Nurse leaders: Want to influence others to create a preventative culture? Here’s how.
Changing the culture in any organization isn’t easy. Martie Moore, Chief Nursing Officer at Medline Industries, says that to convince healthcare executives of culture change, nurse leaders should step into the role of executive-business partner. Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Don’t sell ideas to leaders. Influence them.
Selling ideas is a short-term, “one-time shot” that doesn’t lead to sustained change, Moore says. Instead, think strategically and long-term. Influence others by understanding not only what you’re asking, but why you’re asking it. What’s the long-term purpose of the change? How will the request affect patient outcomes and costs in the long run? Do you have the data to demonstrate why an investment should be made?
2. Dig deep, professionally.
Help create a learning organization, which continually advances knowledge and applies it to clinical practice, Moore says. “In skin health, most people know to turn and reposition the patient to relieve tissue of pressure. But a learning organization wants to understand why skin breaks down in the first place.”
Learning organizations learn the purpose of—the whys behind—moisturizing, ambulating and hydrating. They want to know how nutrition and microclimate affects skin health and wound healing. They strive to understand the link between skin tears and distressed skin to improve wound prevention and treatment. Then, they elevate their line of inquiry by researching whether skin tears are predictors of falls. With that knowledge, they can enhance the patient experience, improve patient outcomes, shorten length of stay, and save costs for their organization.
3. Dig deep, personally.
Take an objective look at how you think, act and communicate with others. Periodically take a personality test or strengths assessment, or simply ask mentors or coworkers for feedback. These steps will help you discover your skill set and reevaluate them over time.
Moore says that early in her career she asked a revered mentor, a CFO, why she wasn’t being listened to. “He said that I would repeatedly cry out, ‘This is a safety issue.’ Even if it was, my response was shutting people down. They would ask, ‘Is it really a safety issue? Is she crying wolf?’ They didn’t know how to deal with my reaction—or what it meant.”
In business, “you have to learn to soften that screaming voice inside of you,” Moore adds. “To help curb the emotion, ask yourself, what is it that I truly want here? I want the person to understand that it’s imperative to achieve the goals we’ve set for our organization,” she says. “When you give yourself time to really think it through the 5 Ws—what, where, why, when and who—you start to discover a pathway for others to truly hear your message.”
4. Know how to state your case to leadership.
Moore recommends that in making your case to executives:
- Be specific. Start with a single case—say, the patient with a skin tear who falls three days later and breaks a hip. Emphasize the increased length of stay. Then multiply that scenario by five patients and point out what that means to the organization in financial costs and lack of reimbursement.
- Reflect on how you can do better. Learning organizations continuously strive for improvement. “Don’t hesitate to admit that you didn’t do your best with any given case,” she says. “See it as a learning opportunity. How are we going to do this differently? Then discuss it with the entire team, from beside nurses to leadership.”
- Invite yourself to the executive table. As knowledge experts, “nurse leaders absolutely need to be part of a conversation,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask yourself why you haven’t been asked to the table. The answer may be difficult to hear. It may be your own leadership abilities or that nurses aren’t seen as business partners. But I can tell you that nursing leaders are probably some of the most talented leaders out there—on both the business and clinical side.”
- Modify your language. “When I first went into leadership, I used caring language. I spoke in emotional terms rather than business terms.” On the advice of her CFO-mentor, Moore began to use more analytical phrases such as “I think the following.” She got comfortable with business terminology and used metrics and data to persuade others. “In time, I actually learned to weave empathetic language back into conversations, because I consider it a strength. It’s a skill set clinicians and leaders must have because they work with families and employees.”