Finding My Niche Through Fellowship in STTI's Gerontological Nursing Leadership Academy

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Mary Catherine Rawls, MS, BSN, RN-BC, CNL, FGNLA
Center for Nursing Excellence, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH, USA
Ellen Flaherty, PhD, APRN
Community Engagement Division, Dartmouth Hitchcock Center for Health ansd Aging, Lebanon, NH, USA
Claudia J. Beverly, PhD
College of Nursing, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, USA

Utilizing principles and concepts presented in Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, an examination of my leadership practices and experiences was begun, commencing with acceptance as a Fellow in Sigma Theta Tau International’s Gerontological Nursing Leadership Academy. The Academy is designed as an eighteen month mentored experience to foster my leadership development and influence at the local, state and national levels in my organization, the community and the profession of nursing, focusing on geriatric nursing as the vehicle for change. Three learning domains were emphasized throughout Academy workshops and experiences to advance nursing practice: Individual Leadership Development, the establishment of an Interprofessional Team Leadership Project and the Expansion of a Scope of Influence as a Nursing Leader in my organization, the community, state and nation to improve the well-being of the elderly. Through the framework of Kouzes and Posner's The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership, I scrutinized my leadership behaviors in the following realms: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart. My strengths were in encouraging the heart by expecting the best of myself and modeling the way through example and mentoring of other nurses. Practices I needed to improve upon were inspiring a shared vision in others, challenging the processes, taking risks and enabling others to act. My journey to improve leadership behaviors started with an individual leadership development plan to strengthen my organizational and delegation skills. Researching the literature and initiating changes in practice and behavior have resulted in personal gains of increased organization (particularly of papers, articles and work-related documents) and time.

Leading an Interprofessional Project to advance the practice of nursing took the form of attaining organizational designation as a NICHE (Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders) facility. Steps to accomplish this included attending a Leadership Training Program sponsored by the NICHE organization; establishing and leading an interprofessional Steering Committee comprised of occupational and physical therapists, a registered dietician, unit nurse managers, clinical nurses; and organizing clinical nurses to launch their on-going professional education regarding the elderly as Gerontology Resource Nurses for specified units throughout the hospital. In addition, the project has resulted in Quarterly Gerontology Nursing Grand Rounds, a Gerontology Introductory Conference for Registered Nurses, two gerontology-focused conferences for Licensed Nursing Assistants and planning for a fall 2017 Geriatric Pharmacology for the Interprofessional Team conference as well as a Gerontology Certification Preparation course.

Expanding my scope of influence is demonstrated through Board Membership in the following organizations: The New Hampshire State Committee on Aging, Psi Sigma chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (Governance Chair), the Upper Valley Medical Reserve Corp and the New Hampshire Task Force on Falls. This fall I will be facilitating a visit to our state by AARP’s Vice President for Policy. Another outcome has been to conduct a podium presentation at the 25th NICHE Conference regarding work completed in a pilot project regarding tools to support the early recognition of sepsis in hospitalized medical patients. Additionally, I am leading a monthly quilting retreat presently focused on creating twenty-four quilts for a Hospice and Palliative Care Center under construction on our medical campus and scheduled to open in November of this year.