76% say Yes!
We asked school nurses, administrators, counselors, teachers and others this question in our Feb. 8th newsletter mailing. 875 people participated in this simple poll. 76% responded “Yes” that direct service school nurses are leaders. Are you curious about the 12% who said they were “Not Sure”? How about the other 12% who said “No”? We are concerned that 24% either do not perceive themselves or their direct service school nurse colleagues as leaders. How can this be true during the COVID-19 pandemic when so many school nurses are leading efforts to reduce disease transmission?
Leaders juggle complex projects
It takes leadership to juggle all these projects. You are teaching your school community about COVID-19 and tracing contacts of students and staff testing positive. You are overseeing testing of symptomatic and asymptomatic students and staff and may soon be administering COVID vaccines in school-located vaccine clinics that you are helping to coordinate. These initiatives take effective assessment, communication, planning, coordination, implementation, evaluation, and adjustment. Looks like leadership to us!
In fact, our national professional organizations endorse leadership as critical to our practice. The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) identifies leadership as one of 5 principles of professional school nursing practice in its Framework for 21st Century School Nursing Practice. The NASN/American Nurses Association Scope and Standards of Practice includes Leadership as one of 12 Standards of Professional Performance for School Nursing.
Developing the Leader in You!
So, how do you intentionally strengthen your leadership skills when you are challenged with juggling all balls in the air during this pandemic? In the past, you could apply for the Johnson & Johnson/Rutgers School Health Leadership Fellowship or the Healthy Schools Campaign Leadership program. These programs are no longer available to school nurses. You could actively grow your leadership skills in a graduate program and/or by focusing on this topic for professional development in your school district.
Another option is to join a small cohort of nurses from around the country in our monthly virtual School Nurse leadership series. My colleague Kathy Hassey and I have been teaching these leadership topics for more than 10 years. We teach through Northeastern University School Health Academy (NEUSHA) and in the Cambridge College MEd program for school nurses. With support from the Northeastern University School of Nursing (accredited by ANCC for nursing continuing professional development) and the School Health Corporation, we are able to invite guest speakers Robin Cogan and John Kriger to our 2021 leadership series.
Prioritizing your professional growth and well-being are key aspects of effective leadership and preventing burnout. Whether you are a School Nurse Administrator, direct service School Nurse, or a combination of the two, you can be a leader in your own community!