By Amy Stewart, MSN, RN, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, RAC-MT, RAC-MTA
Have you ever stopped to ask, “How did life amidst a pandemic affect my ability to be a good nurse leader in post-acute care or any healthcare setting?” It’s very possible that the stress of the pandemic impacted how you approached your work. After all, you witnessed pain and suffering on so many levels that it was bound to have an impact. Maybe you lost your focus, retreated into yourself and stopped connecting with your nursing staff or IDT, lost the ability to inspire because each day felt harder, or maybe you even lost your own passion for your work or for skilled nursing. If it did affect you in these ways, what are you going to do to get back on track? Here are a few ways to help you get your RN leadership mojo back in check.
Good leaders use self-awareness to be even better leaders. Helen Keller said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” Self-awareness helps us understand our thoughts and actions and the driving force behind them. Take a few minutes each day in quiet reflection to focus on the why behind your actions. During this time, ask yourself, “Is what I am doing helping or hurting me?” If actions are hurting you, make a plan to change your actions. Seek feedback from others and use this information to make improvements in the way you lead. Although this process is tough, it is a necessary trait of a good nurse leader.
Have the courage to care
There is an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you have lost touch with your staff in the last few months maybe because of stress, being constantly busy with paperwork and testing, and being run down with compassion fatigue, recognize the constraints you were under and then recommit yourself to reconnecting with your staff. Just a few minutes each day can make a huge difference in staff morale. Staff who feel cared for and connected to others at work are more engaged and less likely to leave their current position, which is crucial at this time when you need all the staff you can get. Loyal staff during times of crisis can make the situation much more manageable. Keep developing those relationships and check in with your team daily.
John Maxwell reminds us that “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Staff always look to you and how you handle things. There may have been a time or two during the pandemic when you could have done something better or you felt that your usual methods for inspiring and motivating your staff wasn’t enough, but don’t dwell on that. Spend your energy inspiring others by leading by example. Be an example of resilience for your staff and set the positive attitude you wish to see from them. Also, acknowledge staff for their hard work and encourage them to grow and be better.
Share your passion
The pandemic has drained a lot of passion from us. It is time to show staff your ignited passion for what you do. When staff see your renewed passion, they will be inspired and want to renew their own passion. Take a few moments and share why you chose to work in long-term care with your staff and ask them to share their stories as well.
Be an innovator
Many of the daily struggles were amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic and leaders have had to be innovative in order to deliver high-quality care. Think about the things you’ve learned and consider new ways of doing things. Seek input from staff on this topic as well. Nurses need to see themselves as innovators and share and seek new ways of doing things that are more efficient and just as effective. Ayn Rand said, “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”
In the upcoming months, make it a priority to spend a five to ten minutes a day working on perfecting your leadership skills. Being a successful leader means you are always looking for ways to improve. This includes improving your own abilities and those of your staff. As Steven Covey put it, “Leadership is a choice, not a position.” Go be the best leader you can be!