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Two Essential Traits for Nurse Leaders, and How to Get Them

Created Jun 03 2015, 08:00 PM by Lippincott Solutions
  • resiliency
  • caring
  • traits
  • Chief nurse executive
  • Nurse leader

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A new study in Nursing Administration Quarterly identifies two traits that, according to researchers, are key for nurse leaders to succeed in their jobs: caring and resiliency.

After all, today’s healthcare climate—with all its challenges, reforms, technological advances and financial shortfalls—requires a fair bit of gumption from those navigating it, and the researchers believe caring and resiliency are essential to the sustainability and ultimate performance of all nurse executives.

“Current and future nurse leaders,” they write, “will flourish as they integrate a caring and resiliency foundation for their leadership within any acute and/or community healthcare organization.”

Caring goes beyond a task-oriented approach to incorporate personal investment and concern. Resiliency intertwines coping, adaptability and hope, to equip a person to bounce back after facing a setback and to go forth again, more experienced and wiser.

While a caring and resilient attitude may come more naturally to some than others, the good news is that researchers believe the characteristics can be learned and refined.

To find out how successful nurse executives enhance these traits in themselves, the study analyzed feedback from 20 chief nursing officers (18 women and two men) in eight states about their go-to strategies for fostering caring and resiliency.

Three Ways to Care More and Cope Better

After sifting through responses, researchers pinpointed three must-dos for nourishing a caring and resilient attitude.

  1. Practice Self-Care

To practice self-care, you need an awareness of your self-cues, as well as a commitment to attend to them. For one CNO, that meant recognizing “when you need someone to cover calls for the next six hours,” the authors reported. For another, it meant identifying your not-so-positive traits, like a bad temper, and learning to manage them—even if it means taking a time-out from a conversation that’s spiraling in the wrong direction to continue it at a better time when you’re calm and refocused.

Self-care also involves connecting with colleagues as well as fostering relationships out of work, the CNOs said. Establishing boundaries to promote a work-life balance and knowing when it’s time to turn off the computer and go home for the day are importer builders of caring and resilience, too.

  1. Realize Who’s Relying on You

A sense of accountability to the nursing profession, through activities like mentoring and accurately representing bedside nurses in board meetings, feeds a caring and resilient attitude, the study found. Along the same lines, accountability to the organization and its patients and staff, and realizing the impact of your leadership in their lives, keeps nurse leaders focused and motivates them to persevere. One CNO said she thought about the difference she made each day on her drive home.

“This sense of accountability kept the nurse leaders happy,” the authors noted.

  1. Reflect Often

CNOs repeatedly identified reflection as essential to building caring and resiliency. Every single CNO also recognized the importance of acknowledging human fallibility (their own included) and learning from past mistakes. Intentional times of reflection afforded them the opportunity to do those things, and also allowed them to find meaning in problematic situations.

“The worse experience of my professional career was also the best,” one CNE said, “because I really took in some lessons.”

Others found perspective from taking the time to think about others, such as the war experiences of veterans, and realizing that their work problems were “pretty small in comparison,” the researchers reported.

Solid, Simple and Satisfying

The advice is solid, and the steps are simple. To build your aptitude for caring and resilience, incorporate self-care, a sense of accountability and intentional reflection into your regular routine. It just might lead to a better career—and life.

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