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Making of a Healthcare Leader
Providing patient care and managing surgical services are very different worlds.
David Taylor
Publish Date: May 25, 2016
OR Excellence
David Taylor, MSN, RN, CNOR David Taylor,

Speaker Profile

  • Retired at the rank of major from the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in 2009 after 25 years of service.
  • Delivered comprehensive consulting services to community hospital systems, teaching hospitals and level I trauma centers nationwide.
  • Author of "Perioperative Leadership: Managing Change With Insights, Priorities, and Tools," in AORN Journal, July 2014 (osmag.net/3KjNNs).

It takes a great nurse to be a healthcare leader, but it also takes more than that. While the lessons of leadership aren't typically taught in nursing school, the necessary qualities may already be within you, says David Taylor, MSN, RN, CNOR, director of the cardiovascular OR at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. In his presentation "Healthcare Leaders Aren't Born, They're Made," he'll illuminate how front-line providers grow into top-drawer managers.

  • A new frontier. I don't believe nursing school prepares us to take on the role of healthcare leader as it's defined today. We're trained for patient care, but leadership today requires us to understand HR, finance, growth and strategy. We're responsible for the business office as well as surgical services, ensuring that staff provide effective care, but also hit certain metrics. We began our careers in nursing, and being a leader is much more than we were prepared for, so we might be caught at a disadvantage.
  • Training takes time. Some people are natural leaders and some aren't. Some have charisma and some don't. But we all have to grow into leadership. You can learn to lead, but you have to be given the opportunity to learn how. Imagine asking a CFO to scrub in, to gown and glove up, to join a surgery. He wouldn't be able to. Well, why not? He's the CFO of a hospital that does surgery, it's the business he's managing, doesn't he understand everything that's going on in his world? The same goes for nurses. There shouldn't be an assumption that they know everything about how to run a department or a facility from the start.
  • You learn what you live. The experience of taking that leap of faith to leadership is different for everyone. Whether you've been with the organization you're leading for many years or you're just arriving, though, your results will depend on the experience you've gained. In short, what you've seen is what you know.
  • What makes a leader. First and foremost, nurse leaders have to understand what it means to really take care of patients. They never forget that's what we're here for, taking care of people at their worst times. In service industries such as restaurants or hotels, it's easy to pursue excellence. Their customers are most often happy, they're looking to have a good time. Someone who comes to us, even for elective surgery, is probably scared, nervous, anxious. Second, a good leader is someone who listens to staff, who holds them accountable, but appreciates their contributions and mentors them. Then the staff feels like they have a voice and feels empowered to make decisions. Then they'll understand what they're here for.
  • Forming the future. Our role as leaders is to build and sustain exceptional outcomes, which will grow and coach our people. This in turn will develop the next generation of leaders. There are more than 3.1 million RNs in this country. Some projections say 500,000 will retire by 2022. As leaders, we'll have a dramatic impact on the future of health care. OSM