Become the Unit's Leader

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    This article establishes that leadership qualities are sought after in a nursing environment but rarely are found. I give four guiding principles of leadership that will make you a person of influence, trust, and a leader.

    Become the Unit's Leader

    Nursing. What traits do you think about when that word is thrown out? Perhaps caring, nurturing, professional, advocate, ethical, etc. If you're a nurse the answers may look quite different than a non-nurse profession. That's because us nurses have made our own biases towards the profession and, even though we may not meet all descriptions about ourselves, we really do strive for these qualities. One quality though that has been a buzzword in many professional nursing associations is [/SIZE]leadership. Even from nursing school, we learn that leadership is, in theory, a quality trait of nurses.

    What's the problem with this picture, fellow nurses? How many nurses on your unit, ward, or office do you consider leaders? Would you follow them into a hell-fire storm of a 12-hour shift? Maybe a few, but it should be a whole lot more!

    Leading is not being the charge nurse and taking the reins (although they should know how to lead) but, rather, I'm speaking of leadership from an interpersonal level. Leading is establishing rapport and influencing your peers to accomplish the mission. Your mission may be as small as helping you restock your carts or as large as assisting you with the hospital-wide infection control audit. Whatever nursing you do, you work in a team and some nurses have lost the concept of that.

    For me, the blame is at the amount of workload the nurse has to do. How many times does the new resident drop orders one...after...the...other? Then we have to play catch up all day! We tend to become too focused on our daily assignment, the associated tasks, and we don't want others to hinder our plan. This is nursing tunnel vision. Our big picture is out of sight and we tend to forget our best resources: people. People should always have time in their busy day.

    Nurses that get into this rut become those that eat their young. I didn't believe it until I saw it. We are somehow inherently ruthless towards the "newbies" that meander in our work space. Those that do this will leave a trail of degrading tradition for many years. How can you make a difference in your work space?

    I want to provide 4 quick steps that create a lasting impression. These will naturally make you a person of influence, of trust, and of real leadership quality:

    1. Know Your People

    If you have the desire to get more people to like and trust you then you are certainly not alone. It's a skill and a trait that most don't naturally have but, luckily, there is a quick tip. Get them to talk about themselves. Even more specifically people like talking about their challenges and opinions. Some resources suggest that talking about yourself is of equal pleasure as money or food. So, next time your coworker is talking about themselves, find something interesting in the conversation and ask them about that. They'll love it and not even know why, giving you a positive image.

    2. Listen; Don't Talk

    So, you've gotten them to talk about themselves. Great. But most people don't understand active listening. While they are talking you are probably thinking about what you're going to say next or say something that will relate to their story like, "Oh, that sounds like what I did. I'm gonna tell you all about it!" STOP. This approach does two things. 1) It steals the show from the other person(it's all about them right now), and 2) You are not really listening to them. Active listening is short, sweet, and to the point. You listen to what they are saying and then you acknowledge what they've said. For example, if they tell you about a fun weekend (or a bad one), you respond with, "Wow, that does sound fun (or bad). Tell me what happened after." The point is they will eat up the attention and when you acknowledge that they will like you even more.

    3. Get Your Hands Dirty

    Now that you've got the trust of your peers (even though they didn't see it coming) you have to show genuine, active leadership. If you work on an ICU unit like mine, then you know that sometimes there are messes to be cleaned up or carts to be restocked. Whatever the job, by showing your peers that you are going to clean up your own space, and ask to help clean their space, you instantly become a person that they will help later on. Don't just do your work.

    4. Be Positive

    Here's the easiest, yet most difficult (for some) to master. Optimism. I work on a medical ICU unit and there are days that just leave a person's head spinning. But you know what? That too shall pass! Your attitude is yours to own. If you want a great day, it doesn't matter what roles through the ED or how many times grandma tries to get out of bed; attitude is a choice and others will follow suit. Think about how sour you feel if someone brings in a sour attitude. You have that kind of influence with optimism too. Plus, the surge of serotonin for even faking a smile is worth being positive.

    Therefore, follow these four simple, tried and true, traits of a leader and you too will be the nurse remembered as the unit's stronghold!
    Last edit by Joe V on Jun 15, '18
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    About AFnurse211

    I'm a husband and father of four children with two professions: I'm a critical-care nurse with 5 years experience and a Captain in the United States Air Force also with 5 years experience. My nursing education includes a BSN and CCRN. I'm currently studying leadership at Squadron Officer College, Maxwell AFB, AL.

    Joined: Jan '15; Posts: 5; Likes: 14

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