Preparing Tomorrow's Leaders to Bring About Positive Change for Healthcare and the Nursing Profession

Monday, 30 October 2017

Sarah O. Watts, PhD, RN
Auburn University School of Nursing, Auburn, AL, USA

According to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, the nursing discipline has an opportunity and responsibility to transform the current healthcare system in the United States. Academia has the important role of preparing future leaders to lead this transformation (Waddell, Adams, & Fawcett, 2016). Preparing nursing students to be leaders for the future is key to advancing the profession and improving patient care across the country.

In our baccalaureate nursing program, many students were not interested in health policy and lacked understanding of leading change. Thus, the macro leadership course was redesigned and students’ evaluations of the course’s effectiveness drastically increased. However, there was still a need to provide more opportunites in the course to prepare students to lead change in the future. Therefore, this poster presentation will describe an ongoing scholarly project that explores the current literature related to nursing involvement in health policy, discuss Kotter’s change model, and identify how Kotter’s model can be utilized by the nursing profession to transform healthcare. Incorporation of these elements into the course provided nursing students with the foundational knowledge to lead change in their future careers.

A search of the related, current literature was performed to explore nursing's involvement in health policy and advocacy. Due to knowledge and experience, nurses have the ability and insight to serve as change agents for healthcare reform (Premji & Hatfield, 2016; Westphal & McNiel, 2014). The nursing profession possesses unique evidence to address many of the health problems plaguing our healthcare system (Conn & Armer, 2012; Hall-Long, 2009). However, lack of political involvement in health policy for numerous years has taken a toll on the nursing profession and hindered nurses from being represented when important decisions are made regarding healthcare and the profession (Sheehan, 2010). Nurses must continue to perform research and actively participate in evidence-based practice in order to improve patient care. In addition, nurse leaders need to take a seat at the table with other members of the healthcare team and have a voice on decisions regarding patient care and health policy (Kostas-Polston, Thanavaro, Arvidson, & Taub, 2015; Waddell et al., 2016).

The profession must have a strategic approach when developing plans to accomplish goals. Dr. John Kotter (Kotter International, 2017) spent several decades focusing on leading change. After many years of observing and researching this area, he developed an eight-step process to lead change (Kotter International, 2017). Kotter’s model (Kotter International, 2017) can be adapted for the nursing profession to improve patient care, bring about change in nursing units, advance the profession at state and national levels, and guide collaboration with interprofessional teams. Use of this model in our nursing macro leadership course helped to develop the next generation of nurses to be better prepared for involvement in health policy and advocates for patients and the profession.

As previously stated, students in our baccalaureate nursing program lacked the foundational knowledge to lead change in the healthcare environment. In attempt to move to a more active learning approach and provide a more meaningful learning experience for students, Kotter’s change model was discussed in the course to provide students with an opportunity to gain greater insight to the process of leading change. Students understanding of Kotter’s model served as a preparatory approach to formulate an advocacy point paper. Hopefully, students will continue to use this model or incorporate another method to bring about positive change in their careers and join others to lead the transformation in the healthcare system.