Leading in a Crisis: 3 Strategies Nurse Leaders Can Use
By: Ashley Kellish, ANA Nursing Excellence Consultant, DNP, RN, CCNS
Deliberate Leadership during COVID-19
Fear, resilience, unprecedented, unknown. These are just a few of the words circling our vocabulary with the onset of COVID-19. In only a few short weeks, we implemented national social distancing, began homeschooling our children, and shared the biggest news of our lives through glass windows to protect our family and friends. How do we, as nurse leaders, engage our teams, prevent burnout from fear and exhaustion, and heal the stress this pandemic has brought upon our workforce?
There are strategies we can apply to weather this storm. In my experience, through the use of deliberate authenticity, transparency, and most of all, love, we can care for our health care teams so they can care for the patients who need it most.
Authenticity: Deliberate authenticity comes from one’s ability to know oneself and maintain that self no matter who you are communicating with. As leaders, it is more important than ever to ensure our nursing teams trust us and know that we are communicating with them authentically. It is not a time to forecast fear, withhold information, or turn away from our teams.
Fear can cause misinformation and negative feelings to spread. Therefore, it’s critical to provide your teams with honest information at set times and they, too, can share information in ways that are meaningful to them. If you do not know something, say so. Authentic communication will allow leaders to avoid distrust, resentment, and anger.
Transparency: One cannot be authentic without being transparent. Look to your own leaders in your organizations to determine a plan of transparent communication about practice changes, new procedures, and what is simply unknown at this point. Ask your nursing teams to share their out-of-the-box ideas to manage unique patient situations. For instance, some teams are leaving pumps outside of patient rooms and entering COVID-19 positive rooms as little as possible to avoid exposure. As easy as this may sound, it is extremely challenging to not enter the room of a critically ill patient frequently. Instead of avoiding the barriers to this type of care, discuss how to manage it, and what might go wrong, in open staff forums to gain as much insight and input as possible. Masks have been another topic of concern and fear. Look to one another, your teams, and other organizations to work through this challenge. Procedures and guidelines are changing literally every shift, but if your teams have transparent leaders they trust, they will carry forth these changes.
Love: Love may not seem like a leadership strategy, but after many years as a mentor, colleague, and nurse, I have found that if I truly love those I am leading, they feel it. With that love comes respect, validation, and a sense of appreciation for the hours spent endlessly providing care. When nurses feel respected by their leadership team, they feel pride in their work. They feel valued and they want to come to work to get the job done.
They function safely and are not afraid to speak up and share ideas. During this period of overwhelming stress – both in the workplace and at home – teams can come together under leaders engaging in these strategies and feel more united than ever before. They can care for one another as much as their patients. Then, hopefully, all of us can get to the other side of COVID-19 with mountains of growth and the best possible outcomes.
Ashley Kellish is an ANA Consultant for the Transition to Practice Program (PTAP).
Reprinted with permission from the American Nurse Journal