Nursing Leadership: What it is, and what it isn’t.

I have had the privilege of working with amazing nurse leaders in my career. To name a few: Nicole McElvery, Tara Buckenmyer-Pennetta, Kari Mastro, Keeba Souto, Gilda Abrencia, and Leigh Quintero. They have personally inspired, motivated, and supported me as I continued to pursue my Master’s degree in nursing administration.  Leaders inspire followers through their passion and actions; they are visionaries, and are often creative in how they manage/lead. They also see potential in others, and help them to succeed, grow, and develop. One thing my mentor and friend, Nicole has taught me is to always hire for attitude, not grades or experience; she believed that you “can teach someone a task, but you cannot teach someone to care, or have integrity; you either do, or you don’t”. Nicole is also an Abraham Lincoln expert; she quotes him often, depending on the situation: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” and “A house divided against itself cannot stand”. These quotes will always ring true, especially in our current political climate.

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I have a newfound respect for Florence Nightingale since I began my graduate courses. She was truly a visionary who sought to improve conditions in hospitals and healthcare. She was a key figure in introducing new professional training standards for nurses, and was ahead of her time in efforts to track data, and improve healthcare quality. “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear” (Nightingale, 1820-1910); one cannot lead others effectively by causing fear or intimidation. “It may seem a strange principle to enunciate as the very first requirement in a hospital is that it should do the sick no harm” (Nightingale, 1820-1910); healthcare organizations are very focused on quality and safety standards to ensure patients are receiving the best care, with improved patient outcomes; preventing hospital-acquired infections is a top priority.

My personal philosophy for the requirements for nursing leadership relates to my core values, which are integrity, compassion, kindness, respect, equality, and advocacy. The role of the nurse leader is always revolving. It is important to be able to accept and invite critique for professional growth and improvement. One must be self-aware of our own strengths and limitations; capitalize on the strengths, and seek improvement for limitations. I have been influenced by many different styles of managers and leaders in my long career; some have been unkind and unsympathetic to the needs of the staff, while others have been great examples of what I strive to be as I continue my journey in nursing leadership. Leadership isn’t about having a title; we all have the potential to be leaders every day by advocating for what we are passionate about, either through change or for what is right for our patients and their families, our staff, or for ourselves. It is not easy to stand up for what is right and speak the truth, but it is necessary. Some of the hardest things to do and say require the most bravery because you know that you are making yourself vulnerable to criticism and possibly, lost friendships. Nevertheless, stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone.

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