If 2020 has taught us anything about the nursing profession, it’s that nurses have to be leaders for our country to make it through a pandemic. While often called “soft skills” of leadership, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that the hardest skills for nurses to master are navigating conflict, promoting resilience, engaging a team, communicating, and reducing negativity. These skills are all crucial for the Charge RN. As the C-suite is now acknowledging the valuable role that first-level supervisory nurses play, nurse executives should put this thinking into action by budgeting for Charge RN development. More than ever, there should be intention around preparing less experienced nurses for future leadership roles.
The truth is, the Charge RN role is a position that many nurses may not proactively seek. Clinical nursing education typically does not prepare bedside nurses for supervisory responsibilities. Many hospitals still have no formal program to prepare nurses for this “promotion.” But now there is increased awareness within health systems that a lack of role clarity and management skill leads to inefficiency and job dissatisfaction. And when a nurse is frustrated with a first leadership experience, it is possible she stops pursuing those roles, at a time when we need nurse leaders more than ever.
Here are 6 reasons to budget for Charge Nurse development:
It will show Charge Nurses how their Leadership, Morale, and Team Communication Contribute to Organization Success – Especially During Times of COVID-19, and possibly a bad Flu Season
Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges and uncertainty. But it has also presented unexpected opportunities, showing nurses that they can and must lead, for our nation to heal. Charge RNs need to be taught to maintain leadership presence and communicate frequent, transparent, and informative messages to their bedside nursing teams. Leadership development is one way to prepare them for this. During these uncertain times, Charge RNs should have L&D that encourages suggesting new ideas, how to consider alternate plans of action, provide on-the-fly feedback on new work processes, and rapidly help their team adjust to new tactics.
Learning communication is especially key for frontline supervisory nurses right now, as large group in-person large team meetings are not happening because of COVID-19. Front-line supervisory nurses must decipher system-wide phone briefings for their teams, communicate policy updates, discuss COVID-19 topics with their team, communicate equipment and supply chain issues, and share staffing issues as they arise.
Dealing with nurse team morale, while not a new issue for Charge Nurses, is a tougher challenge than it has been in recent history. Morale is down because some younger nurses feel like “it will always be like this,” and some units experience PPE body heat and general fatigue with wearing it which contributes to low morale. There may be team incivility caused by news and events, plus a fear nurses have of taking the virus home, and a general feeling that the COVID-19 sprint has now become a marathon. Given all this, Charge RNs need preparation to deal with morale and negativity that creep into the workplace.
Leadership development is key for job morale. As a Charge Nurse serves as a resource to other nurses for clinical direction, preparing them helps job morale of the entire staff. Organizations need Charge RNs who can be calm in emergency situations, and can keep an eye on the entire unit. This winter may be a viral nightmare in the U.S. – so now is the best time for your Charge Nurse to feel prepared and excited to lead with Charge RN leadership development.
Make sure the role is clear, and has clear expectations
The initial step when preparing the first-level supervisory nurse is to define the role of the Charge RN inside the organization, then be consistent. Success is achieved when new Charge Nurses have a clear understanding of their goals and obligations. For example, determine whether the Charge Nurse will take on a full patient load. It should also be clear how the Charge Nurse should act in terms of delegating work to staff members and how he or she will be using computer systems and other technology. Development and planning for Charge Nurse leadership development helps establish expectations and gets nurses to buy in.
As the baby boom generation heads for the door and younger nurses take charge, preparing staff members for these open leadership roles is time consuming. But this step in succession planning is necessary and highly beneficial. Many larger systems have an official nurse succession plan in place and Charge Nurse development is starting to become a part of those plans at U.S. hospitals. East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC) has an official nurse succession plan which compliments its overall organization goals to develop employees from within. Read More – An Official Nurse Succession Plan at EAMC.
Alternative job perk
As the labor market is already near full employment and a nursing shortage looms, organizations are getting creative in offering non-traditional perks. Usually alternative perks are thought to just include lifestyle assistance programs/EAP’s, financial assistance programs, or free daycare, but investing in development of nurses shows how the hospital values their contributions and sees promise in potential, and becomes an alternative job perk. Be sure to communicate how Charge Nurse training shows organization excitement in the career path of its nurses.
More informed financial discussions with Nurse Managers and other Senior Leaders
Nursing executives generally agree that financial indicators of hospital success and reimbursement are often not understood by bedside nurses. This may be intentional, because nurse executives may not want to inundate nurses with too much information or bureaucracy. But there are several reasons to teach Charge RNs about financial issues they impact. It will prepare them for future leadership roles, allow them to have more informed conversations with Nurse Managers and other senior leaders, allows them to take an ownership stake in VBP, it improves nurse communication and can help save money. To learn more, refer to our related blog article, Why Teach Charge Nurses About Financial Success Indicators.
Positive first leadership experience produces a pipeline of future Nurse Managers
Setting expectations for the responsibilities and characteristics of a successful Charge Nurse by having an official orientation helps new nurse leaders embrace their role. Much research shows that nurses who have a bad experience in a first leadership role are more reluctant to pursue further leadership roles. If this promotion reluctance happens, filling Nurse Manager roles with qualified internal candidates becomes tougher than it already is. When a nurse is successful in leadership early, it is a benefit to your organization and fills the pipeline for future Nurse Managers.
“When the Soft Skills Become the Hard Skills,” Emerging RN Leader, Rose O. Sherman, August 27 2020
“COVID-19: The Nurse Leader Perspective 6 Months Later (Thoughts from Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Caregiver Officer), Consult QD, K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, September 3, 2020
“Nursing leadership during COVID-19: Enhancing patient, family and workforce experience,” Patient Experience Journal, article 27; Anne Aquilia (Yale New Haven Health), Karen Grimley (UCLA Health), Barbara Jacobs (Anne Arundel Medical Center), Maryellen Kosturko (Yale New Haven Health), Jerry Mansfield (Mount Carmel Health System/Trinity Health)