1. Koestner, Amy MSN, RN

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As individuals grow throughout their nursing career, they usually transition through stages ranging from novice to expert. A new or young trauma program manager tends to remain focused on achieving verification status and does not often have much opportunity to contribute to other aspects of his or her institution. Although many resources and specialty services are necessary to be successful in verification, trauma programs can be a self-contained silo.


With successful verification comes recognition within the center or hospital system. As these leadership skills are recognized, the individual is pulled into more systemwide committees and projects. This provides an opportunity for trauma nurses to develop leadership skills within their own center. Examples of such involvement may include membership on a hospital wide policy or procedure committee, professional practice council, or an appointment as coordinator of the center's Gift of Life program.


If we stop to examine the concept of leader, we recognize that a leader can be an individual who commands authority or influence; it can be such an influence that directs others to act in a manner to accomplish a particular goal. Trauma nursing leaders do this every day. It may be through an in-service at a staff meeting, participating in a trauma resuscitation in the emergency department, or chairing a performance improvement committee. Some trauma nursing leaders have direct supervisory responsibilities, whereas for others the authority is more system directed. No matter what type of role you may have, as a trauma program manager, educator, advanced practice nurse, or administrator you have the ability to influence people and lead them in a specific direction or to accomplish a desired goal.


As one advances in these roles, what resources are available to help develop leadership skills? Most start with the management and leadership courses and workshops provided within one's own center. There is also a plethora of Internet and written resources available. There are often leaders within our own system whom we seek out and emulate. The leadership educational resources available online or from within a system are often based on broad concepts, focused on providing a foundation of knowledge. Professional nursing organizations such as Society of Trauma Nurses (STN) provide leadership resources focused specifically on trauma's unique issues and the leadership skills needed to identify and implement change.


So, what is the connection between this leadership dialogue and its meaning to achieving balance? If balance is defined as a stability that is produced by an even distribution, force, or influence, then can there be a need for leadership balance?


There are many aspects of life that we as trauma nurse leaders are constantly "balancing." We balance family and workplace continuously and with that sense of equilibrium we can produce our best work or function at our highest level. The real question is: how can you contribute or achieve balance as a leader?


One thing that we know about effective leaders is that they are good communicators. They establish trust, demonstrate respect of others, support their staff members, and function well under pressure. These leaders provide support to nursing staff members who want to pursue educational degrees, challenge "sacred cows," and implement evidence-based practice. Staff nurses are encouraged to get involved in nursing organizations by posting meeting notices or minutes from local meetings, or possibly by hosting the meeting at the leader's institution.


These are all positive and supportive practices, but as leaders we also have a responsibility to promote professional nursing activities through more than just posting notices or minutes. We have a responsibility to lead by example. Becoming a member of an organization is the first step toward involvement. Developing an active role on a committee or special interest group is the next step toward leadership balance. With that involvement comes the responsibility to update staff on regional, state, and national issues and opportunities. As the leader, you may function as a translator to staff as they implement new standards or practices. It may be through your leadership that the Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses is provided to emergency department and critical care staff members. It may be through your leadership and involvement in STN that additional educational resources are available to educate staff on clinical care issues of pediatric trauma patients, injury prevention programs and resources, or possibly direct them to some legislative links on current trauma policy issues.


It is important that each of us reflects back on our trauma nursing career and ask the question, Am I on the right road? Do I have the right tools and resources? Am I a resource to other nurses within my center, region, state, or at a national or international level? Being involved in a professional nursing organization at any level is truly a 2-way street. The STN needs your expertise and involvement to grow and develop this organization and to further the contribution that we all can make as a cohesive organization. The STN has resources and tools to assist in your development as a leader. The STN also needs your expertise and knowledge.


Leadership is growth process. For those in silos it is time to share your abilities with others in your center and get more involved professionally. For others who have either attempted to get involved or just have not made it there yet, it is time to make that commitment and take the chance. As our experience and knowledge base increase, we develop a willingness to take more risks, to move outside of our comfort zone, and, most importantly, to challenge ourselves. Answer that challenge to take that next step and to make an effort to achieve your own professional balance.