Nurse Leaders Listening Deeply

If you are a nurse leader in the position of being responsible for other nurses’ satisfaction and well-being, you have quite a task on your plate. Not only are you needing to manage the day to day of a nursing unit, home health agency, or other clinical operation, but you also need to make sure your nurses feel heard and seen.

Nurses Feeling Unheard

Nurses can often feel unheard and unseen by management. Nurse managers and leaders may be so busy putting out various fires that they don’t make time to sit down and hear how their direct reports are actually doing.

If staff meetings are always focused on policies, procedures, and other concrete issues, staff nurses’ feelings and experiences can be swept under the rug, with resentments and bad feelings forced into the realm of subterranean psychoemotional undercurrents. The prudent nurse leader doesn’t let this happen.

Make Time To Listen

When a staff nurse has something on her mind, she may or may not share it with colleagues; if she keeps it to herself, it may fester. If several nurses share a certain opinion or complaint, that feeling can grow, spread throughout the team, and, if unaddressed, cause a rift between staff and management.

Thoughtful, forward thinking nurse leaders set aside time to listen to their staff . During meetings, an effective nurse leader elicits thoughts and feelings, encouraging the open discussion of complaints, concerns, ideas, and brainstorms.

Nurses may sometimes simply need to blow off steam about something that’s been needling them, but this type of sharing can also be an opportunity for problems to be raised and potential solutions discussed as a team.

Open listening free of any agenda is an exercise that gives the nurse leader a great deal of valuable information about the health of the team while affording team members a chance to feel heard on issues of individual and collective importance; it’s a total win-win.

Responsive Leadership

Listening is a gift to nurses, and when listening is followed by reflection and positive, constructive action on the part of a nurse leader, all the better. Hearing complaints and concerns is important, and when a nurse leader initiates positive changes in response to nurses’ concerns, staff nurses will feel heard, seen, and more importantly, responded to.

Responsive leadership is about listening, considering, and subsequently acting in a manner that brings about welcome change. If bullying is identified as an important issue, that behavior gets addressed, and bullies are rooted out and fired. If nurses voice concerns about safety, improved safety protocols are initiated.

Active listening is the basis for responsive and enlightened nursing leadership. Decisions cannot be made in a vacuum; when change is called for, listening to the opinions of nurses with boots on the ground will provide the progressive nurse leader with valuable information. Do not underestimate the power of listening; nurses who feel heard can feel empowered, and empowered nurses are exactly what a nurse leader should consistently focus on creating.


About Keith

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Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at NurseKeith.com.