By Strategic Education, Inc. and Capella University
In the field of nursing, self-empowerment is more than just a feel-good concept. While empowerment in other occupations can result in greater job satisfaction and a heightened sense of professional worth, in nursing it’s a different matter.
For the nurses on your staff, it can be a matter of life and death.
If a nurse doesn’t feel empowered to speak up when her gut tells her something isn’t right, the patient she is treating could be at great risk. It’s important for nurses to not only trust their instincts and experience but to feel empowered to advocate for what they sense is right in order to support their patients as much as possible, at all times.
The problem is that too many nurses don’t feel empowered. They second guess themselves. They hesitate. They don’t speak up. Why is this the case?
It can be the result of a variety of factors: bullying, gender stereotypes, power games in the workplace—there are many reasons. As a society, we have work to do in creating a culture where we all feel valued in terms of sharing our voices, opinions, and expertise. And for nurses, the stakes are much higher. Enabling your nursing staff to feel empowered is a necessity.
So how can we cultivate that sense of self-empowerment in the health care setting? How can your nurses learn to trust their instincts and act on what they believe is right?
- Build their confidence.
For nurses to feel empowered, it all begins with feeling confident. Confidence in their skills. Confidence in their experience. Confidence in their analytical thinking. Embracing that is the first step.
Your nurses need to cultivate their expertise and experience. And once they do, they need to really believe it. Putting trust in themselves is key. As nurses, they’re not just skilled workers, but instead they are strategic partners within broader health care teams. We need to foster that sense of self and help them to never doubt all that they have to offer.
This includes teaching them to trust their intuition. As much as nurses have to be highly skilled and deeply knowledgeable about the science of health care, they also need to trust their gut feelings. No one is closer to the patient than a nurse. And with that comes a heightened awareness that goes beyond numbers on a chart. If we can help them learn to work through the distractions and noise that are part of hospitals or other institutional settings and focus on what their intuition is telling them, we can build their confidence to benefit their team.
- Encourage nurses to be lifelong learners.
Simply put, if nurses don’t have the most information available, they’re less likely to feel empowered to raise their voice and advocate on a patient’s behalf. Nurses can never be shaky or rusty with their knowledge base, especially since nursing education is not a one-and-done effort. The science of medicine changes rapidly; nurses are challenged to stay current on evolving trends and information.
Empowerment is a living, breathing thing, and it needs to be fed. By continually exploring and learning—whether through formal education, attending seminars, reading the latest journal articles, or listening to podcasts, nurses can make sure they have all the tools they need. Doing so boosts confidence, which is at the root of feeling empowered.
This a concept that has entered the national conversation in recent years. Per the AACN’s recent position statement on our health care workforce, there is a growing need for solutions that enable nurses to contribute as fully as possible. Creating pathways for them to get advanced education and degrees can be among the most impactful.
- Support their practice of self-empathy.
When nurses are encouraged to truly be themselves, they become more in tune with how they’re feeling. We should encourage them to embrace that, to experience and process their emotions. If they are hurting or having a bad day, they should recognize their feelings and work toward resolving them. If an incident during their workday has angered them, they need to pinpoint why they’re hurting and recognize its causes.
Nurses have to deal with so much. If they don’t work through their emotions, they are essentially walking wounded, and that can block them from feeling empowered.
By supporting our nurses in these ways, we can empower them to be the best expression of themselves. In doing so, we can provide a culture of support and common purpose at our institutions.
Strategic Education, Inc. is a leading resource for talent optimization and skill building. We own a portfolio of solutions designed to help make education more affordable and accessible for your employees. One being Capella University, which has 46 online degree programs and nine nursing and health sciences graduate and undergraduate programs.