Department: “Share Your Story” Challenge Runner-up
The turning point in my nursing career occurred the first time I had a team member thank me for being present. As a clinical shift leader on the ICU, I noticed a team member who was frustrated with repeat bathing of a patient with Clostridium difficile infection. I jumped in to help clean up, which allowed her to take a break. She was so thankful for the help, and I remember thinking: Why wouldn't I be out here where the team members are, hearing their successes and burdens? Why wouldn't I be present with patients and families to truly grasp how our care is being delivered? This resonates for team members across the career spectrum, some new to the profession and some with 30 years' experience. What everyone desires most is a leader who'll come to their workspace and engage them through coaching/mentoring, offering guidance, assisting with problem-solving, helping navigate challenging processes, being an open ear, or being a shoulder to cry on.
To prepare for my first leadership position, I recalled previous interactions with nurse leaders, seeking what went well and what didn't as a guide. Looking back, the leaders I respected most were knowledgeable, held everyone accountable, ran toward challenging situations, and helped team members navigate everything from attendance policies to healthcare benefits. Early in my nursing career while working on the night shift, I passed my manager in the hallway and she didn't speak to me or recognize me. To her credit, she wasn't a part of the interview process, so I don't know why I thought she would know who I was, but I still didn't like the feeling. For this reason, right from the start, I focused on knowing my team and our patients as the greatest asset for almost all decisions. I made it a point to round on everyone at the top of every hour. If everyone was okay, I made conversation to get to know new team members, as well as mature relationships with existing team members. Countless times team members thanked me for being present and told me they felt like I truly cared. Of course, this motivated me more.
As I grew as a leader, I moved to a department nurse manager position that carried a broader scope, with two shifts and clinical shift managers reporting to me. This made it even more challenging to stay grounded and be present. Early on, I blocked out 3 hours each day to dedicate to rounding. This quickly became best practice and led to trust with my team, who were open and honest with me. I remembered the time that my manager passed me in the hall and didn't speak to me when I was on the night shift, which motivated me to get to know my night-shift crew by consistently rounding at 0500 once a week. This was something so foreign to the team that they hardly knew how to react to me. I simply leaned into the awkwardness and got to know people and their stories.
As I began to know more about the team, I was flooded with information that made my job much more efficient. Team members let me know when a process wasn't working or when there were safety risks that needed to be mitigated. Our patient care improved as shown by decreased adverse events and increased patient satisfaction and staff engagement. The more stories I heard about their outstanding care, the more I wanted to give back to the team. I worked to ensure efficient and effective workflows. I nominated team members for awards and watched as they were recognized by our organization and even the state for their incredible work.
Next, I was offered a director of nursing position at a community hospital. I was so honored to be trusted to lead an entire hospital of nurses. More complexities and pressures on my time each day kept trying to divert me from rounding on the team. Regardless, I wanted to stay true to what my team had taught me all along. Early on in this position, I had just arrived to conduct night-shift rounding at 0500 when an ICU code blue paged overhead. I barely knew where the ICU was from my interview walk-through, but I ran directly there and got right into the chest compression line. The looks on the team members' faces were priceless. There was shock, which slowly turned into smiles, which turned into word getting all over the hospital that the director of nursing had done chest compressions. I was tremendously humbled by the appreciation for doing what I love to do and truly privileged to be with them to do it. This again led to open communication, great successes, and being able to give recognition across the facility. I'm grateful to be a nurse leader and will always hold close my secret to leadership success: being present.