As someone whose education all took place at St. Louis University in the Philippines (from grade school to her master’s degree in nursing), Ann Marie Roque was hesitant and unsure about taking part in our online Certificate in Nurse Leadership with Duke CE.
“At first I was a bit hesitant because this was actually the first time I was doing an online program. My last course was 20 years ago in a traditional classroom. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do it, I didn’t know what the needs and requirements would be, or what kind of equipment would be required.”
Leading self and finding a leadership style to guide others
Despite her reservations, Ann Marie, a charge nurse at the cardiac catheterization laboratory at St. Joseph Medical Center in Phoenix who believes in lifelong learning, decided to go for it. The Certificate in Nurse Leadership is split into four different modules, the first of which is the self-reflective module Leading Self. Ann Marie gained clarity of her role from this module.
“I’ve been in this role for five years. Even though my manager allows and encourages me to grow, I’m sometimes not sure if I’m allowed to address something with the staff or move forward with a task. One particular unit gave me the understanding that as a nurse leader, confidence is part of my role and that I can do more than I give myself credit or permission for. It’s not an easy path, but when the right tools are provided to us, we can be better leaders. That’s why I was thankful for this opportunity.”
As many nurse leaders, who find themselves managing their former colleagues, Ann Marie struggled with her transition from peer to leader. By reflecting within the module, she was able to find an authentic management style. More than that, she was reminded of the fun activities she used to organize for the team and how she used to connect with her colleagues. This prompted her to take time to sit down with her teams during lunch time to talk, bond with them in a personal way as well as showing her true, authentic self. The program also helped Ann Marie to remember that in order to take care of others — patients and her team alike — she must first take care of herself.
“One of the most important takeaways from the course was that to become a good leader, I need to start with myself. The program gave me time to reflect on what kind of leader I am, as well as how I am taking care of myself. It’s true for many nurse leaders that we focus very much on taking care of our team, running our units in the most effective way, and ensuring that all operations go smoothly. Sometimes in that process, we forget ourselves. I learned to take time to step back, breathe, and recover. When you take the time to recover, it gives you the energy to go out there and be a better leader. That’s one lesson I can’t forget.”
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The benefit of learning together and from one another
Ann Marie took the Certificate in Nurse Leadership with her manager as well as a supervisor from a different unit.
“We were all so happy that we got accepted. It turned out to be very beneficial to take the course together. During our lunch, we would discuss and share what we learned. Sometimes my manager and I found that the problems we were experiencing reflected the topics that we had just discussed in class, so we could apply what we had learned. It was really helpful taking the program together, so I hope that some of the other leaders at my workplace can take the program, too.“
Apart from discussions with her colleagues, Ann Marie found value in the online community of the program.
“This program is very helpful for new as well as more experienced leaders because in the discussions, everyone is sharing their own experiences and you can learn from each other. There is always something to learn and your peers will be a good source of information. This course is for everybody.”
Leading others and managing different stakeholders
In her role as a nurse leader, Ann Marie not only works closely with the nursing staff, but with doctors, laboratory and radiation technicians, patients, and other stakeholders. Throughout the program, she got helpful pointers on how she can improve the inner- and inter-departmental communication and thereby improve workflows, relationships, and outcomes.
“When we don’t communicate effectively, that is when problems arise. We had to learn to reconcile how everybody is thinking and working together.”
An important part of every leader’s role is to help organizations manage change and grow through it, the fourth module of the Certificate in Nurse Leadership focuses on Leading Change. For Ann Marie, the lessons came at a good time.
“What really struck me was trying to motivate and coach staff and leading the changes in the department. In the cath lab, there are a lot of changes with regards to procedures. Implementing these procedures takes time. The work helped me realize how to implement these changes more effectively, and why some challenges came up in a recent change in policy we were trying to do.”
An important takeaway for the nurse leader of five years was that as the organization, circumstances, and the individual changes, one’s own leadership style evolves as well.
“A quote from my coursework stuck with me: ‘The leader you are today is not the leader you will be in the future.’ I’m not the same leader as a charge nurse that I was five years ago. Now I’m trying to work on being a better leader, to be more effective, and to adjust.”
Juggling work, learning, and free time
In addition to feeling uneasy about the online delivery of this new learning experience, Ann Marie was concerned that the coursework might clash with her favorite hobby: traveling. In previous years, she took several trips to various countries.
“I got a bit worried about the 16-week course because 12 weeks out of that, I was traveling. I ended up traveling with the course. This is what’s great about learning online. I was doing my assignments everywhere: at the airport on a plane on my way to Spain, in a bullet train in Japan, in hotels, and in between sightseeing. I learned a lot and enjoyed the experience. So it’s definitely doable — there’s no excuse not to do it.”