Cultivating Nurse Leaders

Whether they are in the C-Suite or the intensive care unit, professional development is critical to all nurses. Recognizing nurse leaders might not have the same learning opportunities as staff nurses, last year, the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., launched a front-line leadership course for nurse managers.

The eight-part course was developed by the corporate education office of the hospital’s parent company, Universal Health System, which saw a need to develop nursing leaders. Under the guidance of Rose Labriola, EdD, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer and Eugenia Powell, Phd, RN, NEA-BC, director of professional development, George Washington University Hospital modified it to meet their needs. Each session was offered twice per month to maximize attendance potential and nurse managers, clinical supervisors and charge nurses attended.


Management Topics

Powell explained, “How to hone in on transformational leadership skills was main theme.” Topics for discussion included the front-line nurse leader as chief retention officer, where nurses learned how trust and active listening can retain staff; effective delegation or how to hold staff accountable; motivating and coaching staff, and on the flip-side, disciplining staff; best practices for using data to drive outcomes in the unit; evidence-based practice and nursing research for quality improvement; financial guidelines for reconciling productivity; patient experience and patient culture, where nurses learned communication tools that hard-wired safety into the work day; and stress management and succession planning for nurse leaders.

Sarita Rhodes-Vivour, MSN, RN, CCRN, nurse manager of an internal medicine unit, appreciated that the teachers were fellow nurse leaders from the hospital. “They understand our day-to-day so we could be more candid,” she noted.

Classes, held in the hospital auditorium, consisted of a variety of teaching styles, including dialogue, small groups, role-playing, videos and self-assessments. “The content was applicable and not just conceptual. We drilled it down to the day-to-day operations,” said Powell. Classes included examples of real cases to evaluate.

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LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Meedie Bardonille and Sarita Rhodes-Vivour, two nurse managers at the George Washington University Hospital, took the leadership course. Kyle Kielinski /thanks to The George Washington University Hospital, Washington, D.C.

“It was a good opportunity for us to talk about what we’re doing in real time,” Rhodes-Vivour explained.


Stronger Relationships

Going into the program, according to Powell, the goal was to “enhance and improve nurse leadership competencies.” The participants assessed their own management styles throughout the eight months. Rhodes-Vivour explained, “You can easily get wrapped up in stuff and make an emotional decision that could be detrimental.” Instead, the nurse managers learned about emotional intelligence and best practices for decision making.

One key part of nurse leadership is developing critical relationships with staff. Powell said, “If you’re a leader, it is important how you connect with your staff. It’s how you move to another level.” Connection means hearing them and letting them be involved in decision making.

The nurses who went through the program shared positive feedback. Rhodes-Vivour, for one, thinks it is an excellent opportunity for those nurses who are new to leadership roles, as it gives them a new foundation from which to grow.

Overall, the nurse managers enjoyed it immensely and were grateful the hospital offered the training. George Washington University Hospital is looking to repeat the course again this year for newly-hired managers and supervisors.


Danielle Bullen is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact [email protected]

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