Can Nurse Leaders Find Their Voice?


I’ve been studying writings on the bureaucratic context of caring, i.e., the healthcare system. We all understand that nursing practice lives within the walls of the healthcare system.  There is much written on this. Nurse theorists and researchers have been analyzing how caring ‘works’ in the balance of the economic, political, technological, legal, … and the medical curative worlds that caring inhabits.

In theory (literally and figuratively), “caring is the conscience of organizational life”. (Davidson, Ray, Turkel, 2011, p. 103).images-2 copy

But we all know that that ideal is less and less true. That’s why we’re here…. Trying to figure out what are we as nurses doing? What are we as nurse leaders doing?

This, at a time when nurses’ workload bandwidth limit is exceeded and patients are expecting more caring from nurses.

And what is the nurse leader’s voice in the national leadership literature saying in the patient satisfaction discussions? It’s putting forward articles reviewing scripted formulaic caring.

Nursing is the leading discipline in caring science, and this is how we are leading nurses and nurse leaders across the country through our current healthcare quagmire?

The reality is that the rate of healthcare changes and challenges has outpaced the available bandwidth for nurses. No amount of nurses doing more is going to work.images copy 9

This is a time to step back and see ourselves. See ourselves as nurses and what it is we are supposed to be doing.

This is a big ask at a time when evidenced based practice has been working its way into our nurse leader DNA.

And when we find ourselves competing with non-nursing caring programs designed for non-healthcare organizations to meet patients’ needs – All in an attempt to respond to the needs of the organization.

What is nursing supposed to be doing?

Answer- We are supposed to be connecting with patients and their loved ones;  ‘being-with’  as they experience their health-illness-healing journey.

We have learned too well how to diligently objectify and package programs and projects that make nursing efficient and effective. These are needed to help us manage the workloads, but not in the realms of the patient experience and nurses’ personal caring experiences.

These cannot be mandated, governed, managed and measured in the same way as objective medical science. The evidence is different.

The irony is that many – most? – clinical nurses know this. And they know that the leaders are on a different track, heading away from them.images-6

The real challenge is that this is a new day and time. And the right track back to real caring, authentic caring requires a new look and feel within the current healthcare system.

Many nurses know this individually. A new collective knowing will help us allow caring be the conscience of our organizational life.

Davidson A, Ray MA, Turkel, MC. Nursing, Caring, and Complexity Science. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 2011.         Watson J. Human Caring Science: Theory of Nursing. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2012.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *