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Why Training Nurse Leaders Matters

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 16, 2011

Not everyone has the time or inclination to pursue advanced degrees. There are options such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Executive Nurse Fellows initiative or the American Organization of Nurse Executive's Nurse Manager Fellowship, but these are few and far between.

Some organizations create their own nurse leadership programs, which is what United Healthcare Group has done. The company employs more than 7,000 nurses in 43 states, making it one of the largest employers of nurses in the U.S.

The idea began a couple of years ago, says Dawn Bazarko, senior VP of UnitedHealth's Center for Nursing Advancement. "We observed there were needs around leadership development," she says. "There were not enough nurses at the table and their voices were not being heard. Given changing healthcare and the fact nurses make up the largest portion of it, we saw a missed opportunity and a chance for us to invest in nursing in a different kind of way, for us to prepare leaders to serve in larger roles."

The Center for Nursing Advancement focuses on nurse engagement strategies and training, development, and mentoring for nursing professionals within UnitedHealth. In conjunction with the University of St. Thomas, Bazarko created an executive development program specifically for nurse leaders.

"We could bring out untapped potential," says Bazarko. "Move our nurses into senior leadership roles. Many didn't have the skills and competencies to move into these roles."

"We designed a curriculum based on a number of needs assessments and put together a cohort-based intensive," she says. The program lasted just two weeks and offered a variety of executive leadership development competencies. It provided training about strategy, finances, change management, ethics, and business communication, all centered around the creation of a nurse leader profile.

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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.