by Paula Manuel Staff Nurse Interest Group

via Joy in work – pictorial 

To lead change  means you have given great thought to what the goal is for the team, indeed the alignment of the goal with the mission, vision, and values is significant.  The alignment with the team members is not always cut and dried, the process is dynamic and the experience can be exhilarating to frustrating, rewarding to having doubt.

A formal or informal leadership role the ability to recruit followers, engage and sustain their interest one needs multiple approaches, resiliency, optimism, flexibility, desire to learn and Emotional Quotient can be components in the toolbox.

The team I lead has employees who vary in motivation, self awareness, and possess variable critical thinking skills. and mixed with that are the elements of collective agreement content, legislation, standards of practice, and the organizational mission, vision, and values. The path to change a culture is not for the faint hearted, it requires vision, stamina, resilience, building trust, continuously build and sustain connections, scan the environment, respond not react, and foster mentoring behaviours.

The pillars of leadership (Stein, 2017)  that you can cultivate include authenticity, coaching, insight, and innovation.

Authenticity the real you is what needs to be shown in a consistent and credible way.  You need to be viewed by others as fair, consistent, demonstrate integrity and transparency, there is also another feature humility.  Leaders with authenticity are role models, inspire others to be fair and moral and you respect them; these are leaders who you esteem and are confident about.

Coaching is the ability to mentor and collaborate with team members; as a leader is not an enforcer that is the manager aspect of my job.  The coach walks around the unit, connects with team members, has one on one meetings and key is to act on concerns, needs, support team members and align actions that staff want to be on the team.

Insight is to truly understand what the team/organization is about, the core mission and values and know how to communicate those elements in a form that inspires staff, patients, and families.  Do you know your higher purpose?  I know that first and foremost I am a healer.  Whatever role is placed within my influence my core being is to heal others.

Innovation is to harness the energy of creativity, to learn how to take risks, to encourage autonomy, to provide ongoing opportunities to gain knowledge, and mistakes or failures are opportunities to learn from not punish individuals.

Are leaders born–no; there are intrinsic personality traits that can provide advantages, the true measures are mentoring, encouragement, opportunities, clarity of what is to be done, and mix in some resiliency, confidence, and you are really on your way.  Informal or formal roles there are ample opportunities to develop leadership skills and there is certainly room for our world to encourage authenticity, moral courage, and can do attitude.  Namaste

The previous blog post Brand New Year outlined a number of steps for anyone who desires to change some aspect of their life–incorporating a self assessment, re-scanning your environment, organizing your thoughts into the columns Purpose Practice Passion. 

Now you will notice it’s taken until September to enter this post and that reflects my work reality of gridlock, flu outbreak, day-to-day operations, and managing any myriad of projects, incidents, strategic planning processes, budget items, and the top tasks; payroll, scheduling,  well you get the idea.

Now Human beings management–coaching, debriefing, teaching, and prn discipline is definitely in the top 10.  Managing escalations whether staff related, patient care focused, and/or family members who are key to any patient’s status are not daily but certainly require time, effort, and stamina.

Now it’s not all work I have played golf fairly regularly, invested in lessons, had a vacation to recharge my physical and mental batteries. My backyard is a source for chores and a place to relax and watch the flowers grow (daresay also the rapid and lush growth of weeds).

So if you are a Type A you likely forged on your own to build goals, launched your plan, strived for utter perfection, and some have had success and others found their plan this week with dust on it.  If you have dear reader waited, my apologies for the delay you need to retrieve your document of thoughts……

Now you may have a few thoughts or many, the key is to choose one item/task/aspect of life and focus on this in a mindful way.  Yes it does mean using a format like SMART, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time based (you can use other terms i.e. significant, stretching, meaningful, motivational, achievable, action-oriented, tangible, trackable).

Specific W’s

What do you want to accomplish?   Why is this important to you?  Who will be included? Where will it happen? Which resources are needed and identify limits.  Money is a resource if hiring a personal trainer.  The more details you include builds within you a vision of just what you plan to change.

Measurable H’s

How will you know you are succeeding? How many steps are needed?  How will I track my progress?


It’s good to stretch yourself but beware of the desire to be perfect, none of us are and we need to be ready and kind to ourselves when lapses occur.  Being realistic indeed honest with yourself is key to transforming your life, constraints are a reality creativity can be tapped to overcome them.


As a word it fits in with achievable, so the real questions include; is this goal relevant to you, does it fit your values, is the timing right, do you have the skill, readiness, drive, indeed passion to make it happen?  Remember you have to retain ownership of your goal, you cannot assign your Purpose, Practice, Passion to someone else to do for you.  Change, real and sustained is what you provide in say sweat equity.  For example weight loss it’s you that has to move your body, change your diet, commit to a time and invest resources.


