What Does Being A Leader of Caring Look Like? – Part 1

How do we define Caring for Nurse Leaders?

What does being a leader of caring look like?

The answer may be in one word:


 (note: this does not mean just more face time)

Try this:

As a nurse leader, You have asked yourself plenty of times, How can I reach nurses?

We have all read about, listened to and talked about – How can we reach nurses?

As it turns out, this is not the question …

The Better Question is,  How Can They Reach Us? 

Let’s start with nurses’ caring:

We know the definition of caring for nurses –  There are 5 levels of caring.   It involves a classification continuum of nurse-patient relationships based on clinical research of patients’ experiences.  The 5 levels range from uncaring to caring (biocidic, biostatic, biopassive, bioactive, and biogenic):

  • The biocidic level (life-destroying) is where the nurse causes distress for the patient.
  • The biostatic mode (life-restraining) is created by an insensitive or indifferent nurse.
  • The biopassive level (life neutral) reflects “It’s just a job” behaviors.
  • The bioactive level (life-sustaining) is given by a caring nurse who is kind, concerned, reassuring and responsive to patients’ needs. This is the nearest fit to the characteristics defined in scripted formulaic caring programs commonly offered in hospitals.
  • The biogenic level (life-giving and life-receiving) is the highest level of caring relationships. It is consistent with what experts describe as authentic caring moments and the transpersonal caring relationship. This caring is life-giving and life-receiving for both the nurse and patient.

Caring Science (Watson & Halldorsdottir)

Back to You and Me …  Let’s apply these definitions to our leadership style, as Leaders of Caring

Where are you on this continuum in your daily leadership practice? 

Business leadership models take us to the bioactive level as the gold standard.

Trust me, I am sure that nurses perceived me as being a biopassive level leader way too often.  I could feel those moments in myself ….  walking onto units and wondering what I was going to say to nurses who were already busy, … not wanting to be a pain in the ____  or a requirement for meaningless nicety,  … and worst of all- not wanting to be irrelevant to nurses!

That’s why I turned to the best leadership business sources over the years in search of elevating my leadership style ….  to just the bioactive level!  That seemed like a good, even great leader level!

Now I see things differently.

Nursing is a different profession from all others.  It involves being a part of peoples lives in their most vulnerable states.  If this is who we are, then our leadership must access nurses’ on the same level… with authenticity, vulnerability, openness, acceptance.   The linchpin to reaching nurses is through our own authenticity, our own caring consciousness…. this is how nurses reach us.

Reaching this biogenic level of leadership came by way of intentional self-care and self-help.  Once I started to find my own authenticity for my personal self,  my caring consciousness started to surface in my work… not consistently, but enough to feel different.

I started to reach out to more nurses in real and authentic ways. 

But the real happening happened, when Nurses started to Reach Me.   (It’s a step by step process into realness.) 

Opening ourselves up to nurses,  Giving Access to nurses …. Allowing Nurses to Reach Us is the linchpin to Authentic Caring for Nurse Leaders as well as for Nurses. 

This is Life-Giving and Life-Receiving Biogenic LeadershipThis is the only level of leadership worthy of Nurse Leadership.  

I am seeking more of this.

PS.  This is not from the business leadership world.



Halldorsdottir S. (1991) Five basic modes of being with another. In Gaut DA, Leininger M, (Eds.), Caring: The Compassionate Healer. New York: National League for Nursing Press.
Watson J. (2012) Human Caring Science: Theory of Nursing. 2nd edition. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Horton-Deutsch S. (2017) Thinking, acting, and Leading Through Caring Science Literacy. In Lee SM, Palmieri PA, Watson J. (Eds.) Global Advances in Human Caring Literacy. New York: Springer Publishing.

Leave a Reply

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