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Essay: Leadership in Adult Nursing (reflective)

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Leadership is a process which involves individual activity to state desire objective and vision in a situation, providing support and motivating other people to attend set goals (Swearingen, 2009). Danae et al. (2017) believe that leadership is broadly recognised as a key aspect of overall effective healthcare. Therefore, nurses require strong leadership skills to accomplish various tasks to improve care quality. In this assignment, I will cross reference six experts (see appendices) from my professional development portfolio related to the four domains of standards of competence for preregistration nursing (NMC, 2010). Additionally, I will address each domain using Rolfe, Freshwater and Jasper (2001) reflection model, which is composed of three stages ‘what’, ‘so what’, and ‘now what’. This model is suitable to link practical experiences with theory, it helps to improve clinical practice and identify further learning opportunities; which will be addressed by formulating a S.M.A.R.T action plan (Doran, 1981).
Domaine 1: Professional values
Appendix 1 shows aspects of the professional values that I need to address. It contains mentor’s comment about patient advocacy skill. During my Nursing Practice 5 (NP5), I looked after a 56-year-old disabled woman with Spina Bifida who was alert and orientated, unable to move on her own, but, had clearly expressed her need to be moved every two hours to avoid another pressure ulcer as she had one before. This was not respected by health care assistant taking for excuses “the ward is very busy, she is not the only patient”. I regret I didn’t advocate for her. Furthermore, appendix 2, which is the leadership framework self-assessment tool demonstrates aspects of personal quality that I need to review. These are related to the (NMC, 2010) instructing nurses to take all reasonable steps to protect people who are vulnerable or at risk from harm, neglect or abuse.
So what?
Professionalism means practice through the application of the Code (NMC, 2017). In the UK, nurses must act as advocates for their patients, challenge poor practice and discriminatory attitudes and behaviour relating to the care of vulnerable people, (NMC, 2015). This is supported by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) stating that speaking on behalf of another is an integral part of the nurse’s role (RCN, 2008). Moreover, The International Council of Nurses emphasises the need for nurses to respect the rights, values, customs and beliefs of individuals and families, and to advocate for equity and social justice in resource allocation and in access to health (ICN, 2012). Such endeavours are central, as illness nearly always increase levels of patient vulnerability and dependence (Marquis and Huston 2012). Emphasizing the fact that nurses should influence the way care is given in a manner that is open and responds to individual needs (RCN, 2015).
Unfortunately, there have been cases where nurses have failed to provide fundamental care to patients. The report into the failing at the Mid Staffordshire Hospital identified poor leadership coupled with clinical staff accepting standards of care that should not have been tolerated (Ellis and Bach, 2015). More recently, Care Quality Commission (CQC) has issued a Warning Notice requiring some trusts to improve safety, patient consent and overall leadership (CQC, 2017). This accentuates the role of leadership in prioritising patient safety and in listening to and learning from patients (storey and Holti, 2013). Stressing the need for nurse leaders to be self-aware and recognise how their own values and principles may affect their practice (NMC, 2010).
Leaders encourage teamwork by appreciating individuals’ contributions and ideas; this creates needed behaviour, such as shared respect, compassionate care, attention to detail, between team members (NHS Leadership Academy, 2013), and create a motivating work environment (Adair, 2002). Therefore, the quality of leadership has a direct impact on the quality of service provided at all levels. The leader’s obligation is to create an environment in which good people can provide good care (Engard, 2017). Pointing out personal attributes of nurses that help to enable advocacy like flexibility, empathy, self-motivation, professional commitment, sense of responsibility, and the ability to cope with stress (Choi, 2015).
