Professional Coaching: A Successful Strategy for Supporting and Developing Nurse Managers for the Future

Tuesday, 31 October 2017: 9:00 AM

Jennifer M. Bradley, PhD
Linda Weaver Moore, PhD
School of Nursing, Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH, USA

Nurse managers confront many challenges in today’s complex healthcare environment. Nurse managers, middle managers charged with 24 hour fiscal, quality and human resource responsibilities for at least one nursing unit within a healthcare organization, must attend to both management and leadership responsibilities. The demands of the role are often overwhelming and may result in role stress and burnout (Zwink et al., 2013). The expectations of nurse managers will continue to expand and require newer and enhanced skill levels as healthcare systems continue to evolve (Aiken & Harper-Harrison, 2012). As the key interface between patients, nursing staff, and medical staff, nurse managers can significantly impact patient care and outcomes. Nurse managers are also crucial to the overall success of healthcare organizations, influencing nurse satisfaction and retention, profitability, and organizational culture (Cowden, Cummings, & Profetto-McGrath, 2011; Gray 2012). Despite their pivotal role, literature suggests thoughtful recruitment and orientation to the manager role and professional development of managers once in the role, is often lacking (Cziraki, McKey, Peachey, Baxter, & Flaherty, 2014; Fennimore & Wolf, 2011; Moore, Sublett, & Leahy, 2016). Managers have reported that learning the role often occurs through a “trial by fire” or “learning on the fly” approach (Moore, Sublett, & Leahy, 2016, p. 100). Professional development, mentorship, and “someone to walk alongside,” often desired by those new to the role and those who have served in the role for many years, is frequently non-existent (Moore et al., 2016, p. 100). Strategies must be designed that support the development and success of nurse managers in their role if the role is to remain sustainable for healthcare organizations in the future (Cziraki et al., 2014).

One strategy, professional coaching, may be beneficial in supporting and developing mid-level nurse managers. Professional coaching is defined as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coach Federation, 2017). Although professional coaches have been shown to be beneficial to healthcare leaders at the executive level for several decades, including nurse executives (McNally & Cunningham, 2010; Thompson, Wolf, & Sabatine, 2012), only recently have coaches begun to offer their services to nurses in middle management positions. Therefore, little empirical evidence exists that demonstrates the benefits of coaching mid-level managers (Westcott, 2016).

The purpose of this presentation is to share findings from a descriptive, qualitative investigation that examined the perceptions of professional coaches regarding their experiences coaching mid-level nurse managers. Eleven professional coaches from across the U.S. who have coached nurse managers participated in in-depth, semi-structured, audio-taped researcher-participant interviews. All interviews were transcribed and transcripts served as the data. A content analysis was conducted and data were coded and categorized. Themes were determined. Rigor was enhanced as both researchers conducted an independent analysis of the data and then came together to reach agreement on the themes. Themes emerged as participants discussed reasons why they choose to coach nurse managers, how nurse managers and the manager role differ from other leaders and leadership roles, how coaches can be most helpful to nurse managers and the most valuable contribution coaches can make to the development of nurse managers, and the expected return on investment that results with professional coaching. Findings reveal the use of professional coaches can be a successful strategy for supporting and developing nurse managers.

Globally, healthcare organizations of the future will be in urgent need of nurse leaders who can successfully navigate in rapidly transforming healthcare environments. Such leaders must be appropriately supported and developed in their role. Professional coaching is one strategy that can be useful in supporting and developing nurse leaders in executive leadership positions, as well as, those leaders in mid-level positions as they fulfil their crucial role impacting patient outcomes, nurse retention, and the overall success of healthcare organizations.