Most nurses first attend nursing school with the aspiration of caring for patients at the bedside. However, some decide they want to specialize in the area of nursing management and find it difficult to know who to talk to for advice and consultation. It's incumbent on all of us to reach out to these nurses—”paying it forward” by mentoring them—because they're the future of the healthcare delivery system.
Often, when these aspiring nurse leaders speak to their immediate supervisors, they're told all the negatives of the position rather than the achievements that can be attained. Without question, inherent in the role is 24/7 responsibility, budget preparation, staffing issues, and unit-based and organizational concerns. But if you find yourself presenting the negative rather than the positive, you should quickly help this blossoming leader find someone who can discuss the specialty of nursing administration in an unbiased manner.
There are many highlights of being a nurse leader. Several years ago, our organization set a goal that all our nurses would be nationally certified in their area of clinical specialty because we believed this was important to raise the skill and educational levels of our nursing staff. Currently, the organization boasts an 80% certification rate because, together, the leaders and staff mentored hundreds of nurses through the process. When I received an e-mail from a nurse of over 30 years that she had passed her national certification exam, it brought a tear to my eye because I knew many of her colleagues had mentored her. I now know that because of the help she received, she'll not only encourage her colleagues to achieve this distinction, but will also work with them through the process.
As you write your goals for this year, I suggest you add a column that discusses how you'll pay it forward. Inclusive in this list should be how you and your team will achieve individual, unit, and organizational goals. How will you work together so that those who come behind you will also subscribe to the ideal that we must all learn to help each other achieve new skills and knowledge?
Successfully mentoring a nurse to achieve the highest goal that he or she desires to reach is one of the greatest talents you can bring to yourself, the mentee, and the organization. It requires an extended commitment and a true passion to help others succeed. Emerging leaders who are appropriately credentialed will help the profession of nursing achieve the status it has long deserved within the healthcare delivery system. The challenges of chronic disease management and escalating healthcare costs require multidisciplinary collaboration to achieve improved patient outcomes at a cost that can be tolerated.
I challenge all of you to pay it forward and build a culture of unified success. It will be the true legacy of your professional career!