How can I become a leader in the nursing profession?
As the president of the Board of Directors at AWHONN, I am often asked about leadership in nursing – how can we encourage young nurses to be leaders, what skills do they need, what is holding them back?
What I have learned over my 27 years of nursing is that becoming a leader requires thinking of nursing as not just a set of clinical skills, but also as the business of nursing and training yourself for that.
My leadership journey started when a colleague tapped me on the shoulder in grad school and told me to join AHWONN. I joined, but I didn’t just become a member, I took every opportunity I could to challenge myself and learn new skills. From volunteering at section conferences, managing my chapter/section budget, to eventually doing executive-level consulting work, everything I did and learned was applicable to my future career success. I also looked at my career as a hobby and learned what I loved – don’t forget that leadership without passion for what you do is not successful or rewarding.
To become a leader, you will need to take on different skill sets that interest you and could be applicable down the road. When I applied to my first executive-level job, I was able to point to the finance experience I had with managing my chapter/section budget. It was finance on a different scale, but by leaning on these same core skills I picked up as a leader, I landed the position. Through the work I did as a fetal monitoring instructor, I was able to show how I could train and educate nurses at higher levels than myself. It also helped introduce me to a circle of networking throughout Southeast Michigan. Also, speaking on the Hill about public policy that you are passionate about will give you a voice, a strong voice, which will carry you forward.
Always look for challenges! AWHONN is a great place to start – apply to become an AWHONN Emerging Leader, speak out on the Hill, and even grow your writing skills by writing for this blog – AWHONN Connections. It is an empowering organization that provides you the opportunity and tools to grow as a person and as a nurse.
You can do anything you want to do – become a teacher, an executive, a clinical nurse specialist. Find where you fit and what you are passionate about, train for all the skills you need and succeed!
Karen Harris is the President of AWHONN and Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.