What better time than National Nurses Day to call out important leaders within nursing? And as a platform for minority nurses, Minority Nurse wants to pay special attention when a minority nurse advances to a leadership role.
Lindsey Harris, DNP, FNP-BC, was recently elected to president of the Alabama State Board of Nursing and will be the first African-American nurse to lead the board in its 125-year history.
The significance of the election isn’t lost on Harris. “This makes me feel I am living my passion,” she says. “It makes me a little nervous, too. I have big shoes to fill.”
Harris says she finds a nursing career a definite calling. “I chose nursing because I always had a passion for helping others,” she says. “Being a nurse is one way I can help others when they are in a vulnerable time of need.”
But Harris also sees education as a big part of a nurse’s role and looks forward to having a bigger voice in the nursing industry to help spread the word about education. Because nurses teach patients and the general population about their health, about taking care of themselves or loved ones, and about prevention, their practice encompasses more than just a specific illness or injury.
“It is every aspect,” says Harris. “It’s about the physical, emotional, and spiritual.” And Harris says her own decisions have been led in part by her own faith and spirituality. “For me, I just feel God has put me on this earth to do something bigger than myself,” she says.
And for Harris, one of her biggest drives and skills is being what she calls a “connector.” When a student needs a preceptor, she can scan her network and help connect people. When a patient needs an appointment with a specialist but isn’t sure where to go, Harris can get that all moving.
And being elected the first African-American nurse president of the organization makes her feel good. “It’s important being an example for African-American women and showing them they can do this,” she says. “They can be leaders.” Harris plans to use the platform to help bring nurses in the state together to unite their voices. “We have 100,000 nurses in Alabama,” she says. And many varied nursing associations represent these nurses including the Birmingham Black Nurses Association and Central Alabama Nurse Practitioners Association, both of which Harris is also a member of. “Imagine if we all came together and had one voice,” she says. “We could make real decisions about moving nursing forward.”
Some of the more pressing issues Harris sees is the mounting healthcare crisis that intensifies with each hospital or facility closing. “Access to healthcare is significantly decreased,” she says, noting some people have to travel for hours to reach a facility when the closest one to their location closes.
As a minority nurse, Harris found joining professional organizations to be an excellent way to connect with other like-minded nurses and to make a difference. As for the Alabama State Board of Nursing, Harris says they can make an enormous impact on nursing legislation and policy. “We are the voice of nursing,” she says. Increasing the membership numbers is one of Harris’s goals as is building strong connections within the nursing community and reaching out to the organizations that touch on nursing issues and patient care.
“Nurses are dealing with so much more,” says Harris. “The good thing is there are new advances and opportunities for growth within nursing. They can do anything and can work in hospitals, schools, factories … there are so many opportunities for nurses. And it’s so rewarding when a patient says to you, ‘I can tell you really love what you are doing.’”
Catie Harris, PhD, MBA, AGACNP, FNP, ANP, and a nurse entrepreneur, knew she loved nursing, but she also knew the crazy schedules weren’t giving her the balance she needed and wanted in her life. Rather than leave nursing, Harris took another look at how she could continue in an industry she loved, but with more control over her schedule, projects, and even her salary.
With her knowledge from a nursing career and a business degree and a lot of innovation, NursePreneurs was born. Harris is determined to help other nurses find a nursing path that suits their needs best.
For National Nurses Week, Harris recently answered a few questions from Minority Nurse about the importance of finding your best path.
Many people, nurses included, overlook the essential business skills nurses bring to the industry. How can nurses determine if an entrepreneurial path is a good match for them?
