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Conversations with Ourselves August 29, 2006

Posted by manthey in Creative Health Care Management, Leadership, Nursing Salons.
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When I first posted about the overwhelming response to my blog, I left off the comments emailed me by Gary Saltus, a physician colleague. Gary specializes in helping  groups through transformational change and is working with CHCM create a program to build Physician/Nurse relationships.

It’s a shame I left Gary’s comments out because they are so vital to this discussion.

Here are the highlights of Gary’s email, followed by my original response (again):

I enjoy and appreciate your constant journey of discovering more and more in nursing and health care. I keep coming back to your primary statement of talking to the different people in health care because it’s something you want to do. I imagine this is your purpose in life at this time –your constant search for discovery, wherever it takes you. I imagine this is the lens you use to see the world: How do we do health care better?

I agree with you about the importance of conversation, but I look at it through my lens of transitioning with individuals, teams, groups, and organizations.

The challenge as I see it is to get the people involved to have these conversations with themselves first, to learn who they are and what their purpose/vision is. They need this self-knowledge so they have the self-permission to present who they are to the interpersonal environment (another individual, team, and group) with confidence.

Before the individual, team, group or organization can tackle the difficult and major issues that you present in you blog, they must go through orientation, differentiation with resultant cohesion conversation with each other first. These are the stages of maturation according to John Cater, PhD at the Gestalt Center for Organization & Systems Development. They also must go through these stages in three phases. Assimilation, differentiation, and manipulation. Each phase brings the system closer with the common denominator being trust. This process is how I facilitate working with groups. So the bottom line is we can’t start tackling the big issues until the system has matured. The dilemma is that organizations don’t think they have the time to let the Nurses/Physicians/Administrators do this group work.

I admire your passion and drive to facilitate change in the Nursing/Health Care arena. Our passions are in attunement. Thanks for including me in your thoughts. I look forward to talking to you in the future about our passions and shared visions.

Gary, thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful comments. I don’t have the grasp on gestalt that you do…but I definitely get the “gist” of what you are saying. I agree that the transformation has to start with the individual, and then move to groups and teams and that the employing institutions do not yet see the benefit of this kind of staff development.

Throughout my career I’ve been fascinated by how attitudes/behaviors of employees change as institutional and leader values change. I’ve seen so many dramatic changes (both positive and negative) in the lives of patients and nurses that I feel compelled to continue working with these issues. The issue of no time to engage in these discussions is really daunting. Also, the separation between professional cultures has erected many barriers to communication I am beginning to see coming down. Another thing that I find very interesting is that the barriers between nurse educators and practice nurses are also beginning to crack. Real light is beginning to shine through. One of the ways I get to see this is thru the monthly Nursing Salons which I have been doing at my home for the past five years. Attendees vary according to the email lists interests in coming on that evening. It is sort of a blend of the Open Space technology and Socrates Cafe conversation format. I have so enjoyed seeing nurse educators and nurse managers, staff nurses, alternative therapy nurses, public health nurses, etc all sitting around talking about some issue or another in nursing. A retired physician comes whenever he can. And you are right…..it really is about improving Health Care.

Building Professionalism: Trust and Risk Taking August 14, 2006

Posted by manthey in Creative Health Care Management, Leadership, Professional Practice.
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M. B., a nurse from Alberta emailed me with some comments about professionalism:

I highly value the principles of professionalism but find in some workplaces and amongst some nursing colleagues that this has varying connotations and meanings. I have put this question to various professionals in health care and some exclaim that it does not truly exist. The more I search I have come to realize that professionalism in an institution is largely dependent on leadership’s belief and value of professionalism.

The extent of the leadership’s belief is reflected in how professionalism is exercised and maintained in culture of that work environment. If this belief is low, then any kind of behavior is acceptable in that work environment. If it is high, then that the culture will be of mutual respect and high trust. This indeed would be the ideal workplace but I am afraid I have been exposed to both in my life time career, thus far. The first is “hell”, the second is “heaven”.

