Traditionally, nursing schools use an apprentice model for educating future nurses. The traditional learning system casts student nurses as being rule followers by stewards who are heavily policy and procedure driven. It’s true that policies and procedures are the safety nets that prevent harm in patient care. But when the learning environment becomes stalled, future nurses will lack inspiration and innovation. This is especially true for millennials, who are tech savvy and know how to adopt knowledge from various venues. Teaching styles no longer need to be restricted to the classroom setting.
The current nursing workforce encompasses a wide range of age differences that may already include baby boomers and gens X, Y (millennials), and Z. As an experienced nurse leader, I have considered how nurses from different generations can be inspired as we shape our future care system. This article presents what I believe are basic elements for newly graduated nurses. I call it UNICORN.
This concept is the foundation for inspiring newly graduated nurses from a range of generations. Many theorists describe the nursing phenomenon, but the theory needs to be easily understood and adopted into any care setting. So let’s look at UNICORN.
U stands for utilitarian. Nill and Schibrowsky state that Bentham’s utilitarianism theory conveys the meaning of doing the best good for the majority, resulting in the best outcome of happiness. This is an unselfish personal belief that nurses can translate into practice using an ethical approach. The nurse who considers utilitarianism will always look out for others and ensure patient safety as a whole.
N stands for nonjudgmental. Nurses provide care based on clinical evidence; often, they act on their hunches as well. Nurses provide a sympathetic demeanor while taking care of their patients. Occasionally, nurses find themselves hesitating when providing care due to a violation of their personal beliefs or culture. Practicing nonjudgmental care elevates the nursing profession. Open-minded nurses welcome diversity and open up to all people. Like shining light into the darkness, this attitude brings to mind the story of a lady with a lamp—Florence Nightingale—caring for wounded soldiers without any hesitation. People should receive the same level of care regardless of their color, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. Nurses who are accepting to differences and open to all people make an impact on their patients’ lives and promote and expedite the healing process.
I is for improver and inspirational. Nurses who actively seek self-improvement and inspiration will be able to thrive during any hardship. Nurses constantly work in a varied and changing environment. Change is inevitable and the ability to adapt is necessary for such reasons as meeting operational goals or increasing patient safety. Nurses must do more than just survive in their daily work, especially in the routine work setting. To deliver the best care, nurses have to thrive and inspire other stakeholders such as the patient, patient’s family, community, and nation.
C stands for connector. Connecting to patients, coworkers, leaders, family, and society is essential. Nurses who understand the role of being a connector see the big picture of the care system and become a positive influence that resonates its own vision and mission via innovation. A nurse can be a connector by pulling key people together and foreseeing the innovation of accomplishing the patient’s goals in care. In addition, nurses connect with their patients in various ways, such as making eye contact, touching, sharing feelings, educating, and more. In her human caring theory, Watson describes a moral idea that involves authentic “mind-body-soul engagement” and human touch that allows hearing and miracles to occur via Caritas processes. Connecting enables nurses to understand the deeper meaning of nursing care.
O stands for opportunity seeker. Pursuing the opportunity to grow is what leaders really do and what healthcare providers endeavor to accomplish. Nurses are a valuable asset to healthcare. Nurses who seek opportunities and adopt an evidence-based practice help patients get better in six senses—patients see better, smell better, hear better, eat better, feel better, and heal better.
R and N, the last two letters of UNICORN, stand for registered nurse. RNs hold the power of healing. The RN is the superhero in many formats. Once newly trained nurses graduate from school and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), they add the RN title to their name. These initials define who they are in their profession.
When I was a nursing student, I was told nurses are doctors’ eyes and ears. I have never bought into this concept. After a few years working as an RN, I realized that nurses are notdoctors’ eyes and ears—nurses are doctors’ colleagues who are actively involved members of the patient care team and who provide valuable feedback through our assessments and critical thinking. I cannot emphasize enough how nursing has gained a reputation of being the most trustworthy profession in the nation. We need to continue the effort of verbalizing and elevating the nursing profession in order to break down the subordinate hierarchy.
Using the concept of UNICORN is synonymous to having nurses perform at their best in their profession. UNICORN—utilitarian, nonjudgmental, improver and inspiration, connector, opportunity seeker registered nurse—can be a mantra to anyone who would like to be a nurse and a nurse leader. Leaders are people who have the ability to foresee and carry out necessary changes by influencing their followers through positive cultural immersion. Having visualization goals is the first step, and nurses who adopt UNICORN will succeed in that first step. There are no short cuts or gimmicks to becoming a nurse leader. Leadership starts with self-motivation and becomes a power to influence others when they see the leader’s commitment. The language of UNICORN simply represents my vision of the professional nurse. We, as nurses, are our own UNICORNs, and we will continue to inspire other nurses to be their own UNICORNs.
Ming-Chun (Jimmy) Ho is clinical nurse IV in the positive care clinics/infectious disease/travel clinic at Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, California.
Nill A, Schibrowsky J. Research on marketing ethics: A systematic review of the literature.J Macromarketing. 2007;27(3):256–73.
Watson J. (Watson’s theory of transpersonal caring. In PJ Walker, B Neuman (eds.), Blueprint for the use of nursing models: Education research, practice, and administration(pp. 141–184). New York, NY: National League for Nursing Press. 1996.