This paper is dedicated to describing and analyzing the leadership experience of a nursing student which took the form of participating in the development of an educational program for patients with substance use and abuse problems. Key information about the activity, as well as the roles and processes associated with it, will be presented here. As an opportunity to practice and observe nursing leadership, the experience held noticeable value for the student.
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Experience Description: Purpose, Leader, and Stakeholders
Due to an insightful comment from its nurse practitioner, a small psychiatric practice reviewed its educational programs for patients with substance abuse disorder. The rationale for the project focused on the potential benefits of educational efforts, which can be supported by some recent studies. For instance, a scoping review by Korthuis et al. (2017) mentioned patient education as one of the components of opioid use disorder treatment programs. Similarly, Ghasemi et al. (2018) investigated the use of patient and family education in working with people with methamphetamine addiction.
In general, it can be recognized that patients need to be educated about their health conditions. Substance use disorders are among such conditions (Dwyer et al., 2015). However, the nurse practitioner who raised the concern found that the practice did not have a comprehensive education program for the described population. The suggestion to rectify the issue received the universal support of the clinic’s psychiatrist, psychologist, and the practicum student. The four specialists formed the group which undertook the change; the nurse practitioner was chosen to lead the effort. The stakeholders that were identified included the specialists of the practice, as well as, eventually, its patients with substance use problems.
Leadership and Management Roles
Since the practice is very small, the leadership and management roles were generally performed by the same person: the nurse practitioner. As the leader of the effort, the nurse organized the processes, playing the role of the activity’s manager, and provided the leadership necessary for enabling the collaboration of the rest of the contributors. However, the structure of the group was hardly hierarchical. The nurse shared leadership by encouraging other members to take the initiative and make suggestions related to specific solutions and individual tasks or processes. The idea of sharing leadership has become rather popular in healthcare settings (Forsyth & Mason, 2017). For the described activity, it meant that the group members, including the student, received some direct experience in promoting and leading change and ensuring the collaboration of the group.
Management Process Steps
The four-step management process model, which, as suggested by Huber (2018) is often applied in nursing, can be employed to analyze the leadership experience. Using this approach, the first step of the activity would be termed as planning. For the described project, it consisted of articulating the challenge and determining the purpose and aim, short- and long-term objectives, and key tasks meant to help in achieving said objectives. Each task was correlated with an objective, which could include, for example, reviewing and gathering relevant evidence or developing a handout for patients. In addition, an assessment plan was proposed with a focus on specialist and patient feedback.
The general outline of activities that was put in place roughly followed the elements of the Iowa Model. The Model is a commonly accepted framework that is described in its revised version by the Iowa Model Collaborative et al. (2017). The project’s plan was also meant to remain flexible and non-linear, which is one of the features of the Iowa Model (Iowa Model Collaborative et al., 2017). This stage was completed through the collaboration of all the group members, but the nurse practitioner led the activity.
The organizing step was predominantly completed by the nurse practitioner who worked together with the psychiatrist to determine the resources required for the project and ensure their appropriate allocation. The time and effort of the contributors were the crucial elements needed for the project, but the group members were also compensated, which is why certain funds were used as well. Other activities undertaken during this stage involved scheduling tasks and meetings, securing equipment and space for such tasks and meetings, and mobilizing the group. While led by the nurse, the organizing chores involved some input and assistance from the rest of the members.
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From the perspective of directing, the nurse could be considered the key actor of the project who enabled the collaboration and contribution of the rest of the members by encouraging initiative and sharing leadership. Also, the nurse clearly worked to demonstrate the appreciation of the group and their work and creativity. The effects of these choices included enhanced communication between the leader and participants. Also, the contributors, especially the student, appeared motivated and were enthusiastic about the project. Therefore, it can be suggested that the nurse managed to create an environment that promoted productivity. In combination with the flexible and negotiable but clear goals, tasks, and schedules, this approach provided the necessary direction for the group.
Controlling was directly carried out by the nurse, and this step of the managerial process employed the key objectives proposed during the planning one. The nurse enabled controlling activities by negotiating tasks, establishing milestones and measurable goals or outcomes, and monitoring progress. While supervising the contribution of others, the nurse made sure to provide feedback, which was predominantly positive with suggestions for improvement when necessary. In addition, many tasks, including, for instance, handouts design, involved the solicitation of feedback from all group members during meetings. The nurse supervised such meetings, and they were also carried out with a focus on positive and helpful comments and nonjudgmental criticism. As a result, the nurse involved the rest of the team in the supervision activities, which was in line with the shared leadership used during the project. Thus, the nurse’s approach to the final step of the management process was not excessively controlling but provided the structure and information exchange required for the achievement of the project’s goals.
The described experience was concerned with the development of an education program for patients with substance use disorders that took place in a small psychiatric practice. The project was led and managed by the practice’s nurse. However, the nurse apparently supported the idea of shared leadership, which is why the rest of the team members were involved in decision-making, planning, organizing, and supervising rather extensively. Simultaneously, the nurse provided the structure necessary for directing the effort and undertook the majority of the organizational tasks, including resource mobilization and allocation. The result of the nurses’ efforts included motivated group members who worked hard to achieve the goals that they had collaboratively set. The project and its analysis provided the nursing student with an opportunity to practice some leadership activities while also studying an example of shared leadership presented by an experienced mental health nurse practitioner.
Dwyer, K., Walley, A., Langlois, B., Mitchell, P., Nelson, K., Cromwell, J., & Bernstein, E. (2015). Opioid education and nasal naloxone rescue kits in the emergency department. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 16(3), 381-384. Web.
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Ghasemi, A., Chehregosha, M., Dastoorpoor, M., Farizi, M., Aghababaian, H., Jamshidi, E.,… Kouhpayeh, S. A. (2018). The effect of an education program based on the family-centered empowerment model on addiction severity among methamphetamine users. Mental Health & Prevention, 11, 54-59. Web.
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Korthuis, P. T., McCarty, D., Weimer, M., Bougatsos, C., Blazina, I., Zakher, B.,… Chou, R. (2017). Primary care–based models for the treatment of opioid use disorder. Annals of Internal Medicine, 166(4), 268. Web.