This goal, the start of many successful ones, need a target date for you to review your progress–to celebrate a milestone, specific timelines and targets keep your goal from being lost.  Everyday tasks, chores, demands, traffic, family and friends can overwhelm you so keep your priority in sight.  It may be a week, a month, keep it to three months max to review your progress.  Be kind to yourself it’s not a race but an evolution.  Time is time, it’s interesting our species lived a long time without measuring minutes, seconds, even hours, try living without a clock–gives one a sense of more time.


Brand New Year

2016 was much like an eye blink it came and went so quickly and I am thankful I have this ongoing blog to capture my perspectives, indeed grateful for so many aspects of my life and nursing practice.  Yes my every day job is a manager position but the template of my practice continues to be one of a registered nurse.  This fall into winter period was celebratory and perhaps some degree of wistfulness, as I witness my nephew transforming from layperson to a nurse.  His method of speaking, his thinking patterns are altering, along with balancing academic work and living away from home. His first semester was a success completing his final exams, passing his clinical lab and now he is back in his residence like so many developing professionals to start semester 2.

I have never been a proponent of New Years Resolutions the timing to change is an individual one and when I determine changes are needed, the best approach has been to follow a clear and precise process. The ability to change starts with recognizing there is a gap, dissatisfaction, discomfort, and/or by acknowledging a vision, inspiration, perhaps in a very literal sense a sirensong that invites you to transform where you are to a new place.  A change plan requires some work to be done before, during and after.   Note you need to literally build space to make a change whether it’s time, environment, emotion, etc.

A key step is to declutter my immediate area where I will reflect on exactly what I am going to change.  I find it therapeutic to collect, recycle, reassign, and discard what is no longer needed i.e. clothes, physical items, attitudes, bias, people, regrets, doubts.  I use specific items such as a notebook strictly for reflections, a good quality pen, and on the different pages list headings that frame the process used (allowing that at different times, different changes, the requirements can change).  Handwriting versus keyboarding it’s a matter of preference though my wise self emerges more readily when a pen moves across a page of paper.

  1. List of gratitudes whether people, abilities, places, blessings, provides an exercise to be thankful indeed be mindful of what my life is right now.  It’s more formal when written but it works equally well even mentally listing my gratitudes upon waking up or before sleeping.
  2. When I identify what needs to be changed I draft a chart that has headings for 90 days, 180 days, 360 days, 3 years,  7 years, and my changes fit into domains that I identify as priorities:  self, family, friends, professional, community, fun, finance, and if the pen is not moving on the page….
  3. I list 3 headings Purpose Practice & Passion and allow a veritable free form of expression to flow down the columns.
  4. A highlighter pen (consider multiple pens) as I review what is written it helps to highlight values, concerns, strengths, needs, assign a different colour for each variable.
  5. The wise self will emerge to guide the next step–identify the change needed, priority one, and/or reveal what is really bothering you?

Wise self? Your inner voice the real you, some of you may already be very connected to your voice of creativity, you may know of it as self-actualized.  That is where you may pause and consider that this aspect of your life requires support from a physical and emotional frame of mind that will optimize your mindset to be transformed, to make a leap, and appreciate it takes effort, sweat equity, engagement whatever road you need to access– to move from where you are now to a new sense of reality.  Still with me….

stay tuned for the next step ….this post will likely keep you occupied for a bit.  Namaste.

Photo Art

[gallery type=”slideshow”]

The past couple of weeks my management practice has involved crucial discussions with families about their loved ones.  For one patient it was his family’s frustration of emergency services more about chaos than serving an elderly, sick, and vulnerable patient.  Transferred to the inpatient unit only to be treated with indifference by some and the prolonged wait for a call bell to be answered, confusion that 24 hour care was needed to keep him safe but here he was in a room by himself….The mixed messages from the health team “you need to stay”  “no you need to leave now there’s no room for all of you” “I don’t have any information to give you, besides privacy laws forbid me and I have only had the patient four hours, and the doctor is the one to provide the test results and what will be the plan of care”.

