The word courageous is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage is exactly what you have been building and practicing each day as you care for your patients in your communities. In the past 3 years, I’ve witnessed more courage than ever before while working alongside fellow nurses. We’ll need to muster up some more courage in 2023. In healthcare, we have learned that doing things the way we always have, won’t work. This new year will require innovation, fortitude, and perseverance towards change. The public only sees the decline in COVID-19 cases; what they don’t see is that COVID-19 is now compounded with an upsurge in flu, RSV, and other illnesses
and that we are dealing with huge patient surges, inadequate staffing, exhaustion, and unhealthy work environments. My coworkers are some of the most courageous clinicians I know and here’s what I’ve learned working beside them.
- Speak up for healthy, safe work environments. Having an adequate number of competent nurses at the bedside will continue to be a challenge. It’s important to have a voice on committees and workgroups where decisions are being made and to make sure you can defend your views with data and evidence. Patient and workforce safety are paramount to creating a healthy work environment. Speaking up when unsafe situations present themselves and being ready with alternative solutions can make the difference in a patient’s outcome. Nurses need their institutions to foster safe and healthy work environments that provide the necessary resources and support before they can address nurse resiliency.
- Be innovative and open to new ideas. We have an experience and skill mix issue in nursing; the less experienced nurses outnumber the experienced ones. In addition, graduating nurses today are not practice ready. Nurses must lead organizations toward innovative change. Orientation models that provide mentorship, coaching, and oversight for new nurses must be put in place. For years we’ve been using a primary nurse model of care. While that model worked when there were an adequate number of RNs, today that’s simply not the case. Nurses must construct new models of care that support a team approach. Today the work of nursing is part of the bed and room charge; we need to articulate the value of nursing and move it to the revenue side of the ledger.
- Be open to collaboration. In healthcare, we tend to stay in our own specialties. That won’t work today. Healthcare is a team effort. It takes a team of multidisciplinary healthcare professionals to obtain optimal outcomes. Collaboration can be challenging because it means that some of us will have to give up ultimate control and work together to achieve the best outcomes. In organizations and units that let go of the silo mentality and work as a true team, care improves, and staff stay because they know their views are respected. Diverse teams mean diverse perspectives that can unite to achieve better outcomes.
- Don’t be so risk averse. We need to try new things and to view failures as opportunities to learn. Innovation requires a willingness to risk failing. Instead of overanalyzing the “what ifs,” let’s focus on the “why not?”. If we don’t try new things, we don’t come up with new solutions, and we never advance. Healthcare can’t afford to stay stagnant; there are too many lives at stake.
As we face 2023, it’s easy to become overwhelmed while thinking about everything that’s wrong in healthcare today. Instead, take a moment to recognize the courage that has grown in you since you became a nurse. Look at your coworkers practicing beside you and find inspiration from their perseverance. I am in awe of my coworkers. Every day, they come to work with a purpose, face challenging situations courageously, and work to improve clinical practice and patient outcomes. They are true role models and make me want to be the best clinician I can be.