Dawn Alexander has been a nurse since 1987, in leadership roles for more than 30 years, the last 15 of which were spent in a Chief Nursing Officer role. Dawn grew up with parents who were in leadership positions, which inspired her career aspirations in healthcare leadership. They led by example and it has always anchored and guided her career.
Dawn has some core leadership learnings that have helped her and may inspire you to take action today:
Embrace all of your experiences and learn from them. Challenges and failures make us better when we apply the learnings and of course, cherish all the great experiences you get and replicate what you can to help others have a great experience too. I’ve been really blessed with some great opportunities. They weren’t always the most positive, which I believe has made me a better leader. Actually, I’ve had poor leaders be some of my greatest teachers.
I have learned to prioritize and really focus on self-care. Nurses who are passionate about what they do tend to ignore their own self-care. They push themselves to burn out too often. I’ve done this. I knew better, but I know that I have not always acted on my knowledge. I remember expecting self care from my team, yet I did not prioritize it. I remember some of my direct reports coming saying, “You know, we see where you park every morning. And we know what time you come in and we know what time you leave. You keep telling us that we need to take care of ourselves and be healthy emotionally and physically, but we don’t see you doing the same.” Hearing this really resonated with me and made me more conscious of leading by example.
I’ve learned that if I don’t make myself a priority, nobody else will. And, here’s some ideas of how to incorporate self care more often. Spend time in reflection and maybe even journal your thoughts around things like: what brings you joy or what makes you happy outside of work? For me, it’s getting massages, going shopping, not necessarily buying, but just being in and around that kind of energy. I’ve always been a believer in living a healthy lifestyle, whether it’s eating healthy or doing some kind of aerobic activity. Lately, I’ve started yoga. I think that I am horrible at it, but every time I do it, I feel a little bit better. Doing things that keep your mind and your body healthy is really important. Find the things that bring you joy and commit to scheduling them into your life, regularly. And, work to remove any guilt you experience from the time and resources that you spend on your self care.
I have to be mindful every day of how much time I actually spend working. I confess that I can be a workaholic.12 or 14 hour work days, on a regular basis, can really take its toll. My employees notice and say, “We see you here, 12, 13 hours a day. It’s difficult for us to leave at four o’clock or five o’clock if we still see your car in the parking lot at six and seven o’clock at night.” Be mindful of those hours, the work is still going to be there and it can often be done another day.