The Secrets to Achieving Excellence in Nursing

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By E’Louise Ondash, RN, contributor

May 20, 2011 - What does it take to be the best nurse you can be?

NurseZone asked a few veteran nurses who have had long, varied and successful careers about what it takes to excel. What philosophies and plans drive them, and what advice can they share? Here they tell us what their combined 118 years of experience have taught them.

Paula Davies Scimeca, RN, MS

A nurse for more than three decades, Scimeca is a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry at Staten Island University Hospital. She has authored two books on nurses and addiction: Unbecoming a Nurse and From Unbecoming a Nurse to Overcoming Addiction. She was recently appointed to serve on the nurse advisory panel of the New York State Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services. She will be interviewed on Lifetime Network's “The Balancing Act” in a segment that will air this fall.

Excellence in Nursing
Paula Davies Scimeca, RN, MS, said her guiding philosophy to nursing excellence is to “act as if this was the very last chance I have in life to make a difference.”

Guiding philosophy: Act as if this was the very last chance I have in life to make a difference.

Life plan: Do what I can, where and when I can to help other nurses and the public, and the future will take care of itself.

Best advice to improve nursing skills: Listen, and I mean really listen to the patients and their families. For instance, for years, some patients have insisted that the effect of medication has been different than what the majority of patients experience and new research supports their claim. There is now a recognized phenomenon of pharmacogenetics.

Thoughts on networking, education and certifications: Networking is crucial. List serves such as the addiction nursing list serve and a law enforcement list serve have been great assets for me. Education is something that must be the very best available and I always check out the reputation of the school before committing to the program.  Certifications are wonderful, however, none imbues you with absolute knowledge, so there must be humility and ongoing acknowledgement that there is always more to learn.

Tips for moving up the career ladder: The best thing I learned as a legal nurse consultant is that I will never know enough and must develop the ability to locate experts in every field, learn from them and maintain contact going forward. This has led not only to increased knowledge but unexpected opportunities.

Joyce Batcheller, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN

Excellence in Nursing
Joyce Batcheller, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, said some of the secrets to a successful nursing career are a commitment to lifelong learning, continuing education and the ability to keep up with technological advances.

Batcheller has three-and-a-half decades within the nursing profession. She currently is senior vice president and chief nursing officer for the Seton Family of Hospitals in Austin, Texas. At Seton Northwest, she led the Transforming Care at the Bedside initiative, launched in 2003 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. As a RWJF Executive Nurse Fellow, she led the successful expansion of Transforming Care at other Seton hospitals. Both projects were judged to have resulted in better workplace efficiencies, less stress for nurses, improved nurse retention and more time at the bedside

Guiding philosophy: You have to be involved in creative solutions. You can’t just complain. Figure out what makes your work environment better. You have to tell me. And you have to take time for re-energizing. Nurses’ work is stressful. You are exposed to things you have never seen before or expected to see. You have to develop a good network of friends.

Thoughts on networking, education and certifications: Education will continue to play an important part in nursing. You have to keep up with what’s happening. You have to commit yourself to life-long learning and keep up with technology. There is always a demand for nurses but (the work environment) changes. Continuing education is necessary because of the increasing complexity of patient care. I tell my staff that it doesn’t make any difference where you start (your career) because nursing is so diverse. You can’t get bored. Future nurses will have even more choices.

Brian Elliott, RN, OCN

A nurse for 19 years, Elliott is director of oncology services at Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie, Ga. For his caring and dedication, he received the Extraordinary Healer Award, bestowed by two publications: Cure: Cancer Updates‚ Research & Education; and Heal: Living Well After Cancer.

Excellence in Nursing
Brian Elliott, RN, OCN, emphasized the importance of nurses learning from one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

Guiding philosophy: I’m led by the morals and values taught in the scriptures and try to treat all of my patients with same courtesy and compassion that I’ve been afforded. I believe we were created to contain our Creator, and I try to live my life in a way that God would be pleased to both live in me and work through me on a daily basis as I deal with our oncology patients.

Life plan: If all I do is amass wealth and positions but not make a difference in the people we impact here, I think it was a wasted trip. We leave with what we come in with, which is nothing. My overall plan is to store up treasures in heaven through the wonderful relationships of family/friends and with the great patients I have had the pleasure to work with over the years.

Best tools/advice to improve nursing skills: Some of the best tools are each other. We can draw on the experiences and strengths of others and learn by each other’s weaknesses as well.

Thoughts on networking, education and certifications: I feel all networking, education and certifications are very important. After being a nurse for almost 20 years, I am back in school. It has been a very difficult but rewarding experience to further my education. Crazy as it may sound, the best part of being back in school, so far, is the fact that I can still actually learn. It’s great for self-esteem and overall enhancement of my nursing practice. Certification is also a great way to show additional competency in your field and adds credibility to your organization and nursing unit, as well.

Tips for moving up the career ladder: Go above and beyond what is expected of you and don’t look for recognition. People in general, including administration, see a great deal more than what we say as employees. Our genuine actions are what garners attention and makes one stand out above the rest of the pack.

Yvonne Wesley, RN, Ph.D., FAAN

Excellence in Nursing
Yvonne Wesley, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, noted that nurses in both clinical and leadership positions can have an impact on patient care.

Wesley began her nursing career in 1978 as a staff nurse providing care for pregnant women and low-birth weight infants and has specialized in maternal/child health. Currently she is an independent health consultant and an adjunct associate professor in the College of Nursing at New York University and Kean University. Wesley is founder of New York University’s Leadership Institute for Black Nurses.

Guiding philosophy: I view nursing as a science which requires knowledge that is distinct from other sciences. Whether at the bedside or in the board room, nurses within any arena bring caring to the forefront.

Thoughts on continuing education and career advancement: Climbing the ladder of success in nursing involves a full range of skills. Nurses striving to make a greater impact on health care in general need an understanding of systems theory, the forces of change, and leadership paradigms that deliver a return on investment. At the undergraduate level, there is an awareness of theory and how it is applicable to nursing practice. As a nurse with a graduate degree, there is more familiarity with theory development and the methodological approaches to scientific development that include leadership styles. I feel my research skills and style of diplomacy have shaped my career and provided opportunities to obtain executive positions in health care.


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