focus on outcomes, transparency, team roles, patient-centeredness, technology, accountability, and revenue streams—all of these concepts are impacting how we work and our models of care. Although it may be easier to manage the same way and do as you always do, staying in the familiar isn't really an option for a forward-thinking, change-oriented nurse leader. In addition to cultivating your own ability to leave your comfort zone, helping staff members overcome their fears of change is also a foundational skill.
Kathryn Roberts, immediate past president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, encouraged nurses during her presidential year with the theme of “dare to.” Dare to push for the highest levels of care, dare to speak up, and dare to achieve one's own optimal contribution. I've known many staff members, managers, directors, and vice presidents who take that daunting step, some eagerly, others haltingly; some have to be pushed, others leap forward.
Reach out to colleagues and mentors for guidance and support, but, ultimately, it's up to you to be the master of your own destiny as a nurse leader. I've personally made agonizing decisions to leave wonderful organizations to take on new challenges. In fact, you may have noticed that my byline is a new role for me after more than 10 years as CNO of a wonderful organization where, yes, I was comfortable. It takes strength and some moxie to make this leap. I've also responded to gentle “pushes” by my mentors to take on different ventures or volunteer roles. These decisions have always proven to be wise. Remember, even failures are golden opportunities for learning and growth.
Take on audacious projects, enroll in your next degree program, apply for that new position, or go to a professional meeting and introduce yourself to a stranger. The possibilities are endless, and your development will be one of life's joys. Go on, push the envelope! Just be sure to be true to your values, your family, and the patients who entrust you with their care.