Learning to lead


After deciding to go back to school to finish my RN-BSN, I have decided to apply for my Master’s in Science in Nursing Management and Leadership. Through class and clinical I am learning what kind of a leader I want to be , but also attributes that I want to keep away from.

At USI, we learn how to excel in our chosen paths. That is a given, but theory only goes so far in the real world.

Investigate internships.

Time is scarce at college. You have to study, take exams, write papers and figure out who you are as a person. Still, stepping out in your actual field and seeing what the professionals do on a daily basis is important.

This semester I have had the good fortune to follow thea director of an emergency department. He has taught me lessons that I cannot learn in the classroom. I have learned organizational and meeting skills.

I also know what kind of leader I do not want to be when I graduate from the master’s program.

An experience I witnessed while on another shadowing opportunity taught me an important lesson.

A patient’s family member called the medical facility and complained about the patient’s treatment at the hospital. The patient’s family member complained the patient did not receive pain medication while in the facility. She then said that her family member never gets taken care of when she comes to the facility in question.

I tried to put myself in the manager’s position. He probably receives complaints like this from time-to-time. I am sure it is easy to get desensitized to certain situations.

Next, I put myself in the role of the patient who gave her permission for her family member to speak on her behalf. She was obviously upset and felt that she could not adequately represent herself. Was she in pain? In all reality, only she could answer this question.

The manager put the family member on hold and called the nurse who cared for the patient. He asked the nurse why no pain medicine was administered. The nurse said there was no one present to drive the patient home. The patient said there was someone, but could not present the driver to the nurse.

The supervisor told the family member it was policy to not give pain medicine that could impair a patient’s ability to transport home unless they have a driver with them at the time of treatment. As he hung up the phone, he looked at me and said, “They are simple, man.” He laughed.

This rubbed me wrong.

Yes, the manager was technically right, but could he have explained it better? Could he have offered to readmit the patient, if still in pain, with the driver present? If you are in leadership and you cannot explain things to a ‘simple’ person, then you are too smart for your own good.

The director of my current clinical gave me some valuable advice. When faced with a problem, I should never initially take anyone’s side in an argument. People are going to not like me at times in the role I have chosen. That is okay. I have to be able to separate myself from the situation and interview both parties, objectively.

The patient may be uneducated or in the wrong. Education, empathy and explanation can sometimes remedy this problem.

The employee may be the problem. They could have not taken the patient seriously when the complaint was made. The employee may have pre-judged the patient.

This is why protocols exist. Nurses need to treat every patient the same, regardless of their background or ability to pay. Always keep in mind that the patient is there for a need. They may have mental issues, pain or a multi-dimensional problem. It is important to keep an open mind and investigate all possibilities.

Peering into the world of leadership has reminded me how important it is to be humble. Instead of looking at actions and complaints as an in irritant, ask yourself why the behavior is happening.

Take advantage of USI’s opportunities for job shadowing and internships. This is where you learn to put your theory into practice.