Who is Your Inspiration?

To many of us, the month of May means Nurses Week and nurse recognition. Here are some thoughts on leadership we can apply to 2021.

As you may know, our esteemed founder of professional nursing, Florence Nightingale, established the profession for women (only) because there was a societal need, on two counts:

  1. the need for more caregivers in the Army;
  2. the need for women to have an honest means to earn a wage other than becoming a nun, a nanny, or a wet-nurse.

These past several years, I’ve focused leadership training on solving the many cultural problems of healthcare. The work continues, of course, even virtually, with coaching and conferences.

However, based on the news of the day, my attention is also drawn to the fact that propelled me, in 1995, to begin teaching applied improvisational exercises (improv) from The Arts (e.g., theater, dance, writing, drawing) to Silicon Valley start-ups. That is: the problem of organizational hierarchy that limits inter- and intra-professional communication today is certainly not limited to healthcare.

We know that healthcare administrators look to thought leaders in the general public for leadership advice. Indeed, I have more than one large STACK of leadership tomes I used to formulate a graduate course for nurses on healthcare leadership. What, I asked myself, do these books all have in common? Besides that none were written to specifically apply to healthcare, many academics still utilize and refer to them, because the ideas are inspiring and motivational. How do they do that?

For starters, most call out the need for integrity in leadership.

That hasn’t changed. We desire our leaders to be individuals of good moral character. Check.

Then, the leadership gurus talk about the insight and innovation needed to lead an organization to great heights.  That hasn’t changed, either.  Check again.

When I conducted a qualitative research scan of most of Nightingale’s work, including many of her more than 200 books and articles and over 10,000 personal letters, I found those three categories of leadership (integrity, insight, and innovation), were SO important to her, she wrote on or about them continually throughout her life.  (Matter of fact, that is why my book on Miss N. And her influence on me personally, is titled Channeling Florence Nightingale: Integrity, Insight, Innovation.)

It is my wish that all we in healthcare, who have benefitted from Nightingale’s work to improve the lot in life of people through clean air and water, proper sanitation, nutritious food and housing for the poor, and certainly education, safe childbirth, and honest work opportunities for women, will keep working for the common good and not be dissuaded by difficult times.

Although Miss Nightingale suffered physical disability from her time working in the Crimean Conflict, she maintained that to be a nurse was the greatest, most wonderful profession, because of the honor of having cared for others in such a way.  She often reminded the Nightingale School students to go into the world with kindness. That is my wish for you this Nurse Week.