As you probably already know, Nurses Week began Tuesday May 6th and runs to Monday May 12th this year. That's the anniversry of the birthday of perhaps the most famous nurse of all, Florence Nightingale.
The U.S. Deptartment of Health and Human Services set the theme for 2014 as "Nurses: Leading the Way." Nationwide, nurses have been recognized this week for the critical contributions they make to leading the charge for our health and happiness. As there are now over 3 million Registered Nurses in the U.S., that's a lot of thank you's!
This week and every week throughout this year, let's remember that leadership is a trait that many nurses strongly embody, and others can further develop with just a bit of intention and effort. Here's how:
1. Know that you're already a healthcare leader. How? Well, as survey after survey shows, nurses are the most trusted professional (above even doctors, dentists, and pharmacists) and the go-to source for advice on education on personal health.
Are you making the most of your favored position to lead the charge for healthcare information, say? Or how about making your voice heard in the workplace or the larger community about healthcare topics, such as the Affordable Care Act? Have you written a letter to the editor about a local health-related issue dear to your heart of that of your patients? Any of these activities would serve to raise your profile as a nurse leader and also empower the folks in your community. A win-win.
2. Support Other Nurses as Leaders. Are you a member of a nursing organization, either associated with your workplace, specialty, or perhaps a minority group you belong to? There are many reasons to join, including getting your own needs met. But there's one often overlooked opportunity in belong to a professional group: supporting other nurses in their professional development and encouraging them to take on leadership roles. Women are especially hesitant to lead, and since nursing is a predominately female occupation, well... Peer support leads to more nurses putting themselves out there as leaders.
3. Encourage Management to Give Nurses Opportunities to Lead. Nurses already go above and beyond to take care of patients, of course, but they also often streamline operational functions so that everything comes together to improve the patient experience.
Does management offer ways for nurses to serve on committees and boards so their unique experiences are heard? If not, individual nurses and nurse groups should take up the charge to make sure they do.
Are there opportunites for training and certification in leadership topics and techniques? Of course, it's important that nursing staff should renew their certifications and other medically-based training. That's not enough though. Healthcare providors must offer professional development courses and programs that helps nurses take charge -- or lead the charge for change.
So, what are you doing to help ensure that nurses are leading the way in our nation's healthcare? Please share your experiences -- we'd like to know.
Jebra Turner is a health writer in Portland, Oregon, but you can visit her online at www.jebra.com.