Nurses are trained in nursing school to be entrepreneurial. In fact, I relied more heavily on the nursing process to teach me how to run my business than anything I learned from getting my MBA. That might sound surprising, but the MBA teaches you how to operate within a business, not start one from the ground up. Whereas the nursing process teaches you how to assess a population, diagnose a problem, plan for a desired outcome, intervene with the solution and evaluate the response. These are the essential business skills needed to be an entrepreneur. Even though every nurse learns this entrepreneurial design in the nursing process, not every nurse wants to become an entrepreneur. There are certain qualities that simply stand out in entrepreneurs such as:
- Adaptability – business is inherently risky and unpredictable. A business rarely becomes successful from the first unaltered idea. When the idea is floated to an audience, the market decides what it wants and the entrepreneur either adapts the business or risks failing. An entrepreneur must be flexible enough to adapt to whatever evolution the business needs to go through to evolve and sustain itself. Change is inevitable and an entrepreneur has to be willing to accept it frequently.
- Resilience – there will be many failed attempts at starting and scaling a business. An entrepreneur must see every attempt as an experience and not a failure. No entrepreneur would ever be successful if they focused on all the things that go wrong. Entrepreneurs must see every obstacle as a challenge to overcome and not a dead-end.
- Persistence – Entrepreneurs have to be persistent. A “no”, simply means your audience doesn’t understand what you are offering and the message needs to be adjusted. You have to be ok with getting candid answers to the solution your provide. Entrepreneurialism is not for people who attach all their self-worth into a solution or suffer from perfectionism.
- Excellence – Entrepreneurs love to over deliver and provide massive value. They are consumed by learning, growing and sharing their knowledge. The entrepreneurial path is for people who want the freedom to pioneer their own way and decide how to focus their attention and energies. This is definitely not the space for anyone who needs to follow an agenda.
In what ways can an entrepreneurial nurse make an impact on healthcare policies and industry practices and, of course, patients?
All nurses can make a huge impact on healthcare policies, industry practices and patients. Being at the bedside, nurses know more than anyone what patients need, want and desire. Nurses are the number 1 trusted profession, and because of that ranking, patients trust us with incredibly sensitive information. Patients tell us their fears and frustrations about their disease and health conditions. Nurses are in a unique position to use that information to create businesses that serve the patients in a way that benefits them.
Nurses are also keenly aware of how hospital policies and industry standards impact the services provided to patients. For instance, one of my students is working on a business model that helps cancer treatment centers to educate their staff on how to communicate with patients. There are many questions and concerns that patients have that never get addressed out of embarrassment, worry that they are taking up too much time or being burdensome or because they simply don’t understand what is going on. This type of business has strong potential to alter how cancer education is delivered in the healthcare system.
What can nurses do to gain business skills and education that will help augment their nursing skills?
Nurses can gain business skills and education through books and online education. There are many groups out there who are helping nurses to gain the knowledge they need to support their business models. Investing in seminars, conferences and networking events is also hugely beneficial. Finally, nothing will fast track business success more than finding a mentor who has done what it is that you want to do and start working with that person as early on as possible.
How did you discover this path for your own nursing career?
I have had the entrepreneurial itch for decades! I also suffered from “bad employee syndrome”, meaning I always wanted to pioneer my job in directions that weren’t exactly in line with what my employer had in mind for me. I didn’t like being reigned in and having a defined job. I wanted to explore what was possible and continue growing and learning. The only “job” that truly allows this type of occupational freedom is the one you can create for yourself. I might not have started my business if I found a job with occupational freedom that paid well, but it didn’t exist for me, so I created it.
What makes your role as a nurse entrepreneur so rewarding?
I love seeing the impact of my students on their clients. When they have success, I celebrate it as if it were my very own. When you see how your work helps others to help others, it’s incredibly rewarding. My goal is to help 1000 nurses to start up their businesses in the next 2 years. Imagine the impact of 1000 nurses in business helping others to achieve healthier lifestyles, improved outcomes and live happier lives. Pursuing my passion, living my purpose and using my talents is what makes being a nurse entrepreneur so rewarding.
There’s no better time than during National Nurses Week to pay attention to the skills nurses have that aren’t acquired in any classroom. Kristi Tanisha Elizee, RN, BSN, and a current master’s degree student focusing on Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), knows first-hand about the power of a nurse’s intuition.
