Where I personally gained more growth as a leader was in my Nursing Forums.
The nursing forums were held consistently. They were scheduled every other month, on even months, on the third Thursday, twice during the afternoon, and the same during that night (Friday AM), at two o’clock and two forty-five. This way the staffs could switch out and cover for each other. Additional Forums were scheduled during an odd month as needed.
I started by handing out a current CNO Newsletter that reported on all events, project updates, quality dashboards, staff introductions and etcetera. This served as an agenda.
Attendance and Participation and Flip Charts
Attendance varied according to what was happening in the hospital. The night shifts were often more attended and more lively. My goal was to get everyone to speak. If one person dominated, I would move it along by going around the room to get others to comment. I always had flip chart paper on the walls where I wrote the nurses’ thoughts, concerns, complaints, and suggestions as they stated them. Writing things on the flip chart papers where everyone can see helps to clarify the message or point, helps to keep conversations moving, shows people that they have been heard, provides a clear list of follow-ups staff can expect.
After the forums, I wrote up the notes from the flip chart papers and sent them to the nurse leaders and department heads to share and for any follow-ups.
What I Learned Personally
These were pivotal experiences for me; this is where my authenticity and caring connections as a leader emerged. It had taken time for me to develop a comfort with these kinds of open forums. In my early years as a nurse administrator, standing up in front of groups of sometimes-angry nurses was scary. By the time I was a CNO, I was handling myself with more ease. I had the benefit of experience and the realization that the only barrier to authentic connection with nurses was me.
What I Learned About Communications With Nurses
- Nurses are fierce about issues they care about, not angry.
- The more often I had the forums, the less tension there was.
- I didn’t need to know all the answers, and I didn’t need to be right all the time.
- I learned to stop debating and to respond from within—what I valued, what I thought was right, what I felt and what I feared.
- At one point, I knew that the quicker I dropped sounding like the company line, the quicker we connected and the more chance we had to move forward together.
- These forums were a time to listen for truth and feel the staff vibes.
- Sometimes conversations where raw and contentious, which allowed honesty to surface.
- I knew that when nurses spoke their truths, it was real, and it was my job to understand the message.
The Hard Realities and Expectations Get Covered
This approach still allowed the hard issues to be covered, but with assurance that all sides would be heard. Clear expectations are needed for the best results. The thing that was different here is the presentation and the conversations are more open.
After the Forums on Thursday afternoon, I scheduled myself to go home by 5 pm ;and sleep from 8 pm to 1230am.
After the Forums on Friday morning, I made rounds (usually). Having alone time in my office in the middle of the night was really nice. I typed up the Forum Notes and emailed them out. Even the non-nursing department heads started looking for the notes on Forum months. I loved that.
I was usually done by noon ish.
My goal was to go home by noon on these Fridays (I usually did ). This was my reward.