It has been said that strong leadership is fundamental to managing a successful team, organization, or business. Yet historically, the profession of nursing has not clearly defined its philosophy on leadership. Nursing science is the foundation of professional development on all levels, however, it has not been connected with the overall coloring of the nursing mission and vision. As a result, expectations for contributions to national and global health have fallen short. I believe that with clarity in literacy and foundational values, nursing science can be instrumental in elevating nursing leadership.
A personal or professional leadership philosophy is the opportunity to share your core values with those that you serve. It also serves as a communication guide for the leader: it keeps them focused and consistent on the guiding principles they have set forth for their organization. When we lead with a specific tool of guidance, we better equip ourselves to inspire, motivate, and empower those around us.
Theoretically, the profession of nursing has set standards in clinical practice and research. However, in my experience, the profession has yet to clearly define who we are as “Nurse Scientist”. The world is familiar with the many dexterities in nursing care, but almost no one is familiar with nursing science. Yes, nursing is a science, and it is unfortunate that the profession is not thought of when they mention the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
If we want a nation where our future nurse leaders and clinicians can understand and solve the complex challenges of today and tomorrow, and meet the demands of the dynamic and evolving healthcare system, then building critical thinking skills, content knowledge, and literacy in nursing science is essential to defining our philosophy on leadership.
Without clear communication, it is impossible to expect people to implement the behaviors we advocate for and recommend, to better their lives. Furthermore, it is almost impossible for those who are tasked to teach the science of nursing to do so with clear and precise literacy, if they are not properly equipped themselves. Too often, there is a gap between what nurses actually know and what they say they know, which widens the gap of health disparities.
Improving nursing science literacy, from my viewpoint, is critical to the future of nursing leadership. Nursing science literacy is the degree that students and nurses have the capacity to assess, plan, implement, and evaluate basic nursing, medicine, and research needed to make appropriate clinical decisions and judgements in healthcare. When we improve upon our professional science literacy, we form better cultural and working knowledge, which can improve the accessibility, quality, and effectiveness of patient care, and this will always reduce costs and improve patients’ quality of life.
Nursing literacy is necessary to achieve the objectives set forth in the newly released report, Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting New Paths To Health Equity, by the National Academy of Medicine. And more importantly, it is key to the success of our global leadership agenda.
Research has always been clear: science matters. Without the expertise of the nurse scientist, who can turn the data of health, medicine, and public health into actionable nursing goals, nothing about our initiatives or strategies will work. In my advocacy, I particularly talk about the role of the nurse scientist and their ability to transform data from research, analytics, and statistics into relatable knowledge that the profession can use to contribute to practices and procedures that empower the clinical expertise of nurses. This entire process is at the core of how nursing science is built, and this in turn is vital to the effectiveness of medicine.
Building the profession on a foundation of science is of utmost importance as the world continues to view COVID-19 virus education through the optics of the “Nurse”. Public health is in a crisis and the experienced nurse scientist becomes a trusted advisor, counselor, teacher, and leader as the globe grapples with recovery from one of the deadliest pandemics in the history of healthcare.
We are in a revolutionary age of discovery, innovation, and cutting-edge technology. Although not known for its robust science and data influence, the profession of nursing has been a major contributor to the landscape of medicine as a whole. It is my belief that if the profession is to continue to be linked to the problem solvers of this world, we must amplify the narrative of the science that has propelled us for over 100 years.
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