Nurture Your Leadership Growth

All nurses and leaders experience fatigue, burnout, or a need for change at some point in their career. In a recent leadership development class, there was discussion on the similarity of our development to that of a garden.  Soil preparations need to be made, seeds planted, nutrients provided to encourage and sustain development, and if there is diligent care you will see growth.  Professional growth follows the same path.

A Seed Planted

In August 2006, as a newly graduated nurse, I started working in a Newborn Critical Care Center at UNC Health Care.  For over ten years I fed my passion and love of caring for the smallest and most delicate of babies.

However, the never-ending fatigue, stress, and overwhelming need to give my all every day took its toll, and I was beginning to feel the dreaded burn out I’ve heard people talk about.  One day my husband told me that I either needed to “step up or step out.”

Nurturing Growth

In 2016, I chose to go back to school and earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  I not only wanted to challenge myself academically, but see what other opportunities would come forward professionally.  It was at this point I felt a shift in my thoughts, actions, and attitude.  I went from wanting to leave my current place of employment, to being very passionate about my career and unit.

My nursing manager took notice of my passion and growth which led to several nominations for leadership development programs offered at our organization. Participating in these programs built my confidence as a leader and motivated me to apply for the Emerging Leader Fellowship (ELF) that was run by Synova and the National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN).  This fellowship truly empowered me to continue my professional growth and it fed my confidence and leadership abilities.

With my renewed passion, I sought out new opportunities and recently accepted a Clinical Nurse Level IV position.  Prior to the interview process I reached out for guidance from my mentor, fellow classmates, and professional leaders in the ELF program. They bolstered my confidence and assured me that I was on the right path. I continue to rely on my network in this next phase of my nursing career.

As professional growth has become a passion of mine, I put my new found abilities to work in creating a mentorship program. I’ve now participated in the program as the program chair and as a mentor and have learned so much. Helping other nurses foster their own professional growth and development has been both rewarding and inspiring.

Plant Your Own Garden

Develop a network of people who can provide support, challenge your growth, and push you to succeed so that you do not become stagnant or have your ambition wither away.  I would encourage any nursing leader, new or experienced, to choose a path that will feed your internal inspiration, join a group that will support and challenge you to grow, and celebrate your successes.  It is essential to staying on a path of positive professional and personal prosperity!

One of the most important things I wanted to work on was enhancing our current Nurse Mentor Program.  I collaborated with another colleague and my management team to develop what is now a robust mentor program!  I have also been able to benefit from the program both personally and professionally as the program chair and a participating mentor.  Having the opportunity to help other nurses and see their success is both rewarding and inspiring.

I know that I would not have been successful with my professional growth if it were not for the tremendous support I have at home.  My husband encouraged me and gave me the confidence to put myself out there when I was sure I would fail.  I am so thankful for him!  My kids (15, 11) are also extremely supportive of the extra time that I have put in at work.  I think that it has been a great influence for them to see me going back to school and growing in my career.  My daughter, who is in high school, wants to be a pediatric nurse and I think that is the greatest reward I could get from my career – to inspire someone else!  I am honored to be asked to share my story and truly hope that I can help someone else decide to take the leap and try something new!


Maximize your leadership potential! Join a cohort of neonatal nurses and learn the skills you need to become a leader in your unit and beyond.