Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Blog Contest Winner: Emergency nursing leadership shouldn't be traumatic

We were very impressed with the submissions we received to our JAN interactive blog contest on praise and leadership in nursing. Today we are posting the winning entry.

Emergency nursing leadership shouldn't be traumatic
Anna Ballantyne



I clearly remember my first shift in emergency. The nurse in charge greeted me by name and with a warm smile. She said that she would look out for me and affirmed my nursing background as desirable in emergency… she ‘had me at hello’.

When I think about leadership impact, it is the actions and/or words that show trust, belief and respect - these are the things that inspire me, these are the things that ‘keep me going’, and these have had a pivotal impetus in my career. Granted, I was always interested in emergency. Possibly, I am made for it and it for me. The nurses who directly or indirectly said, 'you are good at this', have shaped where and who I am in nursing today.

Soon after that first shift, I was working permanently in the bustling ED. As a junior there, I remember a late shift from hell during which a 6-foot plus aggressive man stepped well into my personal space. Before he had finished his angry rant, before I said a word in response, the team leader stepped in. Literally. He stepped in between the angry man and me and clearly outlined the expected behaviour towards "his" staff. I could have defended my care, but I didn’t have to. This action spoke volumes to me. He trusted my character and my care. I felt protected, encouraged and relieved!

Life is not all roses. A manager once verbally tore strips off me in the front of the team. For my break that afternoon - I snuck outside and privately shed some hot little tears (then wiped my face and returned with my chin up). What was the outcome of that meeting? I knew that the manager hadn’t listened. I realised that it was her stress, thrown at the nearest member of the team. I then tried to avoid having to approach her at all. She lost, in that moment, the opportunity to contribute to my development as a nurse.

Not that leadership avoids the difficult decisions. I have been on both sides of challenging conversations. I have seen recipients of a difficult conversation return to learn more so they can continue bettering their skills. It is so simple when embedded in trust. I remember listening to one of my mentors, amused at his assurance of my ability. In a later discussion, that same nurse made a comment to me regarding care, “that’s not best practice” he said and then kept talking. I thought, ‘he is right’ and changed my practice. I respect the clinical care he gives and I know that he encourages my best in nursing, whether that is in progress or best practice.

I now induct staff into emergency and general nursing. I welcome them warmly. I also teach 'my' team leaders to protect and encourage their team. These people are great nurses who are capable of great things - this is my baseline for leadership and I have learned it from many inspiring colleagues.


Anna Ballantyne is a Clinical Nurse / Clinical Coach specialising in emergency nursing. She mentors nursing staff as they navigate their way through the crazy, exciting world of emergency critical care. Drawing from a career spanning 20 years, Anna reflects that showing kindness in all you do takes great strength and builds strength in yourself and those around you.

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