Growing Holistic Leadership in Nursing

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Although not a brand-new issue, the nursing shortage has taken a toll on our healthcare system including current nurses and our communities. So how do we cope with that when we love nursing so much? It’s a matter of resiliency.
Now, more than ever, holistic nurse leadership is needed practically everywhere.

What is Holistic Leadership?

Holistic leadership as defined by Barbara Dossey and Susan Luck in the Nurse Coaching: Integrative Approaches for Health and Wellbeing textbook reads as “A state of mindful awareness and beingness that embodies strengths, purposes, values, ethics, and vision that holds to present and future expectations that can be shared with others in interprofessional collaborations; it includes opening the intuitive insights and inner wisdom, which allows caring, compassion, purpose empathy, authenticity, humility, and integrity to manifest.”

Characteristics of a Holistic Nurse Leader

Holistic nurse leaders possess all the characteristics of a nurse leader and then elevates that role by embracing an integrative holistic perspective.
The 7 core characteristics of a holistic leader as noted by Dossey&Keegan are as follows:

  • Visionary: The visionary understands the deeper spiritual needs of the people and the organization they work for. They are a catalyst for innovation who thinks outside of the box and collaborates with colleagues and the other team members.

  • Inspirational presence: Being an inspirational presence, the holistic nurse leader creates a positive and engaging environment through inclusion, respect, caring, and acknowledgement. She/he is genuine and authentic in presence.

  • Role model: The holistic nurse leader leads by example…. upholding principles of integrity, ethical standards, courageous in own truth and knowing, and fully present with an approachable open heart and mind, non-judgmental perception of others.

  • Mentor: The holistic nurse leader views mentorship as a partnership where both parties mutually benefit from contributing insights, wisdom, ideas, and experiences.

  • Champion for clinical excellence: The holistic nurse leader understands the paradigm shift in healthcare and the evolving healthcare system. She/he connects the caring aspects of nursing with the business side, an encourages further education with clinical nurses as they are required to do the same. She/he holds nurses accountable for exceptional patient care, engagement with their patients, caring for their peers, and self-care.

  • Courageous advocate: The holistic nurse leader is strongly committed to support the holistic nursing practice in all aspects. She/he engages one’s voice to facilitate nursing to its fullest potential. This means she/he must include for both nurses and patients: active listening, self-reflection, openness to learning about discriminatory issues, social injustices, racial inequities, mental health struggles to name a few.

  • Courageous advocate: The holistic nurse leader is strongly committed to support the holistic nursing practice in all aspects. She/he engages one’s voice to facilitate nursing to its fullest potential. This means she/he must include for both nurses and patients: active listening, self-reflection, openness to learning about discriminatory issues, social injustices, racial inequities, mental health struggles to name a few.

  • Cultural transformational agent: The holistic nurse leader works to transform her/his organization to become and excel as a caring, healing environment for every person who enters the organization.

How can Nurses Grow into a Holistic Leadership Role?

As a nurse, you should know you are never done learning…. or as Florence Nightingale said it, “Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses…. We must be learning all of our lives”. Consider advancing your education.
  • Obtain board certification as a Nurse Coach by taking an accredited course and sitting for the exam.

  • Advance your nursing credentials by obtain a BSN, MSN, or NP.

  • Join an organization to network and meet other nurse leaders.

  • Find a mentor. A good mentor can coach and help you develop your career path.

  • Demonstrate your leadership skills within your organization. Be innovative and tackle a problem. Don’t be afraid to advocate for others as this is an essential characteristic of a holistic nurse leader. Lastly, be vulnerable enough to ask for help, it’s the most authentic way to build a collaborative team.

The benefits of having a holistic nurse leader are endless. Patient’s, nurses, and the multidisciplinary team will feel valued and heard. Imagine having a great team of nurses not feeling burned out or constantly overwhelmed. Employee retention will improve and will likely bring other nurses into this environment. Additionally, productivity and profits will increase for businesses.

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Lisa Landis RN

Lisa is an adult wellness nurse in a family practice by day and a freelance health content writer by night….and Saturday morning. She is passionate about her career because she gets to do what makes her happy, help others and write. Lisa is still actively involved with her INCA alumni and meets monthly with her cohorts and pursuing her board certification in Nurse Coaching.

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