1. Murray, Kathleen MSN, RN, NE-BC

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One way or another: Integrating your academic and professional roles

Q I didn't realize when I entered my DNP program the significant impact it would have on my work and family obligations. With four semesters left and feeling extremely stressed, I fear the only choices I have are to either step down from my director role or withdraw from the DNP program. Help!

I highly recommend that you take it slow and evaluate your possibilities. First, think about why you returned to the academic setting. Did you pursue the advanced degree because it's mandated for your job with a set timeframe, are you doing it for future career advancement, or it is a personal goal? If it's mandated, this could be adding additional stress.

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Next, you need to do your homework and fully investigate all of your options, which should include the following:


* requesting flexible scheduling for your remaining semesters. Prepare a proposal offering to work off shift, four 10-hour shifts per week, and weekends. Remember that this option may not be well received by your colleagues who are also in school and haven't pursued a request for flexible scheduling.


* reevaluating your course curriculum. If you're taking two to three courses a semester, consider requesting a revision of your curriculum that will allow you to take only one course a semester.


* taking a sabbatical if your organization offers that option. Many organizations offer paid and unpaid sabbaticals for employees who want to pursue higher education. You'll need to overcome the stress of feeling that you won't have a job to come back to or the financial burden to your family. If you're viewed as a high-performing director, your organization may support you because they don't want to lose your talent.



It may seem overwhelming right now, but know that it can be achieved, especially being so close to completing the program. If you truly decide you want to step down as a director to pursue your DNP or withdraw from the DNP program, planning for either decision will be instrumental to your success and future job enjoyment.


Low staff engagement scores? Take action!

Q The employee engagement results of the question "At work I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day" are low for my busy 32-bed medical-surgical unit. Do you have suggestions for what I should include in my action plan?

The key part of your action plan is to schedule one-on-one time with each staff member to discuss his or her strengths and talents in the domains of skills, knowledge, and communication. Minimal time should be spent on the staff members' weaknesses so the meeting isn't construed as a negative interaction.


Next, the discussion should include developing a career plan for each staff member so that he or she is able to identify how to truly function at maximum capacity, which can result in a much higher level of performance. In addition, you'll need to evaluate whether your staff members are in the right positions and how each staff member's strengths can complement each other.


Development of staff autonomy should also be included in your action plan. Staff members normally don't like being micromanaged, but embrace having a voice in communicating their concerns and determining solutions. The end result-your unit will evolve into an effective and efficient team with staff members in positions they enjoy, leading to full staff engagement.