Tip 1: Summarize

Take five minutes at the end of each class to ask students to summarize the content, or to solve a sample problem, or to apply information to a new situation. This exercise will help you to understand what information is getting across and the level of comprehension of your students.

How do you bring out the best in your nurses?

Nurse educators are in the unique position to be able to inspire their nurses to become extraordinary, motivate them toward excellence, and support them in their efforts to provide better care. In doing so, educators will be in the position to transform patient care to higher levels and act as a catalyst in the careers of their nurses.

To become a transformational educator requires patient and persistent self-development and constant attention to detail in your teaching activities. Business author John C. Maxwell uses the acrostic B*E*S*T to describe the essential components that will bring out the best in your nurses.

B Believe in them. Regardless of what you think their real motivation is, always believe that your nurses are there because they want to provide extraordinary care. When you start treating people as if they were motivated by higher standards, most will start to live up to those standards. It is human nature that many nurses will fall to the lowest level that you expect of them; so make that level extraordinary, rather than satisfactory.

E Encourage them. Find more reasons why they can do it rather than why they can’t. Many people have been told their whole lives that they can’t do certain things, so they have come to believe it. I can’t tell you the number of nurses who tell me they are “bad test-takers” during our certification review classes. Nobody is intrinsically a “bad test-taker.” It is a skill, just like starting an IV. It takes practice, not intrinsic ability. In what ways can you be more encouraging?

S Share with them. If people can see how you’ve overcome limitations, they can see how they might be able to overcome their own too! Look for similar experiences in your past that you can share with students to encourage them to take the leap of faith into resolving some of their own issues that may be keeping them from a more successful and enjoyable career.

T Trust them. Although it is true that some people are motivated only by their own self-interest, most nurses are interested in doing what’s right and helping other people. I try to always assume that other person is sincere and give them my full trust. Will I be let down? Sometimes; but I will always be disappointed if I don’t trust people at all. I’ve chosen a position that leaves me open to being hurt or disappointed, and I know that. It isn’t naïve, it was a conscious choice. The benefit is that many times people will rise to the occasion and surpass their own expectations, which results in personal growth. Trusting gives the other person permission to be responsible and to grow.

Try integrating these four concepts into your teaching style. You may find, as I did, that a nurturing approach is very effective at developing personal growth in your nurses and motivating them to achieve higher levels of patient care.

Message from my mentors: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.” ~Henry Ford


The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) has authored a document called The Synergy Model for Nursing Practice. The premise of The Synergy Model is to provide a framework for professional nursing practice that helps to elevate our profession. One of the characteristics of nurses that The Synergy Model describes is that of advocacy and moral agency.

Now when I think of being a patient advocate, I think of doing things like informing the physician of the patient’s wishes; or getting the patient a special something they like with their meal tray; or maybe getting a better pillow so they can rest more comfortably. These are things we all do to make our patients feel better and I think many of us feel that these are the things it takes to be an advocate.

However, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses thinks that advocacy goes much beyond those caring measures. As an advocate for the patient, the AACN suggests that we will become involved in our professional organizations and our committees and governance at our institution. We will become involved as advocates for our patients. Suggesting and troubleshooting better ways to provide nursing care so that our patients get the best possible care.

What does advocacy mean to you? What if you were to take on the AACN’s definition and take your advocacy to a higher level? Raise the bar. Reach further. You can become a greater advocate for your patient.

Seek out opportunities to serve on committees, in leadership positions and with your nursing organizations. I can guarantee you that even though these positions are usually voluntary; the rewards are worth more than any monetary compensation. Being involved in the process that changes healthcare for the better is the greatest reward.

The WHY?

The results you achieve in life are determined by the goals that you set and the work you put into those goals. What motivates you to put work into your goals is the ‘why’ behind the goal. Why do you want to achieve this particular goal? If the ‘why’ is big enough, then the ‘what’ and ‘where’ will appear. In other words, when you have a strong desire to achieve a goal to meet a good end, the methods necessary in order to achieve that goal will appear. The key to achieving more of your goals is to focus on the ‘why.’

Why is achieving this goal important? What kind of an impact will your goal have upon other people and how can it change your life and the lives of many others? These are strong, powerful questions that will help you to get motivated to achieve your goal.

Another interesting point about goals is that goals must be large. The larger your goal, the more impact it will have on other people. The bigger the ‘why’ is, the more positive energy you will attract to the cause and the more possible solutions will present themselves to you. Remember, though, that large goals always require the help of other people. If you can achieve all your goals by yourself, then it is likely that your goals are not big enough.