Reflecting on the above scenario, transformational and transactional leadership can both play a role in the negotiation of a win-win situation. Transformational leadership is defined as a leadership approach that causes changes in individuals and social systems. It is about having a vision of how things should or could be and being able to communicate this idea effectively to others (Ellis and Bach, 2015). Whereas transactional leadership is based on contingent rewards and can have a positive effect on followers’ satisfaction and performance (Tomlinson, 2012). Transformational leadership plays a more critical role in the present scenario. it can motivate and inspire healthcare assistant and have a more significant impact to change both their thinking and behaviour Jie-HuiXu (2017), thus, allowing them to reach their potential and deliver sustainable changes to care.
Now what?
Now I should strive on developing and sustaining my engagement in patient advocacy by the end of NP7. In my Ongoing Achievement Record document, I will work with my mentor to complete competency 1.2. called: Understand and apply current legislation to all service users, paying special attention to the protection of vulnerable people, including those with complex needs. I will actively seek mentor, patients, family and others health professionals’ feedback and reflect on when I have been involved in patient advocacy during placement and review this with my mentor at mid- and end-point review.
Domain 2: Communication and Interpersonal Skill
Communication and interpersonal skill are vital parts of collaborative working (NMC, 2010). I reflect on communication using Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation (SBAR) mentioned in appendix 3, which is a reflective writing during placement 5. In a surgical ward, during routine observation of a patient who had undergone a cystectomy, I noticed that the patient was spiking in temperature (38.5) although NEWS score was 1, I immediately informed my mentor who directed me to blip the doctor in charge of his care. While communicating with him I was unable to give a clear response to questions about the patient’s condition. Even though he reassessed my patient immediately, I regret I didn’t use SBAR tool, because it could have helped to communicate clearly and prevent any potential delays. Appendix 1 in the section ‘working with others’ further shows that I need to improve my interpersonal skills. These relate to part of the NMC (2010) stating: nurses must use a range of communication skills and technologies to support person-centred care and enhance quality and safety.
So what?
Bach and Grant (2010) state that good communication and interpersonal skills are essential characteristics of high-quality nursing practice. The NMC (2010) also said that all nurses must use the full range of communication methods, including verbal, nonverbal and written, to acquire, interpret and record their knowledge and understanding of people’s needs. Emphasizing the use of communication tools like SBAR. SBAR is a tangible approach to framing conversations, especially critical ones that require a nurse’s instant attention and action. It promotes the provision of safe, efficient, timely, and patient-centred communication (Chaboyer et al., 2010; Day, 2010). Moreover, SBAR can be used for multiple forms of communication. It can be a change-of-shift report (Pope et al., 2008; Thomas et al., 2009), or can be applied to written communication (Perry, 2014). In addition, SBAR helps nursing students and recent graduate nurses organize their thoughts prior to calling physicians, to save time, reduce frustration, and improve overall communication (Pope et al., 2008). Furthermore, the use of SBAR communication tool temporarily flattens the hierarchy perceived in most healthcare settings, resulting in more effective channels of communication between healthcare providers (De Meester, Verspuy, Monsieurs, & Van Bogaert, 2013).
According to Hackman and Johnson (2013), leadership is first, and foremost, a communication-based activity. Depending on the circumstances, a leader should try to be more authoritarian, democratic or laissez-faire (Mitchell, 2012); or should focus the communication on the tasks or use a more interpersonal style (Hackman and Johnson 2013). Reflecting on the scenario related to this domain, an assertive, clear and focus communication using SBAR format would have provided a brief, organized, predictable flow of information improving critical thinking communication skills and patient safety (Olin, 2012). It can be argued that it is hard to serve as an effective leader without effective communication (Hackman and Johnson 2013). This is agreed by Perry et al (2014) stating that effective commutation is a central attribute of clinical leadership. Clinical leaders can influence their colleagues with effective communication skill such as good listening skill and extremely good at explaining things at the right level that can be understood by followers. However, it is important to note that each clinical leader has a preferred style of communication that would not necessary works every time. Hackman and Johnson (2013) recommend choosing a leadership communication style that will work best according to the situation and the level of knowledge of followers.
Now what?
