For many nurse educators, we are embedded in workplace scenarios where our dean or other higher administrative personnel are quite unfamiliar with nursing and current trends within the health care workplace, accreditation, and academia. Nurses tend to work harder and put in more hours in the academic setting then other fields of study, and our student issues can be intense. Accreditation processes are challenging and for those in tenure track positions, the demand to research, stay current in one’s field of expertise, and perform service can be daunting.
How can we as faculty advocate for ourselves, our programs, and our students in meaningful ways without furthering the gap between administrators and educators? The following are my recommendations for this process of nurse educators empowering ourselves in the workplace:
1. Invite administrators into our lived experience.
Administrators likely do not understand the intensity of our clinical settings and the work we do with students. They may be encouraged to follow a clinical instructor for a day, watch a simulation learning experience, and/or attend a didactic course. We should openly demonstrate and share what the lived experience of being a nursing student and a nurse educator are. Administrators should also be interested in and supportive of our efforts in creating community collaboration agreements and they may have the political expertise to be allies in the process.
2. Creating an ongoing dialogical process.
Communication is key here; learning to listen to others perceptions and concerns goes a long way. Regular dialogue about the nursing program needs, successes, challenges, and future direction may help in the process of gaining administrative support.
3. Regularly update administrators about current trends in nursing, academia, and specialty fields.
Part of the dialogical process may include supporting administrators’ knowledge of the current trends in nursing academia, and our own successes with research and publication. We cannot assume that because one, two, or more years ago we had a discussion with an administrator that we have addressed their understanding of the principles we are applying within our educational environments.
4. Use partnership and/or peace principles.
As educators, in order to advocate for ourselves, our students, and the communities we serve, we need to focus on effective means of communication.With partnership principles, we have hierarchies of actualization versus domination; this is about the power to empower ourselves and others to be the best we can possibly be. People perform better in their jobs and economies thrive when they feel cared for.
When we are not working together as partners, supporting each other’s actualization process, we may end up engrossed in the dominator model, where we view each other as competitors and we end up stuck in the stress of fight or flight scenarios.
5. Care for yourself and explore and reflect with depth your own reactions within the workplace.
I am currently reading a book called “Awake at Work” by Michael Carroll. This books aligns with my philosophy of practicing mindfulness and being authentic in the workplace; it helps me to further understand that difficulties and stress at work are also opportunities for growth for myself. In a way, we can welcome these challenges as opportunities for success. An example from this work states that we can use messiness and surprises to innovate and succeed. Carroll (2004, p. 202-203) encourages us to be both humble ambitious, and then we can accept the uncertainties within the present moment:
“Our job, our livelihood, the colleagues we work with, the projects we manage, the paychecks we receive, the boss we listen to, all are perfectly arranged to teach us what we need to know in order to wake up and be authentic… being humble while ambitious reminds us to balance the two efforts in our determination and enthusiasm at work, to anchor our effort to get somewhere in being somewhere”.
If we are caring for ourselves, exploring our own reactions to stress and to others’ actions,practicing being present in the moment, and traveling on our own spiritual-healing journey as the human caring theorist Jean Watson recommends, we can begin to create a meaningful experience within the workplace and with our work in educating administrators about nursing academia’s unique needs.