This week revisit the large goals in your life. What have you always dreamed about doing that you have been putting off? What would you like your life to stand for? What would you like your legacy to be? Think about those questions. It is likely they will take you in the direction of the large goal that you have not achieved in your life that could be the underlying purpose for all that you do.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” – Henry David Thoreau

Excellence versus Competence

We have competency fairs and we hear a lot about continued competence in nursing, but do you want to remain merely competent or do you want to be extraordinary. Think about the difference between these two terms. If a friend recommended a plumber to you and said, “He is a really competent plumber.” That might sound like a good recommendation. On the other hand, what if the friend said, “He is an extraordinary plumber.” Which of the two recommendations would you be more excited about?

The ideas of maintaining or continuing competence bother me. When you look around at the knowledge and skill of the nurses that you work with we find that some are better than others. Even though all may be considered competent only a few are extraordinary. If one of your patients wrote a letter to the hospital administrator complementing your nursing care, wouldn’t you rather the letter said “she is an extraordinary nurse” rather than “she was a competent nurse”?

To me competence indicates a basic level of preparation, knowledge, and skill, but to me extraordinary is something else entirely which begs to question what does it take to become an extraordinary nurse. That is what mastery is all about; developing your expertise so that you can master nursing.

In order to develop mastery you must first understand where you are and develop a plan for where you want to get. Most importantly action must immediately follow. It is daily action or baby steps taken toward the direction of your plan for mastery that will make your care extraordinary.

Extraordinary nurses all have something in common; they work harder on themselves than they work on other people. In other words, it is more important to them to develop their knowledge, skills, and inner resources than it is to criticize other people or the system in which they work. Blaming must be eliminated. One of the reasons why our healthcare system is the way it is is because no one is taking responsibility for the system. But you can take responsibility for how you think, for how you provide care, and for developing your knowledge and skill so that you can provide extraordinary care wherever you are.

Mastering nursing so that your care becomes extraordinary does not happen by accident. It is planned and worked at in a daily fashion until a superior level of care is achieved. To determine if mastery is important to you go back to the original question. If a patient were to write a letter to the hospital administration how would you want it to read?

At the end of your career how would you like your coworkers to think about you? What would you like your family to say about you and, closer to home, what would you like your performance evaluations to read? Competence will ensure a certain level of comfort. It is comforting knowing that you can get through your day and get your work done on time and cause no harm, but excellence has so many more benefits. Excellence provides the ease and intuition to provide care that is extraordinary. When you make excellence your goal you will find that you take more responsibility for your own knowledge and skill acquisition, for your own professional development, and for the outcomes of your patients.

Innovation in Nursing

Cool new ideas come from thinking in ways we have never thought before. In years of attending staff meetings, committee meetings, and the like, I’ve rarely seen a cool new idea expressed. Typically these formats are designed to transmit information in a way that stifles imagination and resists challenging the status quo.

Recently, my company started using a program call “TrainOne” by Jeffery Gittomer. It is a training program designed for sales people. My intent is not to train better sales people, but rather to get fresh ideas and stimulate thinking. The process of sales is really just persuasion. I think all nurses should study sales in order to learn how to be more persuasive. We all have to persuade someone of our ideas: persuade our kids to pick up their rooms, persuade our administrators to implement a new protocol, or persuade our patients to take their medications. Persuasion is an important skill, and sales training is a great way to learn it.

But mostly, I like the idea of looking outside of our own industry for cool new ideas. When we are only looking at how we do things in comparison with how others in our own industry do them we are not challenged to stretch very far. Nursing education is a good example. We teach new nurses basically the same way we have for years. Even our new “high-tech” classrooms are not really innovative, they’ve just added new projectors and screens so that our boring PowerPoint slides look better.

If you want to be a better educator, I would suggest taking a class in the elementary education department at the local college. These teachers have cool ideas! Or, attend a seminar on sales, and learn more about how to persuade people – isn’t that what teaching is, persuading your staff to do something new?

If you want your staff to “get it” without having to repeat it over and over again, you’ve got to get some new and cool ideas. And the best ones come from outside of our community. Look around for cool people, cool ideas, and wacky thinkers. Get some of these people on your committees, or in your department. Ask them for ideas. Forget about “thinking outside the box” and discard the box entirely – think outside the medical industry! You will find that when you start actively searching for cool ideas that they will start coming to you from everywhere. Ask some wacky thinkers for their suggestions and really give the idea some thought.

Cool new ideas will keep your material fresh, make your teaching more interesting, and make your job a lot more fun! Make it your mission to find them and use them. The results are extraordinary!