Deliberate leadership during COVID-19

Author(s): Ashley Kellish, DNP, RN, CCNS

Three strategies nurse leaders can use

Fear, resilience, unprecedented, unknown. These are just a few words now circling our vocabulary with the onset of COVID-19. In a short time, we’ve implemented national social distancing, started homeschooling our children, and shared the biggest news of our lives through glass windows to protect our family and friends. In the workplace, nurses face an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment to safely care for patients with COVID-19. How do we as nurse leaders engage our teams, prevent burnout, and heal the stress this pandemic has created for our workforce?

We can apply three strategies to weather this storm. In my experience, through deliberate authenticity, transparency, and most of all, love, we can care for our teams so they can care for the patients who need it most.

Authenticity

Deliberate authenticity comes from knowing yourself and maintaining that self no matter who you’re communicating with. As leaders, ensuring that our nursing teams trust us and know that we’re communicating with them authentically is more important than ever. This isn’t the time to forecast fear, withhold information, or turn away from our teams.

Fear can cause misinformation and negative feelings to spread. Therefore, providing your teams with honest information at set times and ensuring that they, too, can share information in ways that are meaningful to them is critical. If you don’t know something, say so. Authentic communication will help you avoid distrust, resentment, and anger.

Transparency

You can’t be authentic without being transparent. Look to your organization’s leaders to determine a plan of transparent communication about practice changes, new procedures, and what’s simply unknown at this point. Ask your nursing teams to share their out-of-the-box ideas to manage unique patient situations. For instance, some teams are keeping infusion pumps outside of patient rooms and entering COVID-19–positive rooms as little as possible to avoid exposure. Instead of avoiding the barriers to this type of care, discuss how to manage it and what might go wrong in open staff forums to gain as much insight and input as possible. Lack of sufficient masks is another topic of concern and fear. Look to one another, your teams, and other organizations to work through this challenge. Procedures and guidelines are chang­ing literally every shift, but if your teams have transparent leaders they trust, they will more readily carry out these changes.

Love

Love may not seem like a leadership strategy, but after many years as a mentor, colleague, and nurse leader, I’ve found that if I truly love those I am leading, they feel it. With that love comes respect, validation, and a sense of appreciation for the hours spent endlessly providing care. When nurses feel respected by their leadership team, they feel pride in their work. They feel valued, and they want to come to work to get the job done.

In my experience, teams that work in authentic, transparent environments filled with love have high morale. They function safely and aren’t afraid to speak up and share ideas. During this period of overwhelming stress—both in the workplace and at home—teams can come together under leaders engaging in these strategies and feel more united than ever before. They can care for one another as much as their patients. Then, hopefully, all of us will reach the other side of COVID-19 with mountains of growth and the best possible outcomes.

Ashley Kellish is an American Nurses Association consultant for the American Nurses Credentialing Center Practice Transition Accreditation Program® (PTAP).

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