It’s snowing like crazy outside, and I’m getting ready to go into to work. Ordinarily, the bad weather wouldn’t bug me, but I just got a phone call from my unit. I was told that my boss wants me to be prepared to work throughout the night if the next shift can’t make it in. Of course, my boss isn’t interested in coming in to help us out. That’s not her management style. Perhaps I’m being too judgmental, but good leaders don’t ask someone to do something that they aren’t willing to do themselves.

I’ve worked under some very good nurse managers in the past, and I’ve worked under some who must have read this book. Actually, this is a good book, but as you know, Attila the Hun has a bad reputation. He always got the job done, but it was always at the expense of his followers. He was a heck of a guy.

I’ve been receiving mail from my some of my readers, and they have been asking me some very interesting questions about the nursing profession. In today’s edition of Go Ask Mother, I’ll be responding to your questions.

When describing the ideal job, many nurses talk about the softer attributes of nursing such as teamwork, managerial attitudes and feeling valued. Why do you think that is?

ANSWER: Nursing is a touchy-feely profession, so it doesn’t surprise me that nurses would describe the ideal job in those terms. Yes, teamwork is important. Look at the two nurses in the picture. They look like they can beat anyone because they are working together as a team. Like I’ve always said, nurses have to stick together or they hang separately. If a manager were smart, he or she would understand that if they treated their nurses with respect, they would get hard working, loyal employees in return. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that managers “don’t get it.”

What do you look for when you are looking for a job?

ANSWER: The type of work is one of the most important things I look at when considering a new job. I have to like what I’m doing or I won’t stay in a position. But I also take a critical look at staffing ratios, and how acuity plays into staffing numbers. Frankly, when I leave work, I want all my patients to be breathing. I’m not being sarcastic (OK, maybe a little) but I’m a psychiatric nurse, and I don’t want a suicidal patient to slip off and hang himself or herself because there wasn’t enough staff to watch everyone. The nurse in this picture looks happy. I wonder if her hospital is hiring new staff.

What is the single greatest attribute in a boss?

ANSWER: A good boss is someone who acts as an advocate for the nurses on his or her unit. I’ve been in healthcare for almost 30 years, and during that time I’ve had bosses who were saints. I’ve also had bosses who reminded me of Satan’s older, meaner sibling. In the view of most hospital administrators, bosses don’t need outstanding clinical skills to run a unit. Hospital administration wants managers who are good bean counters, and someone who can stay on budget and turn a profit for the hospital. I think that to be truly successful, bosses need good people skills, as well as a mastery of the specialty practiced on the unit.

What manager attributes do you think younger nurses prefer compared to the seasoned? For instance, do you think younger nurses may seek a manager to help them with their clinical skills while a seasoned nurse likes a manager to have good listening skills?

ANSWER: New nurses need a boss that won’t eat their young. This boss looks like he is about to yell at the new nurse. Hey, you, get your hands off of that young woman! I’ve seen so many kids get run out of the profession because bosses were too harsh. Bosses need to support new nurses while they learn new clinical skills, but they also need to mentor them on a more personal level. Reality hits new nurses right between the eyes when they take their first nursing job. A boss needs to be supportive, not a bully. I think older nurses just need to be shown respect, period!

What can administrators do to make nurses feel valued?

ANSWER: If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m full of opinions. I feel valued at work, not because of what the hospital thinks of me, but because I value myself as an individual, and because I’m valued by my co-workers. A few years ago, the morale on our unit was in the toilet. The hospital routinely put the psychiatric nursing staff in a dangerous working environment. One day, after telling hospital administration we needed more staff because of the unit’s acuity, I was severely beaten by a dangerous patient on the unit. Instead of crawling into a shell or quitting my job, I took action, and found a mentor who taught me how to legally protect myself while making changes on the unit. The nurses on our unit were the first to use our state’s whistleblower law to improve the safety on our unit. Things still aren’t perfect, but I no longer feel powerless.

Remember, you don’t need anyone’s permission to value yourself as a nurse. Every nurse deserves a trophy.