Effective Nurse Leaders

I will be presenting on sustainability here at EVAW this morning, and one of the areas of focus will be the nexus of nursing leadership and staff retention. I've always said that when looking for guidance for effective recruiting, a lot of the nursing literature isn't relevant, because the role of SANE has so many elements of volunteerism (both figuratively and literally) that the nonprofit literature's often a better fit. However, when it comes to retention, the nursing literature's right on the money. Particularly as it pertains to nursing leadership and how it impacts retention rates.

The Studer Group, in an article published on strategies for nurse retention, had this to say about nursing leaders:

"One of the top qualities nurses need to be happy is having a good nurse leader," says Quint Studer, president of the Studer Group and author of Hardwiring Excellence (Fire Starter Publishing, 2004). As a health care consultant who works with nurses across the country, Studer sees an increased need for training nurses who are promoted to leadership positions.
"Being a good nurse doesn't automatically make you a good leader," Studer says. "If you're going to promote a nurse to a leadership position, you need to give them the training they need to be successful in their new roles."
Studer is also a big proponent of nurse rounding.
"Once nurse leaders are trained, they need to have a regular presence in their units," Studer says. "Leaders should be approachable and recognize the accomplishments of their staff, both in person and through written thank-you notes."
In addition to recognizing stellar performers, nurse leaders should be cognizant of employees who don't hold their own.
"Low performers can suck the energy out of other staff members," Studer says. "If someone isn't doing their job, these issues need to be immediately addressed."
Nurse leaders need to do more than oversee staff; they also need to build relationships with their direct reports, Studer says.
"Ask your staff what systems need to be improved and what tools and equipment they need to do their jobs better," Studer says. "If they don't feel adequately prepared to do their jobs, they will leave, so make sure they have access to continuing education and professional development programs."

I think this is fantatsic information. And it as easily applies to forensic nursing as any other type of nursing. Even in programs managed by non-nurses, this info is useful because it reminds us that nursing leadership isn't just about titles. It's much more grounded in actions than job descriptions at its core. If you are one of the many advocacy run programs out there, consider identifying nurse leaders on your team who have the ability to lead by example in the clinical arena, talk frankly with other members of the team about their needs for education and tools and generally provide mentorship to new nursing staff on your teams. This small change in organizational structure could have surprising impact on your retention rates.