Be A Leader: How Healthcare Professionals Are Creating Change

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Working in healthcare is an admirable career, and those who excel at this work are often excellent leaders who go beyond the call of duty. As changemakers and activists, they’re the people who care for their patients, fellow workers, and community, and that leadership can also provide an important professional boost.

These three approaches to leadership use your professional expertise to improve the system for everyone; by leveraging your capabilities in the workplace and beyond, you can transform your career and earn the respect of your peers and managers.

Promoting Patient Protections

When patients step into the hospital, they’re typically at their most vulnerable. Sick and weak, these individuals struggle to advocate for themselves, and harried doctors often lack the time to get to know patients during their stay. Nurses, on the other hand, are often the first people patients meet upon admission and the ones who follow them through their stay; as a result, they become patient advocates.

Not only do nurses transform their patients’ lives by advocating for their needs, but patient advocacy is also an ideal way for nurses to become involved in healthcare policy. In fact, as author and nurse Eleanor Sullivan explains in her 2013 book Becoming Influential: A Guide for Nurses, patient advocacy work can lead nurses in the direction of their larger goal: “to be more effective in what they do and to influence healthcare.” Patient advocacy protects individual patients, but it also transforms the system from the ground up.

Protecting Providers

Another way that healthcare providers are advocating for system change is through efforts to improve workplace safety; though this may come as a surprise to outsiders, healthcare jobs are among the most dangerous today. For example, in one study, 54% of emergency nurses reported workplace violence within seven days of the survey, including major physical attacks. And even when all staff members are making an effort to properly follow safety protocols, things can still go wrong. That’s exactly what happened to nurse-advocate Karen Daley.

Many years ago as a young nurse, Karen Daley contracted Hepatitis C from a needle stick caused by an overfilled sharps container, an injury that sent her career off in new directions. Today Daley travels the country addressing this occupational risk, provides support to others who have experienced sharps injuries, and advocates for better workplace safety. Sharps injuries are a top concern among nurses today, ranking fourth out of 20 concerns in a survey of nurses, as such injuries can lead to both physical and psychological harm.

Ending Gender Imbalance

No matter their career path, natural leaders tend to develop their own distinctive philosophy and commit to issues that are consistent with their personal values; when you know who you are and what matters, you have greater clarity of purpose.  That’s why it’s no surprise that women working in healthcare often find themselves pushing for more prominent roles within the hierarchy, because while 80% of healthcare professionals are women, only 3% of healthcare CEOs are female. They also make up only a small percent of department chairs (6%) and division chiefs (9%).

In the face of extreme under-representation, women are leading efforts to change the makeup of the healthcare hierarchy, and that starts with changing workplace culture. When patients automatically look at the man in the room, and when every department head is a man and every subordinate doctor and nurse a woman, it’s hard for women in the profession to remain passionate about their work. When women are treated as leaders by their peers and place in positions of authority, though, the entire nature of the workplace changes and women, both doctors and nurses, are treated with greater respect by patients.

Be a Leader!

Some people can’t help but go beyond the call of duty at work, and if that’s you, then let your passion be your superpower. While it can take time to transform your efforts into a new, advanced career trajectory, it will give you a greater sense of professional fulfillment and gain you the respect of your peers and patients.