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Why Training Nurse Leaders Matters

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 16, 2011

The last thing most hospitals want to do in a time of financial uncertainty is spend money on training and development. We know, however, that poor managers harm retention and productivity and we know that many nurse leaders feel unprepared to manage through the strategic change their organizations need.

Lillee Gelinas, vice president and chief nursing officer at VHA Inc., holds regular CNO group meetings for nurse executives across her health system. At the last one, Gelinas says the group of 100 CNOs decided to focus not on a single topic, such as value-based purchasing, but on innovation and leading change. The group felt they do not possess the skills and competencies to lead an organization through whole-scale transformation.

This is true for many healthcare executives, but the problem is particularly acute for nursing leaders who started out in clinical settings and rose through the ranks with fewer opportunities for formal business training.

Many choose to return to school for MBAs or other degrees that will hone their business acumen. Kim Sharkey, CNO/vice president of medicine at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Atlanta, already held an MBA when she decided to pursue a doctor of nursing practice degree.

"In my role, where I am VP for medicine, I work with doctoral-prepared medical practitioners," says Sharkey. She asked herself, "Do I really want to be the least educated person at the table?"

"I needed to find a program that would allow me to gain that skill and knowledge," she says. "It has really expanded my vision, scope of thinking, my ability to access and use evidence-based practice. It puts me at a more advantageous position at the table negotiating with other people."

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3 comments on "Why Training Nurse Leaders Matters"


Diana Rovira (8/30/2011 at 11:31 AM)
In response to the comment made by C. McCoy: You are never too old to add your education. Based on your comment about your facility eventually requiring RNs to have a BSN you would be very wise to obtain that degree while you are still employed. Based on my experience I can definitely say that if you lose your job at your age it is extremely difficult to find another job and may be impossible. I lost my job in 2005 39 days short of my 18th year with the organization. In 2008 I decided to pursue my MSN at the age of 51 in hopes of returning to active nursing practice. I graduated in June 2010. Since graduation I have put in over 100 job applications with very few interviews. In October I will turn 54 and I am still unable to find a nursing job despite having 20+ years of nursing experience in a variety of clinical areas, keeping my licensure active and maintaining certifications in BLS & ACLS. The excuses given by the nurse recruiters in my area is my lack of recent clinical experience. I have not been actively employed since 2005. I am now investigating the possibility of taking an RN re-entry course. Don't lose your job because you don't have a BSN. You might find yourself in the same situation I am in. With our economy the way it is now the job market is extremely tough. I have had to complete all of my job applications on-line.

R. Henn (8/17/2011 at 1:48 PM)
C.Coy I am in a similar situation. I was downsized post company merger in 2000. I had a BS in production management from a school of engineering at that time. I then earned my ASN. My plan was to combine my business acumen with my new clinical skills and knowledge to move into a leadership role in healthcare.I also earned my MBA. I eventually took a position with a large health insurance Co. in order to gain knowledge of the financial aspect of healthcare. I now have great perspective on healthcare, and I am pursuing a move into the provider side of healthcare. I want to bring my knowledge, skills, and experience to a leadership role from which I can contribute to the further success of an organization. It has been very difficult. My philosophy is that fresh eyes are great for an organization - at least for those that truly want change.

C McCoy (8/17/2011 at 10:31 AM)
I agree nurse leaders need business management education. But hospitals, especially those with Magnet designation, need to re-evaluate their core requirements for who can be titled "manager." I have a BS in management and 30 years of operations management experience, but am not qualified to be a manager in my Magnet hospital because I have an ADN. I was over 50 when I became an RN and will not be pursuing a BSN or higher as there would not be a return on that investment. It is likely my hospital will require all RNs to pursue a BSN. That's when they will lose my talent and experience. What a waste.