During next placement (NP7), I will strive to change communicating SBAR in a more professional, concise, clear, in a timely manner when communicating with the multidisciplinary team to improve patient outcome. I will actively seek feedback from my mentor and other professionals at mid- and end-point reviews. I will also change my preferred communication style from passive aggressive to an assertive communication style. For that, I will use the communication style questionnaire at the beginning then altered my behaviour during the first part of the placement, then repeat the questionnaire at mid-point and ask for feedback to my mentor base on the comparison on two questionnaire results and base on her observation. And repeat this again by end-point.
Domain 3: Nursing Practice and Decision Making
Here I reflect on nursing practice and decision making, see appendix 4, which is an end-point mentor comment during NP3 showing that improvement is needed in this domain. This is underpinned by appendix 5: a reflection done at the beginning of NP6 when I looked after a patient with hypoxic brain damaged who had a seizure. On my entry into his room, I found the patient unconscious, I took the decision to clear his airway before pressing the emergency bell which could have jeopardised patient safety. This is related to the NMC (2010) stating that nurses must be able to recognise and interpret signs of normal and deteriorating mental and physical health and respond promptly to maintain or improve the health and comfort of the service user. My behaviour pointed out the need to enhance my skill and knowledge in this domain.
So what?
Judgement and decision-making are important facets of healthcare for nurses (Traynor et al., 2010). Judgement is defined as weighing up different alternatives; while decision-making involves choosing a specific course of action to follow between alternatives (Lamb and Sevdalis, 2011). Hence, (Undre et al., 2009) define efficacious judgement and decision-making as skills that go beyond clinical knowledge and technical competence, highlighting the fact that nursing judgement and decision-making contribute significantly to the safety and quality of patient care (Traynor et al., 2010). However, several studies have high-pointed that when given the same information, and undertaking the same decisions, nurses will make consistently different judgements and decisions (Thompson et al., 2008; Thompson and Yang, 2009). Differing judgement and decision indicate different types of reasoning, in situations where time is not constrained, newly qualified nurses will make structured judgments with a rational-analytical decision. For those situations where time is limited, information is perceptual, and the nurse has some perceived expertise, it is appropriate to use intuition as the basis for judgement (Hammond et al., 1987). Thompson et al (2008) suggest that the key to successful reasoning is to adapt reasoning to the demands of the task. However, such adaptive reasoning by nurses is sometimes absent. Thus, good decisions and judgements are not independent to the cognitive process but can be influenced by how information is prioritised and the nurse’s ability to identify and respond to vital aspects of the clinical situation (Pearson, 2013). Thompson et al (2013) state that recent studies have shown positive benefits associated with the introduction of Computerised Decision Support Systems (CDSS) to support nursing decisions. Hence, helping to promote patient’s safety and improve their outcome.
Reflecting on the scenario related to this domain, future decisions making process, whether they are based on normative, prescriptive or descriptive theory must include clinical expertise, patient value and best available research evidence (Sackett, 1996). because evidence by itself, does not make the decision, but it can help support the patient care process. In the same order, Marquis and Huston (2015) suggest that to be effective as a leader, one needs certain skills for making decisions, such as self-awareness, fairness and transparency which are skills also needed in decision making. This is supported by Thompson and Dowding (2009 p5) affirming that “One of the distinguishing features that mark out exceptional nurses is their skills in judgement and decision making”. Decision making is considered important leadership skills and is recognised by Sofarelli and Brown (1998) as qualities associated with transformational leadership.
Now what?
I have realised that decision making, particularly in nursing, is vital as it influences patient safety and outcomes (Ellis and Bach, 2015). It has been mention earlier that experience is a factor that affects decision making. To gained experience in judgement and decision making, I will use every opportunity during NP7 to practice evidence base in nursing practice and decision making by always based my decision on useful information sources like clinical guidelines, protocol and policy and patient preference. After what I will actively seek feedback from my mentor and others healthcare professionals and of course to patients to check their satisfaction about their involvement in the decision-making process about their own care at mid- and end-point reviews.
