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You’re good at your job. Perhaps you’re even great at it. No matter what, if you want to get ahead in your career, you need to trust yourself. On a daily basis, you may have confidence in the physicians, social workers, and techs whom you work with. But you also need to have that same faith in yourself.
We asked Tina Marie Baxter, MSN, APRN, GNP-BC of Baxter Professional Services, LLC in Anderson, Indiana for tips on how nurses can empower themselves. She gave us a lot of fantastic information as well as some things to think about.
Some nurses are so focused on caring for patients that they don’t think about themselves. What are some of the basics that they should know about empowerment and what it can do for them?
Nurses forget that we are the biggest population of health care workers. According to The Truth About Nursing there are 10 nurses to every three physicians in the United States. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that nursing is the “nation’s largest health care profession, with more than 3.8 million registered nurses nationwide” (Nursing Fact Sheet). We hold tremendous power. We need to remember that when we are confronted with a problem in our jobs and are looking for creative solutions.
As nurses, we are advocates for our patients. We should be sitting at the board room table and not be afraid to participate in the discussions that affect not only our practice but also patient outcomes. I have seen nurses downplay their skills and knowledge saying, “I’m just a nurse.” We are not just nurses. We are heroes. We need to embrace it. We are the experts in our field. This is not to say that we can’t learn anything new, but if we invest in ourselves and our personal development, we will be the better for it. We can empower each other by standing up to bullying that we see in the workplace and letting others know that it is not okay. We can empower each other by using our natural skills as problem solvers to improve the conditions on the unit.
As an individual, you can contact your local legislator about a problem in your community. You are a person of influence there, and you should never forget that people look up to nurses. You often hear, “I could never do what you do” from the public. You are a nurse and are in a uniquely privileged position. This is one of the reasons I have contacted my state representative about drafting legislation to stop violence against nurses in my state because I saw a nurse assaulted by a patient, and nothing was done. This is empowerment at its best, speaking out for the good of all.
What action steps can nurses take to empower themselves? Can you give some tips?
Nurses can become advocates for themselves. We need to do the homework and back up our findings with facts. Nurses are very creative. We need to hone that creativity and encourage it in the workplace.
I encourage nurses to engage in lifelong learning. By lifelong learning I do not necessarily mean going back to school to get another degree — although that is a viable option if one is so inclined. I mean engaging in learning a new skill that is not necessarily nursing related. For instance, I am learning about SEO, affiliate marketing, and podcasting as a way to reach a new audience with what I have to offer to the market place. You may learn a new skill or sharpen a talent that you already possess to make impact.
For example, in our local community, we had a nurse who had a beautiful singing voice. She would be requested to sing for the patients when they were coming out of surgery if they were scared or when they needed some comfort.
There is a lot to learn out there that does not cost a lot of money. There are wonderful podcasts, TED talks, webinars, and YouTube tutorials that are free on the internet. You have to take advantage of it.
How will empowering themselves help them career-wise?
Each nurse’s journey will be individual and different. I can say for myself that I would not want to do anything else. I have maintained an open mind and a natural curiosity. I want to know how things work. Whether it is a system, a process, or patient problem, I want to know the answer. If you approach your career as an investment in yourself, you can go far as you want to go. I look at each new challenge as an opportunity to better myself.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you about how nurses can empower themselves that is important for them to know?
Find a mentor. Find someone that you admire, introduce yourself and invite them out for coffee or lunch. You will be surprised at how many people would genuinely like to help you. Listen to the advice you are given and put it into action.
Many nurses, and people in general, make promises to themselves, but fail to put a plan of action together. You have to make a plan, commit to it, and work it out. This is something I encourage my clients that I mentor and coach to do. We sit down and map out a plan of action with measurable outcomes or milestones along the way.
One final note, as you are working your plan, celebrate the small successes along the way. Did you meet one new contact that will help you further your business? Did you finally complete your certification? Celebrate. Publish your success, and invite your friends to celebrate with you.