A Guiding Path Through Experience and Positive Change

Dawn Huggins is a nursing leader who is very connected to her cause. It takes a steady and dedicated leader to navigate the changes that arise in healthcare, especially with the challenges of recent times. We hope her insights from before, during and after the pandemic can bring some inspiration and encouragement to you on your healthcare leadership journey.

Lead from your core values.

As a leader, you must know your core values and guiding principles. Knowing and believing your intrinsic values ensure that you will be able to respond appropriately and comfortably in any situation. Dawn shared, “the mentors I gravitate toward are those that are able to see the big picture and negotiate solutions that serve the overall majority. Their decisions are confidently made and rooted in their core values. This inspires me.”

Take breaks in your year to do personal planning. Make one of your exercises a core values reflection.

  1. What are your core values?
  2. Why are these values most important to you?
  3. What are examples of how you are living out these values now?
  4. Think about ways to better incorporate your values into your goals and leadership behaviors.
Healthy Environments Enable Meaningful Work 

Meaningful work and a healthy work environment feed off of each other. Over the years, I have learned a lot as I’ve grown in the healthcare industry, especially when it comes to leading a healthy work environment. Here are my top three priorities to propel health and wellbeing on my team:

  • Healthy conflict can lead to positive change. It’s up to us to learn how to handle conflict to be able to have productive conversations that build us. Conflict can be hard, but the more we practice our healthy communication skills, the better the relationship-building experience and the better the outcomes. When done correctly, conflict can help bonding and set the tone for better future collaboration.
  • Respect is appreciated universally. Whether it is your listening skills or how you respond in challenging conversations, respectful behaviors are ones that we should proactively practice. Great leaders are respectful and people want to work for and do great work when they have a respectful leader versus the opposite.
  • People have to feel safe before they can hear anything you are saying. We must build relationships and trust before people will really believe, listen or follow. Be proactive about building psychological safety.
Change for the Better

Multiple crises have led to a perfect storm in healthcare, be it economic changes, aging of the workforce, changing reimbursements, political discord, or generational gaps, but they have given us opportunities for improvement in healthcare. It’s time to do things differently. We have a huge opportunity here and if we cannot stabilize the nursing population, healthcare will implode. We must rethink our current ideas on what is required for a fully functioning nursing team. There are many opportunities for improvement, but I believe our first priority should be stabilizing the nursing staff.

Take a step back, slow down, and actively listen. 

Exhausted and disenchanted workers are not capable of enthusiasm. The best they can give is task-centered work. Hence, when we ask for critical thinking, compassion, and excitement, we are draining a well that isn’t full. Empathize and meet your people where they are and build from there.

Choose a positive attitude and goodness.

Go back to the basics by bringing back the small moments of joy that remind us of our “why”.  We have to start refilling the wells of our teams. Happy nurses equal happy patients. Make sure the healthcare team feels valued and appreciated. For example; make sure they take lunch breaks, debrief after mistakes/codes/errors, talk slower and spend time with them one-on-one.

As a leader, you are being watched, and people model or replicate your behaviors. Be intentional about a positive attitude and watch the ripple effect of your comments and smiles across your team.