This past February, Elizee was working the NICU night shift of a Kansas hospital and had been assigned to a mother-baby pair. From the hand-off report with the previous nurse, she had been told, and was able to observe, the baby had head-molding after delivery. Although Elizee noticed the baby’s head looked strange, continued observation revealed only typical behavior. The baby slept, woke, and breastfed well about every three hours.
When she went to perform a head-to-toe assessment of the baby (after notifying the parents), Elizee became alarmed. “When I assessed this baby’s head I could not believe what I felt,” she says. “This baby’s anterior fontanelle was very wide and bulging which extended to her forehead. On top of her head felt soft, the posterior fontanelle was not palpable, and in the same area where the posterior fontanelle was supposed to be, instead the skull was protruding.”
All the baby’s vital signs were good as were the other assessments of the baby, but Elizee knew something was wrong. She also knew she had to trust her intuition. “For me, this was not head-molding,” she says. “I brought the baby back to her mom’s room and immediately went to review the doctor’s documented assessment again on this baby.” Everything appeared to note head-molding, so Elizee, who would need to perform another assessment in four hours began researching information while monitoring the baby and her other patients.
“I saw a variety of problems including pictures of the way this baby’s head was shaped, and it was called ‘Craniosynostosis,’” she says. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Craniosynostosis (kray-nee-o-sin-os-TOE-sis) is a birth defect in which one or more of the fibrous joints between the bones of [a] baby’s skull (cranial sutures) close prematurely (fuse), before [a] baby’s brain is fully formed. Brain growth continues, giving the head a misshapen appearance.”
Elizee wasn’t sure if what she found was the problem, but she had to speak up. “I was not sure what this baby was diagnosed with but I knew this baby’s head was not normal,” she says. She notified the other nurse on the NICU shift, then her supervisor, and the providing physician was immediately called. The physician initially believed the baby had head-molding as well. “I started to doubt myself again, but I knew deep down this was not normal,” Elizee says. After performing her own assessment, the physician agreed with Elizee. From there, a pediatrician came onboard, and Elizee says she carefully documented everything.
The experience has been simultaneously transformative and heartbreaking. “I have never cared for a baby diagnosed with this condition before so this was my first time,” she says. “The day after when I came back to work, the nurse whom I gave report to about this baby, told me that my assessment findings were right. They had to do a head CT scan and it revealed that this baby had ‘Craniosynostosis.’” The baby was referred to a different hospital, and although Elizee doesn’t know her current story, she’s confident that her persistence made a huge difference in the baby’s life.
“I just had a gut feeling that what I felt was not normal and knew I had to speak up,” says Elizee. Although she doubted herself based on what others were saying, Elizee says she had to honor her intuition. “Nurses just need to follow their instincts,” she says. “Once you know it is not normal or not right, then take action. Do not second guess yourself.”
Big Move for Her Career
Elizee hails from St. Lucia. “I made the decision to move to the U.S.A for growth and development through Avant Healthcare Professionals, an international nurse recruiting agency,” says Elizee, who says she initially considered a career as a veterinarian. “I want to take my nursing career to the next level.”
Oddly enough, Elizee had been considering a switch out of NICU because she was struggling with the role. “When I first started working as an RN new grad, I worked on the medical unit for a month, later I was sent to work in the NICU which I have been in for eight years,” she says. “The first few months being there was tough, and I almost made the decision to go to another unit to work. I was just not enjoying it.” But her NICU nurse-manager noticed and became Elizee’s mentor.
Under her guidance, Elizee says she gained confidence working with these tiny babies—none of whom can tell their caregivers what is bothering them. The experience made all the difference. “NICU is a challenging place to work,” she says now, “but I love the challenge. Every day is a learning experience, and I am embracing it. Now I want to become a neonatal nurse practitioner.”
School nursing today is nothing like it was a generation ago, and today’s National School Nurse Day is a time to recognize all the contributions school nurses make to their communities. Some things are a school nurse’s constant—there are always scrapes to be cared for, nervous tummies to settle, and accidents that can happen on the playground or in the hallways. But no one would argue that the landscape of a school’s environment has evolved to mirror the growing unrest in the larger society.
