When you thought about becoming a nurse, you likely envisioned helping patients. In your mind’s eye, you probably saw a hospital room or a clinic and someone lying in a bed. You probably did not picture a boardroom or corner office.
Connie Curran, EdD, RN, and Therese Fitzpatrick, PhD, RN, want to change that. Their new book, Claiming the Corner Office: Executive Leadership Lessons for Nurses, encourages nurses to look beyond clinical and nursing education roles to executive and entrepreneurial positions.
Designed to “be consumed on a Boston to Las Vegas flight,” Claiming the Corner Office is a brief overview of nursing leadership and the path to an executive position. It’s also a call to action. Curran and Fitzpatrick write, “We believe that — with health care reform still looming, but uncertain in terms of its impact, and the nation’s aging population destined to place an increasing burden on an already overburdened system — there has never been a better time for nurses to move into myriad leadership roles.”
They point out, repeatedly, that the skills that make great nurses — organization, compassion, intimate knowledge of the healthcare industry and a patient-centric focus — have value in the business world as well. Nurses, they say, need to let go of their preconceived ideas of what nurses do and embrace the fact that their skill set makes them highly valuable players in a world that’s restructuring and re-envisioning healthcare.
They are less clear on exactly what it takes to get there. While Claiming the Corner Office includes a skills checklist to help nurses determine which leadership skills they possess and which they need to strengthen, as well as some general business tips (one section is entitled, “The Care and Feeding of Your Contacts”), it doesn’t offer a concrete path for aspiring nurse leaders. The lack of specific how-to information is frustrating at times.
The authors write, for example, that successful nurse executives “learned to identify, describe, and leverage their IC [intellectual capital]— their nursing know-how; the knowledge, skills, and experience generated over rich and fulfilling careers — and communicate this expertise to potential employers or other constituents in order not only to enhance their personal circumstances but also to advance their passionate vision for professional nursing.” They don’t show or tell the reader how those nurse leaders did so, despite the fact that they interviewed at least five highly successful nurse leaders for the book.
But Claiming the Corner Office does offer some tantalizing tidbits for nurses who are interested in affecting healthcare on a grand scale. I learned, for instance, that knowledge of finance makes nurses very valuable as leaders and business partners – and have made a note to learn more about finance in the near future. The book also emphasizes the importance of embracing opportunity. According to Curran and Fitzpatrick, the best nurse leaders and executives step out of their comfort zones, take chances, learn from others and use failure as a stepping stone to success.
Claiming the Corner Office is an intriguing read that should inspire nurses to reach beyond the bedside to the boardroom.