The second family their loved one had been in and out of various hospitals, his condition a mixture of co-morbidities that included metastases, renal failure, cardiac issues, profound deconditoning, and the family were absolutely dead set against palliation.  Their perspective he just needed more nutrition, a concrete plan to get him moving, and to get him home.  Suffice to say it took a number of discussions, a discharge that ended in a re-admit in less than 24 hours, the persistence to explore and build trust and display empathy, coach the staff on viewing the family not as difficult but distressed and how could we de-stress them.  To gently move a wife from denying her spouse was dying, “don’t talk like that in front of my husband….it no good for him to hear such talk” “the team say there’s no use, it’s hopeless, how do they know…he is a fighter he has survived more predictions from doctors  ‘he’s dying’, than a cat” “we do not want the doctors to actively end his life….so palliative care is a way of supporting him not pushing for death” 

A major focus in many organizations is to design and deliver their services to increase customer satisfaction and in the domain of health care the patient/client experience. Patients within the last decade or so have been told they are major stakeholders in the health care system.  Their health status reflects where they live, what choices they have made, we can assess how determinants of health influence their lives related to income, gender, culture, language, education status, from demographics to death rates we can amass a mountain of data.

Concurrently we have seen the emergence of the consumer movement, the shift from doing care to them to delivering care with them.  You see this in the language of forming partnerships, acknowledging and encouraging empowerment because we need to remember it is their health condition.  As nurses we need to be mindful of their intrinsic strength to manage their ailment, to be aware of the potential of power imbalances, not to be judgmental about choices made, or to be frustrated when they share their expert opinions and perspectives on their care needs, priorities, and expectations.  Many of us will recognize the challenges when family or patients share their perspectives, question the modalities of care and consult Dr. Google via the internet then quiz you on why X is not being done.

Let’s consider how we used to measure a patient’s success we used rates of compliance and judged their success on meeting criteria usually set by us “the professionals”, for the patient it required them to be passive; following instructions contained within treatment protocols, and if a patient challenged the status quo of their relationship with the professionals, acted in a “rebellious” fashion, were incompetent, and or a nuisance they would be deemed non-compliant aka not getting with the program.

Adherence at least acknowledges that a patient has a more active role than simply follow directions or a directive; collaboration takes place in the context of unconditional support to motivate a patient; to follow the advice provided, as well patient acceptance is connected to the trust they have in their team, supporting their ability to self-regulate an illness/condition or treatments.

Concordance is an active process for both the professional and the patient as it entails building a relationship, being mindful that in our interactions we need to consider the two sets of health beliefs involved. In this way a shared decision can be made that fully considers the patient and the health care team’s beliefs and preferences and to recognize that the patient’s views are paramount = health beliefs.  Mutually the care providers and the patients will share their perspectives, respect for the patient’s point of view is vital to forming a therapeutic alliance. This alliance though reciprocal requires us “the professionals” to remember the most important determinations are those made by the patient.  This for me captures how we provide nursing with the patient not to the patient.

Health care agencies, organizations, clinics et al measure a number of outcomes and patient experience is a significant factor to confirm the staff are delivering on the why and how of quality patient centred care. The patient’s (or family member) perception is the only input into patient experience, as health care professionals we provide our knowledge, skills, and attitudes to provide patient centred care that includes respect and dignity, information sharing, participation, and collaboration.  A patient could be anywhere on the continuum of engaged to disconnected.  The patient who is emotionally involved in their health and well being will be more likely to share key aspects of their condition, participate in a plan of action, adhere to the plan, actively engage in using communication technologies i.e. email, Telehomecare, Skype, interact with other patients and the ultimate engagement have a positive influence on their own health status.

The vignettes shared from my practice illustrate the challenges the health care team can face when some core competencies are not provided.  Listening, empathy, share information and understand when privacy standards apply, build trust, share knowledge, be hopeful and realistic all are in the domains of nursing practice and yes they take practice to master them.  One of the patients is close to being discharged back to his long term care facility, the other patient passed quickly through a respiratory phase that ended his life.  His wife was called and as gently as can be done over the phone told of his breathing problem, he died before she arrived to the bedside and the nurses assured her he was not alone, he did not suffer, he went to sleep and they maintained their quiet vigil of being a presence and providing privacy.


On any given day or night the following scenario may be seen, two nurses speaking to one another perhaps during shift change, or a call for help with an assignment.  One says “I need help with the patient in Room XXX”, the other nurse responds “what’s wrong with you, you have the lightest assignment and you can’t cope with it”

In the nursing station a nurse asks the responsible physician “why are we adding to this patient’s pain and suffering?  It does not seem to be the right thing…..”  The doctor responds “It’s what the family wants–they want everything done and now everything is about patient experience scores”

These two vignettes though limited in detail provide a snapshot of conversations that occur  for any number of nurses; conflict about what is valued, how one can be perceived, and how to navigate an ethical dilemma when there are competing priorities.  Nursing is a practice discipline and the ethical frameworks we utilize have to consider our perspectives as an individual, within an organization, and the society we live in.  The real life experience of professional values is framed within our education, affiliation with our regulatory bodies, self-reflection about our life experiences related to gender, culture, family, community, and religion to name a few.