With so much going on, it’s no wonder that school nurses can never expect to have a typical day.
As a school nurse, you offer physical and emotional care, education, stability, and guidance to the kids you serve and to their families as well. School nurses today see children of all ages who cope with greater anxiety and depression. Greater numbers of children are exposed to trauma than they were 30 or 40 years ago. They are coping with social media and all the struggles to understand the open and unspoken social rules that surround the technology that is available at their fingertips. And the increasing episodes of school violence, from terrifying school shootings to dating violence to tensions between students within a school, are becoming more prevalent than ever before.
How can a school nurse be prepared?
Honor your knowledge
As a school nurse, you know your student population. You know what they are dealing with and what the predominant struggles are within your school and district. Keep in close contact with the other nurses in your school and your district if possible. That open communication can help you keep current with issues that may begin to bubble up in your own school.
As much as you can, stay in touch with town leaders, especially the emergency responders and police. Monitor social media to learn what is trending among the age population you serve. Vaping is a big problem among even younger students right now. Try to learn about what kids are doing.
Continue your education
Attend seminars, watch online tutorials, gain certification through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses and any other areas that may help you care for students. If you are seeing high rates of anxiety and stress, learn about how kids can cope and even how technology can help them. Are you seeing more diabetes or cancer in your school population. Learn how to best help and educate them and even what barriers they may have to remaining healthy. Check resources through the National Association of School Nurses to continue learning.
Care for yourself
School nursing is challenging, rewarding, and extremely tough. The needs of the students and the hard times they may be faced with can sometimes overwhelm even the strongest nurse. You have to help without being pulled under, so take the time to find a way to relieve your own stress. Find a hobby that captures your attention enough that you can really focus. Incorporate purposefully stress reducing activities into your life—yoga, exercise, meditation, dance, cooking, spiritual gatherings, gardening, roller derby—whatever activity helps you get away from your thoughts for a bit.
The annual celebration of National Nurses Week from May 6-12 highlights and honors the incredible life-saving work nurses do all year round.
As a nurse, this week deserves your attention. There are many ways you can celebrate loudly or ways you can reflect quietly (or both!). Nurses worked hard to get this week recognized—efforts began in 1953 and slowly incorporated a national day of recognition for nurses. In 1993, the week was made official by the American Nurses Association board of directors. It was first officially celebrated in 1994.
The ANA has chosen “4 Million Reasons to Celebrate” as this year’s theme to call attention to the 4 million registered nurses in this country.
Here are a few ideas to keep your feelings of nursing pride going this week:
Revel in the Celebration
This is a big week for nurses around the nation, and it’s a time when you feel solidarity with nurses around the world. Whether or not your organization makes a big occasion out of this week, it’s a good thing to do for yourself. Seek out ways to join in the conversation. Go out to lunch with your colleagues. If you are a manager, order some goodies for your busy staff to have throughout their shifts. Share the week with your family and friends and talk about what your day is like and why you chose nursing.
Check Out What Others Have to Say
Follow Twitter conversations at #NursesWeek. Comment on the Facebook sites of some of the organizations you belong to. Raise awareness as you mark the week. Show your nursing pride and start conversations where you can. Send a letter to the editor about current news relating to nurses—positive or negative.
Nurses never stop learning and this week offers additional opportunities to boost your knowledge in recognition of National Nurses Week. Dial into a webinar offered by the American Nurses Association. You can register for Nurses4Us: Elevating the Profession which will be held May 8 at 1 pm EDT. The webinar, which offers one contact hour, includes a Twitter chat, so follow along or add to the conversation at #NursesWeekLive.
Reflect on Your Nursing Career
Take time this week to think about why you chose nursing as a career. What started you on that path and how has your direction changed? Are you happy with the changes or would you like to get something else from your career? What can you continue doing to gain career satisfaction? What else can you do to improve your nursing skills?
Sometimes reflecting deeply about how your career has made a difference in your life and the lives of others is a morale booster that’s needed in a career where you never slow down.
Happy National Nurses Week!