Making nurses into leaders

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Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, July 31, 2012

Nurse executives wear two hats. Their most obvious role is that of clinical caregiver. But they're also executives, and with that extra layer of responsibility comes the need for an extra layer of skills. While much is made of nurses maintaining and expanding bedside skills through advanced practice education and training, nurse executives also need to hone their leadership skills.

That's why the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has teamed with one of the nation's top business schools, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, to develop the AACN-Wharton Executive Leadership Program.

The program, scheduled for August 14–17 in Philadelphia, is designed for academic leaders in nursing and focuses "exclusively on the needs of nursing deans," said AACN President Jane Kirschling, DNS, RN, FAAN in a statement.

So what are some of those unique needs?

"The health professions deans in today's world have the challenge of making sure that all graduates are prepared for the healthcare delivery system and the future healthcare delivery system," Kirschling tells HealthLeaders Media in an interview.

With that in mind, she says the four-day program will focus on topics ranging from how to more effectively build strategic relationships across academic practice boundaries to leading organizational change to strategic thinking. Participants will also spend time learning about entrepreneurship and new ways to increase cash flow.

"As state support goes down, then schools of nursing are challenged with finding new revenue streams," Kirschling says.

In addition, the program will spend a full day looking at the concepts of influence and persuasion to help participants develop their negotiation skills.

"The reality is that when financial resources are tight or limited, one has to build a strong case when asking for financial support, or new degree program, or expansion of nursing slots," Kirschling says. "Any provost or president has to prioritize work in terms of investment," and this program is designed to help its participants develop a high level of negotiating ability on behalf of patient care.

"Nurse leaders need to be uniquely positioned and have the skill set to advocate," she says.

The program's inaugural class includes 37 nurse educators from 25 states who lead a diverse array of institutions. But despite their different backgrounds, Kirschling says they're all are experienced deans and directors.

"We were very interested in having people who were not brand new to their role," Kirschling says. In that way, participants will not only learn from the program, but also from each other and have a chance to develop their professional networks.

The curriculum was developed by Wharton School faculty, based on interviews leadership stakeholders and focus groups within AACN. Participants had to apply for acceptance into the tuition-based program, which is sponsored in part by the Jonas Center for Nursing Excellence.

Although the program is new, Kirschling anticipates that it will be offered annually; the AACN got a high-level of interest from prospective participants this first time around.

Kirschling says she believes excellent nurse leaders need solid communication skills, the willingness to take calculated risks, and an attitude that no job "is not their job." They also need to care deeply about the nursing discipline, be able to handle rapid changes, and be unsatisfied with the status quo. She thinks that this new program will help the participating executives add even more tools to their arsenals.

"I think that they'll come out with stronger negotiating skills and hopefully a broader perspective about leveraging new partners," she says.

Source: HealthLeaders Media