Nurse Leadership and CNS Coaching


How many of you thought of your child’s sports team when you read this title? Well, I’m here to tell you, coaching isn’t limited to sports. Coaching is for everyone in whatever role we are residing in the moment. As nurses, do we think of ourselves as needing coaching? I know initially I didn’t. Over my 35 years as a nurse, I have held many positions from staff nurse to director of nursing. I have had a number of individuals I considered mentors, but it wasn’t until I was in a director position that I was able to have a personal coach, someone that had the time and skills to help me navigate the complex environment known as healthcare.
All too often, coaching is thought to be for the executive level staff. But what about those individuals that don’t occupy space in the “C” suite? What about the individuals that need support/guidance in their position. I’m thinking about those roles that are considered “support” roles, such as the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS).

The CNS faces many challenges in their work environment. How you navigate the challenges will impact your success. What support systems are in place to help you in all that you do? What relationships do you have that assist you in making an impact with your role? Is the organizational culture “there for you?” Where do you turn for support?

How many of you have struggled with the nurse manager on the units to which you are assigned? The manager may not value your role and/or they may not see you as a member of their leadership team. Often times CNS’ tell me they just “go along” with things because the manager is “the boss” (even if you don’t directly report to them) and isn’t open to discussion about the topic at hand.

A coach may be just the answer. Coaching is a valuable tool for everyone’s professional development tool kit. A coach will partner with you to design a path that will assist you in living life in an as fulfilled and purposeful way as possible. A coach can assist movement from feeling isolated and overwhelmed to being focused and motivated.

Let me share one example of a recent coaching encounter I had with a relatively new CNS (Jane). Her challenge was in the relationship she had with a nurse manager on one of the units in which she was assigned. Historically, the nurse manager didn’t value the role of the CNS (had a negative experience in the past) and therefore didn’t include Jane in any of the strategic planning for the unit. The manager wanted Jane to focus on skin assessments and make sure that all of the staff members were focusing on skin and not “worry” about anything else. The CNS had identified clinical learning needs of some of the nurses new to the unit. Most of these nurses were new graduates. The CNS was concerned that the nurses wouldn’t be clinically competent to move out of orientation as expected. Upon approaching the manager, the CNS was told the concern was not about skin and therefore something she shouldn’t be addressing.

Our sessions focused on how Jane could help the manager appreciate that she did not practice in the same style as the previous CNS. The sessions also helped identify ways to enhance their working relationship. Working together, Jane was able to design a “script” to utilize in presenting her concerns. The script contained examples of past interactions “gone bad” and suggestions for future interactions based on Jane’s needs in her role. Jane shared how she felt in these interactions as well as what would be helpful. She also included asking the manager what would be helpful for her. We role-played this until Jane felt confident in her presentation. The response was positive. The nurse manager didn’t realize how her feelings about the previous CNS had infiltrated her relationship with Jane. Both have agreed to work on ways to more effectively work with each other. Future work with Jane will continue to focus on role-clarification and assertive communication in addition to any other issues that may arise.

Coaching provides a vehicle for growth and development.

Do you need one?

Barbara Reece, RN, MSN
Development Matters, LLC

To inquire about jobs visit Melnic Consulting Group or contact:

Jill Gilliland

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