To paraphrase famed entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie, you cannot push someone up a ladder if they are not willing to climb.
But for those looking to move into hospital leadership, four female chief nursing officers told Becker’s, it is important to empower them.
Becker’s spoke with three nurse leaders about how they advise and mentor female bedside nurses who want to move up that ladder and a fourth who offered advice about what they should do once they assume leadership roles.
Want to share your insight about hospital leadership with your colleagues? Email Bari Faye Dean at email@example.com to offer your ideas and opinions.
Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.
Question: What advice do you have for women taking on a leadership role or who are considering doing so?
Marian Altman, PhD, RN. Clinical Practice Specialist at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Just do it. Believe in yourself. I think we all have the tools. One of the things about going to nursing school is it does teach us leadership skills. I don’t think we fully appreciate that.
Nurses are already leading their patients. They’re leading their families. They’re leading the members of the healthcare team that they work with because they’re reaching out and saying, “I need you to come look at the patient because I think something’s going on” or “Are you aware of this lab work?” I think they don’t fully appreciate that they’re leading every single time they come to work.
Leadership isn’t about a position or a title. People get confused about that. Leadership is about bringing people along with you and moving a situation or a problem forward. And nurses have the ability to do that. We need to believe in ourselves a little bit more. Stop saying “I’m just a nurse.” You’re a nurse! That’s a very strong position to be in.
Heather Franci, BSN, RN. Chief Nursing Officer, Penn Highlands Healthcare (DuBois, Pa.): Women who are about to assume a clinical leadership role should always stay positive. It is a privilege to be able to lead in a healthcare system. You always have to stay focused on the fact that you are there to serve the patients, their families and your community.
It is important to know your own strengths and build on them, engage others and inspire others to want to grow in their roles. Take advice and listen to the concerns of others. Motivate and coach your teams. Find other female mentors and, in return, be a mentor as well. Stay focused, there are a lot of stressors in hospital settings but you as a leader need to navigate and be able to communicate well even during the worst situations.
Lastly, enjoy what you do and never lose focus.
Suzi Talarico, MSN, RN. Chief Nursing Officer of Physician Enterprise, Providence (Renton, Wash.): My advice for women leaders in healthcare is to remain focused on what called you to serve as a clinician. The two skills that are most critical are authenticity and the ability to demonstrate results that matter to patients and communities.
And once you move into a leadership position, always be open to good advice from others who have paved the way.
Tina Santos, MSN, assistant vice president of Orlando (Fla.) Health and chief nursing officer at Orlando Regional Medical Center, shared the best piece of advice she ever received: “If you take care of your team members, they will take excellent care of your patients.”
She has taken that advice to heart. “If we really focus on making sure that our team members have the training, the education, the support, the tools, the resources, the flexibility and the emotional and physical support that they need, they’re going to be their best selves. In turn, you will have the best professionals, the best humans, interacting with our patients. Not a day goes by that I am not just truly humbled at what I get to witness with these meaningful human interactions.”