Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Blog Contest Finalist: How many nurses does it take to change a lightbulb?

We were very impressed with the submissions we received to our JAN interactive blog contest on praise and leadership in nursing. And we have decided that we will post the top three entries this week. The winner will be posted this Wednesday. We hope you enjoy these posts and are inspired by them.

How many nurses does it take to change a lightbulb?
Liz Charalambous

If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.

I wonder how many nurses does it take to change a lightbulb?

Does it even matter?

In today’s busy healthcare environment, it seems that the most crucial thing is to get the job done, no matter what. Yet teamwork and the support of our colleagues are vital for success. Having started off in nursing over 30 years ago, I have seen leadership styles vary wildly, from autocracy to laissez faire, but two constants that facilitated and enabled me to work at my best, were good leadership and praise. Years ago I would hide in the sluice whenever I heard the clickety-clack of matron’s heels marching down the ward. Such behaviour is hardly surprising when, as a student nurse in theatres, we were routinely ignored and no one spoke up to defend us when the gynaecology surgeons would pause, mid operation, to throw a freshly removed and soggy ovarian cyst our way just for ‘fun’.

Today it is different, with fresh new perspectives. For example, shared governance takes a bottom up democratic approach to leadership and managing change. Instead of working alone in the dark, we can work together to harness bright ideas and take them from ‘ward to board’ where nurses at the front line have become empowered to work with managers to create meaningful change.

We have recently revised the hospital policy to allow open visiting at our Trust. This was in response to the needs of patients and staff, but it would never have happened without the good leadership, praise and kind encouragement of others. It took two years for the glimmer of an idea to be nurtured and kindled by others to burst from a spark to a flame.

Good leadership and praise promote a strong organisational culture and creates a positive climate of confidence. A virtuous circle emerges where engaged and satisfied staff can encourage others to do their best for patients, and in doing so improve care. The team approach ensures that change happens at all layers of the organisation. There is a good chance that involved and happy staff lead to happy and contented patients.

So, how many nurses does it take to change a lightbulb?

The answer is ‘all of them’.

Because by working as a team and breaking down barriers and hierarchical boundaries something magical happens. By encouraging nurses to shine, not only do we become dazzled and motivated by their brilliance, but by working together we can intensify our efforts and so improve the quality of care for patients.

Liz Charalambous is a qualified nurse on a female, acute medical HCOP (Health Care for Older People) ward at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham University Hospital Trust. She is currently working on a doctoral thesis researching volunteerism in dementia and acute hospitals. She tweets as @lizcharalambou

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