To blog or not to blog: CNO connects with staff nurses

CLICK to Email E-mail
CLICK for Print Version Print

Transformational leadership

To blog or not to blog: CNO connects with staff nurses

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Develop a blog in order to communicate with your CNO

There are a number of methods organizations can use to help demonstrate visibility of their CNO, and with readily available, user-friendly technology all around us, something as simple as blogging can turn into a road of communication between the CNO and the staff. St.Vincent Indianapolis Hospital, for example, turned to the nursing portal on its intranet.

“This is our one-stop shop for nurses,” says Sallie Latty, MA, BSN, RN, MRP coordinator at St.Vincent. “We were looking at ways to meet the needs of a younger generation.” That younger generation would be more tech-savvy and more likely to look for updates through electronic means, such as a blog.

It’s not a small task to reach all of the organization’s nurses, either—there are 2,300 nurses at St.Vincent, 1,500 of those at the bedside.

Although talking leadership into adopting new or different technology options can be a challenge in healthcare settings, this was not the case at St.Vincent. It didn’t take any convincing to get the CNO to participate in a blog.

“Our CNO loved it the minute the idea popped up,” says Latty. “There was no need for encouragement— she was really excited about it.” 

Choosing content

The blog’s content started directly.

“The very first blog posted was meant to gain feedback on how the nursing staff wanted our CNO to be visible in the organization,” says Latty. “Did they want [her] to have public forums, tours of their units, shadow nurses—what were their thoughts?”

The hope was to use the blog as a direct communication tool. But the first post received only 19 responses.

“We needed to increase awareness the blog existed,” says Latty. “So we focused our efforts on communication.”

Posts were also used to educate as well as thank staff members. For example, one post talked about the daunting task of implementing the electronic medical record (EMR).

“We recently implemented the EMR, and the last blog talked about that, discussing how there might be bumps in the road and thanking everyone for doing their part,” says Latty.

Technological requirements

Setting up the blog was simple. St.Vincent had the blog up and running in less than one day with the help of the organization’s IT department.

It was so convenient, in fact, that it led to one of the first lessons of creating a blog: Have a communication plan in place.

“One thing we realized—and it’s still a pretty new blog—is that if you don’t keep the posts current, people stop going to the site,” says Latty.

And given how busy every CNO is, finding time to write blog posts on a regular basis can be tough. Although they may not take much time, they do require a good deal of thought.

“In hindsight, because the idea surfaced quickly and there was so much excitement, we didn’t spend much time planning what the process would be, what the purpose would be for the blog,” says Latty.

She suggests spending some time with all the parties involved in conceiving and maintaining the blog to create a plan and goal before implementing it.

“Do that up front,” says Latty. “Two questions we encountered later were: Do people know about it? And what is our plan for keeping it current?”

Staff reaction

The blog had the potential to reach those staff members who can be the most difficult for CNOs to find.

“We felt the blog would be a good way to communicate with staff that might be on the night shift, or weekends only,” says Pat Craig, MSN, MBA, RN, FACHE, an MRP coordinator at St.Vincent. “These are times when leadership isn’t always personally available.”

The CNO also started to receive direct e-mails from staff who did not want to post feedback publicly. However, those who do leave public comments can do so anonymously. “Staff have the option of leaving their name or not,” says Latty.

Concerning public posts, two unexpected developments occurred:

Those who left comments were more often than not middle-aged nurses, not the younger generation St.Vincent expected to see when the blog was first conceived 

Non-nurses discovered the blog and were able to comment as well—and they did

“It’s interesting to have non-nurses responding,” says Latty. In fact, the blog received one suggestion from a member of the security staff on how to improve collaboration between nursing and security that turned out to be worth exploring.

Increased visibility

The CNO traveled the floors, encouraging staff members throughout the implementation process. The blog provided a way for the CNO to reach out to staff to convey her experiences and thank them for their efforts. It also gave the CNO a chance to discuss her experiences and observations after shadowing a nurse.

“One of the things a hospital [on the journey to excellence] has to do is show evidence of visibility of nurse leaders,” says Latty. “You have to demonstrate and describe how you do that at an excellent level.”

The shadowing experiences eventually became part of the blog.

“[The CNO] schedules four-hour blocks of time to work alongside a nurse—it allows her to come into contact with physicians and ancillary staff as well as all of the situations that nurse encounters,” says Craig.

This sort of shadowing gives the CNO an opportunity to see the nurse’s perceptions of the organization, the patient’s perceptions of the nursing staff, and a chance to evaluate the processes being used, Craig says.

The blog is only one example of the CNO’s methods for improving visibility to the staff. “[Our CNO] has a routine article in our Nursing at a Higher Level newsletter,” says Latty.

A presence in every meeting

The CNO attends every meeting she is requested to attend, when possible. “Whether a unit has asked her to be at a staff meeting or other opportunities to encounter staff, she is always willing to change her schedule to do so,” says Latty. Because of shared decision-making, staff nurse participation on many committees has increased, giving staff further opportunity to interact with the CNO and other nursing leaders.

“Our CNO also conducts periodic nursing forums. They’re usually planned around a topic or communication item she wants to get the message out about,” says Craig.

Finally, sometimes visibility can be as simple as being out among the staff.

“Sometimes it’s a small thing that helps with exposure,” says Latty. “Going to the cafeteria might seem like a little thing, but when you do that along with all these other pieces, it helps associates feel like they know who the CNO is, especially in a large organization like St.Vincent.”


Adapted from HCPro’s Advisor to the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program®, April 2010, HCPro, Inc.