Anatomy of a Nursing Image Awards nominee

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By Rebecca Hendren for HealthLeaders Media

Last week I was writing about hot topics at the annual Nursing Management Congress. This week I've had the honor of sifting through the shortlist of nominees for HCPro's 2011 Nursing Image Awards. The two seem unconnected, yet the same themes appear throughout and link the two.

The conference covered the changing face of healthcare and provided a chance to discuss pressing issues such as value-based purchasing and nursing's role. Attendees were buzzing about:

  • The Future of Nursing report: How to implement its recommendations and how it will change the profession
  • Value-based purchasing: How this will affect nursing and what nurses need to know
  • Patient engagement: There's more reason than ever before to pay attention to this topic, which nursing can really own
  • Quality: Preventing HAIs and best practices for any quality improvement initiative
  • Leadership: Being a better manager, improving communication, and retaining a committed and engaged nursing staff

These themes were reflected in the nomination essays of the nurses singled out by their peers for recognition. Here are some excerpts:

Education and learning

Nominators took time to note the leaders' prize education and value lifelong learning.

"She worked diligently to obtain an increased tuition reimbursement for nursing education, establishing educational relationships with over 10 different accredited nursing programs, yearly certification incentives, a PhD clinical research consultant, and access to an incredible online library with a dedicated medical librarian. Nurses have embraced the many opportunities she has created for them, which is reflected in our strong retention rate and high years of service."

Many nominees have role modeled their commitment to education by returning to school and obtaining higher education, such as doctor of nursing practice. They have also focused on increasing nurse specialization.

"We have moved from just 7% of direct care nurses obtaining national certification to 28% of nurses that are nationally certified since September 2009."

Passion and energy

It's no surprise that the best leaders are the ones who have passion for the profession and are able to ignite passion in others with their energy.

"She inspires and ignites passion to attain goals by developing people as she guides and instructs on new and innovative ways to care for patients. "

"She exemplifies all that is best about the profession of nursing: clinical excellence, care and compassion, pride and leadership and absolutely lives and embodies the vision of pride, passion and professionalism of nursing practice."

Mentoring the next generation

A common theme was that these leaders took time to nurture and grow the next generation. Many have led the way in understanding the importance of developing new graduates by creating nurse residency programs.

"The residency program enhances the clinical support for these new graduates by providing trained mentors and preceptors while also offering greater understanding of how the organization functions as a whole. Consequently, a mechanism was created for new nurses to assimilate into a fast-paced healthcare environment with the support they need to be successful with their career choice."

Business acumen

The nominations partnered celebration of soft skills such as communication and passion with praising leaders who had an eye on the bottom line. In an era of layoffs, dwindling reimbursements, and shrinking budgets, the nominators recognized leaders who were honest with staff and who partnered with them to find solutions that worked for nurses, patients, and the organization's goals.

"She is a staff advocate. When administration makes decisions that may have a less than optimal outcome on staff morale, she steps up and doesn't just complain but offers management ideas for solutions that work in the best interest of the business as well as the staff."

"She is also a business advocate, demonstrating to the staff daily that all resources can be allocated in many different directions as needs arise to meet the needs of the patients but still remain a solvent agency."

Inspirational leadership

These nurse leaders are proactive to change and help their staff focus on innovation rather than resistance.

"She has developed a work session for direct care nurses to promote innovation in nursing."

"She constantly stimulates us to read leadership books and we conduct book reviews as a group on a monthly basis."

"She inspires and ignites passion to attain goals by developing people as she guides and instructs on new and innovative ways to care for patients. "

The winners will be announced soon and the nominating stories will inspire me all year.

First published by HealthLeaders Media, November 8, 2011.