This is a post that I wrote back in October 2009 for my old blog, "Livin' Large." Back then I wanted to be in leadership. Fast forward to present time and I'm thinking about stepping out of this role into something that is not hospital based. Oh, how our needs change over time!
The Path to Leadership
I've been thinking about this a lot. Perhaps it stems from me trying to figure out my next move. I want to grow as a nurse leader, but the path isn't clear. Good examples of a nursing leadership track I have yet to discover.
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SCENARIO #1 - The Corporate World:
In the corporate world, Camille gets a job - low chick on the totem pole - and she pays her dues. She types memos, create spreadsheets, collates and copies, and formats presentations for her boss. She might even organize team outings. By luck or because of company culture, someone recognizes her hard work and gumption. The next thing she knows she is asked to do more, take on small but key roles on committees, and maybe even take the lead on part of a project.
Evaluation time comes around and, not only does Camille get a 5 star rating, she's been given a raise and promotion. The next step is not only more money, but more responsibility, more visibility, and a chance to continue developing her leadership skills. The company starts sending her to seminars on public speaking and how to facilitate meetings.
The growth process continues and before she realizes it, years pass and she has accumlated layers of skills that equal credibility and proven leadership. Camille is ready to play with the Big Dogs.
SCENARIO #2 - Surgical Nursing World
(may possibly apply to other nursing units - I'm not sure):
Carina gets a job out of nursing school in a busy surgical unit. In orientation, for the next six to seven months, she learns how to scrub and circulate in a variety of specialties (General Surgery, Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, etc.). When she finishes her intro to surgical nursing, Carina is assigned to the General Surgery team.
She works hard and becomes more efficient as time goes on. A couple of years pass and Carina wants to grow as a leader. Unfortunately, the OR is way too busy and her manager cannot set aside time to talk about career development. Who can do that when there are high case volumes and only a limited amount of nurses to staff the rooms?
Carina thinks that maybe she can be active on unit committees, only to find out that those groups have little or no activity. The nurses involved have trouble getting out of rooms because there isn't enough staff to relieve them and run the OR schedule. Sorry! The patients come first. Don't forget that's how they pay your salary. Oh well...
A nurse educator position opens up and Carina applies for the job despite her lack of experience. How else is she supposed to get her experience aside from getting it on the job? Somehow Carina gets the nurse educator job --- good interview, the right people on her side, the promise of signing up for grad school, or whatever the case may be.
Now what? She has no idea where to start. The pressure is on and lots of things start falling through the cracks. For example, new nurses are starting, no one knows where the certifications records are from the last nurse educator, and who knows if the RNs are keeping up with their CEUs. Oh and don't forget all those meetings she has to attend. It's big load to carry... Can Carina do it and do it well?
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Perhaps I'm oversimplifying things, but these are two scenarios that I have personally witnessed. Unfortunately, I have yet to see how nurses, who want to develop into nurse leaders, get their actual leadership experience especially if they are strictly in a room being clinical.
Is there such a thing as a hospital that has a leadership track for nurses? If more hospitals had one, maybe there wouldn't be so many Director and Manager positions posted on the job boards!
Is the only way to get a leadership job to go back to school to get a Masters in Nursing? I personally don't think that having an MSN qualifies a person as a leader. There's more to being a leader than having another degree behind your name. You have to know how to talk with people, be able to conduct conflict resolution, understand how to interpret various reports, and be brave enough to stand up - professionally, of course - to other leaders for your staff or for what's right. Let's face it, there are some things that a Masters program just doesn't cover.
How can nurses participate in unit committees when there is short staffing in the OR? It's a difficult task to figure out staffing for lunch relief and change of shift in a busy surgical unit. What more if we added professional development to the list? Yikes! I think our charge nurse would have a coronary.
I've been talking to a very reputable institution in the heart of Big City. They don't have a leadership track in place, however, they do support their surgical RNs in advanced learning. Whether I would pursue a masters degree in nursing, an advanced nursing certification (like RNFA), or take a computer skills class, this facility tells me that they would do their best to work with me. Sounds like the opportunity I've been waiting for...
(Note: I was offered a job at that hospital, but then ended up in a leadership role at another institution without having to get an advanced degree).