education

The Path to Leadership Is Complicated

When you, like I did, need to struggle to get your GED to get ahead in life, you’ll understand that the road to a leadership position is quite challenging. I had no choice but drop out of the High School when I was 16 years old back then, and it took me quite a while to earn my GED diploma.

I’m very proud of being a GED recipient but it wasn’t easy. I failed first, going back to school was a disaster and I’m thankful for being able to follow GED programs offered on the internet. If I lived 20 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my dream.

My secret source of motivation was a website that pointed out that many famous and successful people are also GED graduates. It took me 5 months to get ready for the GED exam. It was a character changing experience but I did it. Besides the GED diploma, I also got confidence and self-esteem as ‘byproducts’.

Then I decided I wanted to be a leader, I wanted to be a nurse and a leader, so now my task was to find my own path to leadership. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Perhaps it stems from me trying to figure out my next move. I want to grow as a nurse leader, but the path isn’t clear. Good examples of a nursing leadership track I have yet to discover.

Possible Scenario – Surgical Nursing World
(may possibly apply to other nursing units – I’m not sure):

You get a job out of nursing school in a busy surgical unit. In orientation, for the next six to seven months, you’ll learn how to scrub and circulate in a variety of specialties (General Surgery, Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, etc.). When you finish your intro to surgical nursing, you’ll be assigned to a General Surgery team.

You work hard and become more efficient as time goes on. A couple of years pass and you want to grow as a leader. Unfortunately, the OR is way too busy and your manager cannot set aside time to talk about career development. Who can do that when there are high case volumes and only a limited amount of nurses to staff the rooms?

You think that maybe you can be active on unit committees, only to find out that those groups have little or no activity. The nurses involved have trouble getting out of rooms because there isn’t enough staff to relieve them and run the OR schedule. Sorry! The patients come first. Don’t forget that’s how they pay your salary. Oh well…

A nurse educator position opens up and you apply for the job despite your lack of experience. How else are you supposed to your her experience aside from getting it on the job? Somehow you get the nurse educator job — good interview, the right people on your side, the promise of signing up for grad school, or whatever the case may be.

Now what? You have no idea where to start. The pressure is on and lots of things start falling through the cracks. For example, new nurses are starting, no one knows where the certifications records are from the last nurse educator, and who knows if the RN’s are keeping up with their CEU’s. Oh and don’t forget all those meetings you have to attend. It’s big load to carry… Can you do it and do it well?

* * * * * *

Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things, but this is a scenario that I have personally witnessed. Unfortunately, I have yet to see how nurses, who want to develop into nurse leaders, get their actual leadership experience especially if they are strictly in a room being clinical.

Is there such a thing as a hospital that has a leadership track for nurses? If more hospitals had one, maybe there wouldn’t be so many Director and Manager positions posted on the job boards!

Is the only way to get a leadership job to go back to school to get a Masters in Nursing? I personally don’t think that having an MSN qualifies a person as a leader. There’s more to being a leader than having another degree behind your name.

You have to know how to talk with people, be able to conduct conflict resolution, understand how to interpret various reports, and be brave enough to stand up – professionally, of course – to other leaders for your staff or for what’s right. Let’s face it, there are some things that a Masters program just doesn’t cover.

How can nurses participate in unit committees when there is short staffing in the OR? It’s a difficult task to figure out staffing for lunch relief and change of shift in a busy surgical unit. What more if we added professional development to the list? Yikes! I think our charge nurse would have a coronary.

I’ve been talking to a very reputable institution in the heart of Big City. They don’t have a leadership track in place, however, they do support their surgical RN’s in advanced learning. Whether I would pursue a masters degree in nursing, an advanced nursing certification (like RNFA), or take a computer skills class, this facility tells me that they would do their best to work with me. Sounds like the opportunity I’ve been waiting for…