One of my courses generated an opportunity to consider in more depth the professional values of nursing  (Shaw and Degazon, 2008) highlighted how nursing programs would need to be more diverse i.e. cultural, racial, age, gender etc. a significant driver for this change was the retiring workforce and high nursing turnover (US based). Their view was that a common nursing ideology and mission were needed so that bridges will be created among nurses of varied backgrounds. The process would involve modifying old personal and professional values and internalizing new ones. The core professional nursing values, not dissimilar from Canada, were adopted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in 1998. The values adopted were:

  • altruism,
  • autonomy,
  • human dignity,
  • integrity,
  • social justice.

The article described how nursing students were initially  consumers as they internalized the professional values and the challenges they had as graduates as they transitioned into professional settings, and some employers did not engage in the process of socializing new nurses. The level of support that would include casual and/or part time status versus full time permanent positions.

Altruism is a traditional value considered a primary motivation for entering the nursing profession, the words devotion, caring for others, selflessness are some of the characteristics; but many contemporary students are focused on financial incentives, career mobility and stability. Shaw and Degazon pointed out that altruism must be taught, learned, and integrated into practice, thereby a common understanding will emerge of the meaning and satisfaction of helping others.

Autonomy includes self-determination and being self-directed, and how nurses need to support patients in their decision-making especially when different from their own values. The skill of collaboration is needed with patients, families, and colleagues regarding sensitive topics i.e. end of life, and having awareness of the dilemmas encountered in professional practice when conflicting views and value-laden issues arise. Subjectively a nurse needs to know their own cultural values and consider the elements of truth telling, self-determination and individual options.

Human Dignity this value is the basis of respectful treatment to patients, families, and colleagues and interactions will be more therapeutic, productive, and professional. The caution by the authors was to be aware of the role assumptions may play in personal and professional endeavours, also known as biases, whereby you may not interact with an individual but instead use your assumptions about that individual.

Integrity is linked to the Code of Ethics and the principles of non-maleficence, beneficence, fidelity, veracity, and social justice. The focus on this value was how contemporary society has many examples of ethical standards and integrity lapses by government officials i.e. NY governor and call girls, business executives i.e. Enron, and clergy i.e. priests. The need for integrity by nurses in practice is how we merit public trust. Shaw and Degazon profiled how a number of immigrants admitted to bending the rules to cope with a complex immigration process and making things happen was considered a higher purpose. As nurses we can acknowledge a client/patient’s perspective, but as nurses we understand that knowledge and application of professional standards translates into accountability.

Social Justice is “the moral and ethical imperative to respect the basic rights of others” (Shaw & Degazon, 2008, p.49) and how collective action enhances the power of individuals to create change for individuals, families and communities. Within this value the phrase “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” by Confucius is a nurse’s ability to recognize the impact of social policy, and to know about the rich legacy nurses have in activism to improve social and health opportunities and outcomes i.e. SARS, closing coal plants, equal rights for disabled persons, sexual orientation, bullying.

In terms of consumers Bowman (1997) outlined how bioethics had evolved from Western moral philosophy and Western biomedical perspectives. Our patients and families may have very different perceptions, experiences, and explanations of illness as their world-view could be Western or non-Western and this will affect cultural context, how illness is explained, and locus of control. So autonomy maybe a value for some of the consumers but others will value interdependence. Bowman also highlighted how the Western perspective can be an either/or and a non-Western perspective maybe grounded in a dynamic equilibrium i.e. yin and yang.

Truth-telling has a high value in the Western view seen as the patient’s “right to know”, and for the non-Western view it can range from believing the patient should not be told, to the family are given the information and they’re expected to inform and support the patient. Bowman illustrated how important it was to explore the “consumer’s” cultural perspective, as professionals it would be safe to say there is value in clarifying their world view and we have to be open and receptive.

Our professional values likely complement the ones held by our public. So to answer the question similar or different values for nurses from the public; I say on most values we are on the same page and the differences mean we have subjects to explore and to gain insight i.e. to the diversity of world views. Our health care services need to reflect cultural pluralism and here’s the challenge… how to effectively do that in the climate of limited resources, time pressure, and the high value placed on efficiency. Human beings are not tidy boxes, indeed we are not working on widgets but complex beings.  Patient experience metrics and values stay tuned.  Namaste

Sources: Shaw, H.K., & Degazon, C. (2008). Integrating core professional values of nursing: A profession, not just a career. Journal of Cultural Diversity, (15)1, 44-50

Bowman, K. (1997). BIOETHICS AND CULTURAL PLURALISM. Humane Health Care International. Volume 13 (2), 31-34

%d bloggers like this: