Helping Nurses "Live Smarter Not Harder" by Balancing the Mind, Body, Soul and Spirit

Archive for January, 2014

Does The End Justify The Means?

The_End_iStock_000011280905Small (2)As parents, we can often become defined by our children and family life. Empty nest syndrome is when some parents go into depression after their kids leave home. At some point those parents identified the tasks associated with raising a family and related those tasks to who they were as individuals.

As nurse’s leaders, at times, we see our jobs as sets of tasks. We begin to believe we are not just judged by our tasks but feel we personally defined by the  outcomes of those tasks. Some even say they don’t want to retire because they feel they’ll die if they’re not working – mostly because they don’t have anything to look forward to (Empty nest working syndrome).

Nursing leaders are sometimes  fooled into thinking they are defined by the outcomes of certain tasks. In nursing management, we are expected to “produce” good patient outcomes, keep staff motivated and focused on the mission of the organization. What we often don’t remember, is that we are dealing with a variable product… People.

People come in all shapes, sizes, colors, backgrounds cultures and issues. This is true of our patients, our staff and yes, even you. This is why you can’t be defined by the outcomes. I am not talking about accountability. For instance, Mr. A needs a certain medication. It’s your job to see that he takes that medication. If you are tied to that outcome, that he MUST take that medication, you may consider forcing him to take it (before you say “unbelievable”, look at the history before patient’s rights came into being). The belief becomes, “It will reflect badly on me if he doesn’t take the pill.” Whose decision and whose outcome is it really?

If as a nursing leader you are tasked with productivity of staff (and you are tied to the outcome), you may inadvertently put them in a position of working under dangerous conditions. The leader that needs to exert high levels of control and does not allow much input from anyone else is a leader who is trying to control the outcome. These leaders usually feel the need to penalize when errors are made instead of teaching because they feel defined by the outcome. They see problems and solutions as their own. These leaders perpetuate the mantra, “nurses eat their young.”

Your priority, as a nursing leader, needs to focus on the process not the outcome. As a leader, we are responsible to define the process. The process is what anyone with the basic skills could follow and keep them on the path to be successful. If you focus on the process, you won’t focus so much on the individual tasks at hand. You can help find the solution and embrace the outcome. It doesn’t become all about you.

An effective leader will strive for the expected positive outcome always keeping the variables in mind, “the people factor” and the process. Learning and growing is a process. Mistakes are inevitable. We can teach other how to minimize mistakes and learn from them through analyzing, implementing and adhering to processes. On the practical level, when things go wrong, following the process will help you identify gaps in learning and practice of your staff. It will eliminate the need for you to be right.

When nursing leaders remain personally detached from the outcome and focus on the process they become better able to help other nurses without being emotional or reactive. When we do this we will all be less judgmental and provide consistency for those we lead.

What situations have you dealt with where the means did or did not justify the end result?

About Naomi

Naomi is a Registered Nurse, Certified Life Coach and Motivational Speaker. She is owner and CEO of Consults Unlimited Inc., a Professional Life Coaching company. She is known as the Life Coach RN. As a Life Coach she specializes in helping nursing leadership “Live and Work Smarter not Harder!” With over 30 years of nursing experience, she has been in management for over 19 years. Her nursing practice includes bedside nursing, Hospital, SNF, Homecare and other areas of healthcare. Credentials include a Master’s Degree in Health Services Administration, several certifications, military service and work with several community and professional organizations. For more information about coaching with Naomi visit