Nurses who are willing to lead and risk being vulnerable are vital to hospitals striving to meet the challenges of healthcare today. That was the underlying message shared at the 50th annual American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) conference held last week in Baltimore. Amplion was thrilled to to showcase our next-generation nurse call system for 3,400 nurses attending this year’s conference, which celebrated a half-century of providing leadership training and professional development to help nurses excel.
Leadership and innovation were key themes emphasized throughout this year’s AONE conference—and with good reason. With the U.S. expecting an increased demand for registered nurses over the next decade as baby boomers age and the need for healthcare grows, developing expertise, confidence and an enterprising spirit among nurses has never been more important.
“Nurses will lead the revolution in health care, because they sit at the intersection of patient care and how to run an efficient system,” said opening keynote speaker and social scientist Brené Brown, bestselling author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong.
Nursing Experience, Leadership Valued More Than Ever
Though nursing is one of the fastest growing occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the increasing number of nurses nearing retirement age and limited capacity of nursing schools means the shortage of experienced nurses will likely grow, as this article in The Atlantic explores. Hospitals should be taking proactive steps now to transfer knowledge from experienced nurses to newer nurses through training and mentorships, Peter McMenamin, senior policy advisor and health economist for the American Nurses Association, told HealthLeaders.
When veteran nurses retire, many hospitals are reluctant to hire less experienced nurses to replace them, but insufficient staffing causes stress for the rest of the nurses in the department who must manage more patients and juggle more responsibilities. Not only do these nurses have less time and energy to devote to each patient, but they feel tired and burned out from working so much, which can either drive them out of the field or affect the quality of care they provide. Hospitals with short-staffed nursing teams show higher rates of readmissions and patient mortality, and high levels of nurse turnover at facilities also adversely affects patient care.
“If the hospitals hired a few more new nurses … and [took time to] treat them well, bring them along, grow their own experienced workforce, then they wouldn't be confronted with the choice of either being shorthanded or trying to bid up wages from their neighbors across town,” McMenamin said.
These challenges make the role of nursing leaders more valuable than ever for hospitals, and many in the C-suite are starting to recognize this, as Hospitals & Health Networks illustrates in this article. Nurses are gaining a seat the executive table, and their perspective is crucial to championing improvements in patient care and safety throughout hospitals. With the influence and number of chief nursing officers on the rise, AONE has established a task force to identify competencies that CNOs need to develop to be successful. These include a willingness to collaborate with other hospital executives as well as nurses on their team and explore innovative ideas and new technologies.
“Nurse executives have to build a culture of innovation within their organizations, piloting new ideas and educating their staff, physicians and patients on what [innovation] means,” Cornerstone Hospital Austin’s chief clinical officer Bonnie Clipper told Hospitals & Health Networks.
Daring to Lead
In her keynote, Brown talked about the importance of not only being an innovative leader, but also a vulnerable one. Newly minted nurse leaders might be tempted to project a tough exterior, but they must be willing to take off their armor, ask for what they need and lead with their hearts as well as their heads, Brown explained. Doing this might mean rocking the boat in some hospitals, but for nurses to lead in today’s changing healthcare environment, they must be willing to push against barriers that stand in the way of delivering the best and safest patient care.
“If you choose to show up and be a brave leader, you will go down … you will be criticized. You’ll be made fun of; you’ll be put down. People will not understand you,” Brown said. “Every day, you have to make the decision: Do I choose comfort today or do I choose courage, because you cannot have both—and in health care, you can’t even have the semblance of both.”
Unwillingness to take risks can cause nursing leaders to avoid conflicts that need to be addressed or stay committed to an unsustainable model that doesn’t help their hospital progress. Brown urged nurses to choose courage over comfort when making decisions about everything from patient care to pilot projects for new technologies. They should never be afraid to ask for clarity on a budget item that doesn’t make sense or more resources when their nursing team needs support, she noted.
“It is vulnerable to ask for help, and it is brave,” Brown said.
Nurses also heard from American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack, who spoke about the next steps to advancing healthcare reform in Washington, D.C., and the biggest challenges he foresees ahead in the fight to improve care and affordability for patients. He urged nurses to share their perspectives with legislators.
“Your voice is highly respected. Your voice is extremely valued. And your voice is indispensable, if we are to meet our commitment to our patients, our facilities and our communities,” Pollack said.
“None of us knows what the next 50 years will bring for the healthcare field, but whatever the future may hold, we know nurse leaders will be on the frontlines of change,” he said.
The conference wrapped with some parting words on leadership from Steven Wiley, president of the Lincoln Leadership Institute in Gettysburg. He used extraordinary stories of leadership during the Civil War to illustrate how nursing leaders can transform their organizations through improving communication and building confidence among their nursing teams. Engaging employees should be a top concern for all nursing leaders, he said. They must be willing to listen to their staff, support them and give them the confidence to make the tough calls in difficult situations, Wiley stressed. He called on nurses to figure out how to “stretch their style” to better serve their care teams and patients.
At Amplion, we are working every day to improve communication and collaboration between nursing teams and their patients through our care assurance platform that uses smart technology and workflow optimization to improve nurse call, patient safety, care coordination and alarm management. Our data-driven system provides nursing leaders with the visibility they need to enhance accountability and morale. Contact us to learn more about how our technology can help you build happier, more confident nursing teams equipped to provide better care and drive better outcomes for patients.