I was very confused about the meaning of “professionalism” for a long time as well. Then I was taught about the definition used by sociologists, particularly the professionals use of autonomous decision making. I think our lack of clarity about what decisions we can rightly make (despite the clarity of language in the license) leads to the ambiguity that exists at all levels

So, first of all, there is the matter of professional practice. And then the matter of professional behavior. I find it useful to concentrate on the first: professional practice. This is where, as my friend from Alberta notes, leadership is critical. If the CEO, COO, CNO, CFO — the top leaders of the hospital — do not accept the notion that nursing is a profession with decision-making authority, they will not trust nurses.

This lack of trust creates a workplace environment that is antithetical to the normal risk-taking of decision-making. This lack of trust in employees sets up structures and behaviors that result in negative interpersonal relations. Nevertheless, I have seen many examples of creative and courageous leaders (below the level of the “Os”) who have been able to create healthy unit or departmental level cultures in spite of a lack of support from the highest level.

I know these statements are a simplification of highly complex factors, but trust is one of the major reasons some hospitals are heaven for employees, while others are hell. Couldn’t agree more. Like many of us, M. B. is looking for ways to build up professional nursing:

I am looking for more tools, any works that are currently out there to share with others to move nursing in this direction.

Creative Health Care Management has some 3-day programs that can transform nurses and their practice. One is called Leading an Empowered Organization and is for unit and departmental leaders and managers.  The other two are Leadership at the Point of Care and Reigniting the Spirit of Caring, both for clinical care-givers. All three are set up so we can ‘train-the trainers’ and license the programs for use by associations, large systems, and individual hospitals

M. B. speaks for so many of us when she ends with:

I believe nursing is an honored and privileged profession/family to belong to.

Using Licensure to Create Role Clarity August 4, 2006

Posted by manthey in Academia, Professional Practice.
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Jean Harry, in reaction to my post of July 28th,  feels that the term “ratios” is troublesome:

You can make a ratio out of any two things, but it doesn’t give any hint to the complexities or potential affect on the outcomes. There must be a better way to describe how intertwined all of this is. People latch on to ratios because it’s concrete, but it minimizes the important stuff. Staff mix is another area of struggle. Not only in terms of RN/LPN, but mix of RN’s with differing educational preparation. In Vermont, the number of both LPN and ADN programs & graduates outnumber BSN. We are creating new issues on top of those we already have.

I agree that the “ratios” is misleading … and that the variety of entry points into practice is increasingly confusing. We need to analyze work complexity in terms of knowledge and skills needed for safe Nursing Interventions in a particular patient population that are sophisticated enough that also take into account the workplace relationships that impact utilization of support staff. I think that by going back to the basics over and over again (knowledge and skills coupled with effective interpersonal relationships) … rather than trying to differentiate by broad credentialing, we will be able to see the forest for the trees.

For example, when an LPN works as a care pair or a care partner with the same RN over a period of time, his/her contribution to the RN’s workload changes substantially. Likewise, coupling a new AD or BSN with an experienced clinician rather than having them work straight nights significantly increases the speed with which they get on board.

Personally, I like the structural clarity that comes from licensure delineations to guide differentiation … and this leads me to my current absolute conviction that the major difference between RNs (of all types of preparation) and LPNs (and other skilled technicians) lies in the decision-making role. RNs are licensed to make decisions about the amount degree and kind of care patients will receive. Period. No one else has the license to do so. When we step up to the plate and incorporate that in job descriptions, work expectations, nursing education, etc, I think the role of support staff (and appropriate skill mix for any unit) consequently will be clarified. Nursing is a practice profession and RN’s need to be able to combine care giving with care management in order to acquire the complex knowledge about their patient necessary for good decision making

Finally, I guess the diffusion of educational programs (now with the post-baccs, practice doctorates, etc) increases the challenges we will be facing in the coming years. I hope that by focusing on knowledge and skill requirements for patient care, within the structure of licensure healthy workplace cultures, we will have the guidance necessary to maximally utilize the knowledge, skill and talents of every member of the staff. I am optimistic that if we keep focusing on what is right for patient care, what is fundamentally sensible and legally appropriate; we will be able to minimize the confusion of the future challenges to resource utilization.