Department: Leadership Q&A
Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital, Newport News, Va.
Managing information overload
Q I receive a lot of journals and electronic updates about all the changes in healthcare, leadership, and nursing. I already feel swamped, but I know I need to keep up on the latest trends. What strategies can I use to better manage all of this incoming information?
This is a common problem for nurse leaders at all levels. At any given time, I have three to five journals on my desk and an e-mail inbox full of updates from one organization or another. With the bulk of my day scheduled with meetings and events, it's difficult for me to find time to set aside for the sole purpose of reading and catching up on the latest trends and topics. I like to use some of the unscheduled time in the day to get these important tasks completed.
The first and most important step is to plan and prioritize. There are certain publications I know that I need to read every week or month. I put these on the top of the priority pile. If they're hard copies, I put them in my daily “tickler” file that also keeps a hard copy of my schedule for the day, as well as agendas and other meeting materials. I have yet to master the art of going paperless, so this is a great place for me to tuck away a journal or two. When I get to a meeting early or if one ends early, I use the 5 or 10 minutes to read an article. I do the same with the electronic communications I receive so that I always have something to read in the few minutes of down time I find here and there in the course of the day.
I do a fair amount of traveling and have a secondary pile of things I want to read, but don't necessarily have to read in any given time frame. I take these with me to read on the plane or train. I try to avoid reading after hours and on weekends because we all need some time away from work to recharge.
As I'm reading, I pull articles that I find interesting or useful and then file them for my reference at a future date. This keeps what I think I need handy without having to keep every publication that crosses my desk. It's easy to get through the stacks of information when you tackle it a few minutes at a time throughout the day.
Navigating advance degree options
Q I'm thinking about going back to school for an advanced degree. I see so many choices related to nursing education that, frankly, I'm overwhelmed. What advice do you have for someone who's considering the countless options?
There are numerous options for nurse leaders who are considering going back to school. One of the most important items to consider about prospective programs is accreditation.
Accreditation is important because it ensures the quality of an academic program, as well as the adherence to acceptable academic standards. It's also important for the acceptance and transfer of college credits should that become necessary or as you take your educational journey even further in the future. The most recognized and accepted type of accreditation is regional accreditation.
After you've determined if the program is accredited, you should look for programs that meet your learning needs. Are classes held on campus in person or as an online format? Does the online program meet at specific times or is it self-directed? Be sure that you're choosing a degree program that will meet your personal and professional goals.
With the proliferation of regionally accredited doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs and the Institute of Medicine's recommendation that we increase the number of doctorally prepared nurses by 2020, I recommend the DNP option to anyone who has at least 10 or more years to work in nursing leadership.
If the DNP isn't for you, I suggest a master's degree that's broad in scope. Look for a program that has a strong core in business, management, and leadership. These core courses don't necessarily have to have a nursing focus, but should be geared toward helping clinicians become well-rounded business leaders.
As with any major investment, do your homework and beware of accelerated degree programs that seem unusually short and come with a high price tag. Good luck!