Domain 4: Leadership, management and team-working
My leadership, management and team working skill are measured in appendix 2 and appendix 6 which are both leadership self-assessment tools. The first one showing aspects of my leadership that needs to be improved and the second one showing my leadership style which is “guiding” needing improvement to become more empowering. These are further supported by appendix 4: mentor end NP3 comment. During the leadership module, I took part in several group activities, which enabled me to understand team role importance and that there is no leader without followers. This part relates to NMC (2010) stating that nurses must work independently as well as in teams; be able to take the lead in coordinating, delegating and supervising care safely, managing risk and remaining accountable for care given.
So what?
Tomlison (2012) states that self-assessment helps individuals to appreciate their qualities, strengths and weaknesses thereby, enabling better transformational leadership. Bass (1985) found that transformational leadership contributes to individual performance and motivation. Whereas transactional leadership (Burns, 1978) is short-lived, and task-based, with the leader intervening with negative feedback when things go wrong. Adair (2002) proposed a three-circle model of strategic leadership, with the circles being the needs of the task, the individual and the team. This is a democratic model of leadership matching the NMC code, where Individuals and groups are involved in decision-making processes concerning their work (Adair, 2002).
Management skills are as important as leadership skills in addressing some failings like those identified in the Francis report (Kerridge, 2013). Kerridge suggests they are closely linked, effective management and leadership both require putting first thing first. The King’s Fund report (2011) concurs, defining leadership as the art of motivating people toward a shared vision and management as getting the job done, suggesting that the exercise of leadership across shifts could be extended to management practice; pointing out that every member of healthcare team has some management and reporting functions as part of their job (Baker et al., 2012).
Lord Darzi (2008) said: ‘Leadership is not just about individuals, but teams’. A successful leader will see each person as an individual, recognising their unique set of needs, as not everyone will perform at the same level (Hackman and Johnson 2013). This rejoins the description of team role by Belbin (1996) as he described a team role as ‘a tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way’. Suggesting that Belbin assessment would be an ideal way for a team to examine: the roles they play, how these fit in with the team and the contribution of roles to the team (Frankel, 2011). Therefore, it would be advisable that team members use the questionnaire to helps identify individuals’ preferred roles, their manageable roles and their least preferred roles within the nine teams’ roles as described by Belbin in-order-to improve the success of teamwork.
Nurse leaders need also to be able to respond to an ever-changing healthcare environment (Frankel, 2011). The literature suggests that leadership, effective communication and team working are among the most important elements for planned change (Schifalacqua et al., 2009a). Kurt (1951) identified three steps of change: unfreezing, moving and refreezing. This work was modified by Rogers (2003) who described five phases of planned change: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption. Another change theorist, Ronald Lippitt (Lippitt et al., (1958), identified seven phrases. Mitchell (2013) advises that Lippitt’s work is likely to be more useful to nurses because it incorporates a detailed plan of how to generate change and is underpinned by the four elements of the nursing process: assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation.
Now what?
To improve my Leadership, management and teamwork skills, I will use the first week of my MP7 to observe my mentor and nurses in charge leading some shifts, then, I will seek clarification on grey areas of my understanding and ask to have my own patients. This will enable me to practice leading others, managing patients and working with the multidisciplinary team. I will actively seek feedback till mid-point review, then, I will lead and manage my mentor whole set of patients under her observation and correction whenever needs arise till end-point. This will help me to move toward an empowering leadership style.
I have learnt that: a good leader or manager remains grounded in the values, beliefs and behaviours that guide professional nursing practice; understanding your role and that of other will nurture clear communication thus improving the success of the team; safe decision-making must be evidence-based; and effective leadership fosters a high-quality work environment leading to positive safe climate that assures better patient outcomes.

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