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Tips and Tricks for Nurse Leaders to Support Nurses’ Mental Wellness

Sep 29, 2020
Melissa Smith, MSN, PMHNP-BC

When working in nurse management, it can be difficult to see the less prominent aspects of your responsibilities when you’re focused on balancing the bigger picture. You may think, “It’s my responsibility to make sure everything goes as planned, and everyone will know if I can’t ensure this on my own,” but that’s not actually the case. 

Leadership is not about what you can do on your own—it’s about your ability to empower those you work with on a daily basis. This involves empowering them as your nursing staff while simultaneously supporting them as individuals. To do this, you must communicate that you care about them and want them to be successful in reaching their goals.

Here are a few tips on how to do this effectively. Take a look and think about how you can apply them to your own staff or team. 

cog in the machine rusted old nurse leadership mental wellness for nurses
Each part of the machine must work effectively in order to have the most successful outcome.


Tip #1: Education 

The American Nurses Association shares mental wellness tips that can benefit nurses in various areas of their life. What are some things you wish someone had told you about nursing that would have been helpful when you landed your first job or switched specialties? 

Educating nurses about what they can expect in their role with your organization will also be beneficial during the hiring process. When interviewing job candidates, look beyond their nursing skills. Be transparent about the population they will be working with and evaluate their potential for managing difficult situations. 

After communicating what to expect, find out what their own goals are. Write those goals down and use them to guide future conversations with your employee as the relationship continues.

Tip #2: Apply the Nursing Process to Every Situation 

This may sound simple, but you will likely find yourself missing steps every now and then. Take your time and think of ways that you can approach your team’s unique conversations and situations on a daily basis. 

For instance, perhaps you learn that a staff member said something that is highly uncharacteristic of them. Talk to the person you received the information from and investigate the situation. During the conversation with the staff member in question, ask how they are doing. Determine if there are any changes within their personal situation that may have caused this behavior.

Tip #3: Share Your Own Story

Sometimes, your staff just need to hear that someone else has overcome what they are currently experiencing. Your experience may not be exactly the same as theirs, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t able to share how you overcame your own challenge. 

Start by giving them the time and space to express themselves, while staying fully attentive. If appropriate, share your version as well. Let them know that you understand their frustration and want them to succeed. The trick here is to be genuine. You may believe that you are delivering your message in a genuine manner, but it’s not about you. 

Pay attention to how your staff member receives it. Make appropriate eye contact and use an empathetic tone. Speak slowly with non-pressured speech. Remind the staff member that you are here for them. If you don’t have enough time to talk, make an appointment and stick to it. They will appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to speak with them.

Tip #4: Provide an Open Space for Nurses to Speak About Their Experiences

Ensure them that it’s okay to let you know how they are doing. Reiterate that it’s important for you to know about any issues they may be facing. For instance, how is their family doing? We all work with people from a variety of backgrounds. Find out how they are coping with events that occur on a local, national, and international level. 

This can be tricky when it comes to religious and political subjects, so it’s important to set some ground rules. The goal of the conversation is not to talk about the events that impact them, but how they are coping with those particular events (and how you can help them cope, as well as find solutions, in more effective ways).

Tip #5: Team Meetings

Whether it’s a full staff meeting, change of shift meeting, or impromptu huddle, encourage your team members to share something nice about another individual in the group. This will be difficult at first, as your staff may not be used to the idea of giving each other kudos. 

You will find yourself sharing things about people a lot in the beginning. But keep at it, and it will start to catch on among the group. An approach that works well in our department meetings is expressing something that we appreciate about our team from the week before. 

Tip #6: Ask How You Can Help

Presenting staff with the opportunity to share an expectation or need can help open the lines of communication. Sometimes, not having an answer is enough to push that person in the right direction. Allow them to talk through it with you and see where it goes. 

If they ask you not to share what was said, it’s okay to respect their wishes as long as no one is in danger. If you aren’t able to help, refer that person to another individual who can provide them with what they need.

Tip #7: Refer Employees to Your Organization’s Employee Support Program

Sometimes, you aren’t able to provide employees with everything that they need. In these cases, focus on making sure they are safe and have the basics in place. 

This includes having their shift covered, informing their family of the crisis if necessary, and escorting them to the next level of care—whether that’s your facility’s emergency care area, employee wellness services, or the nearest hospital or police department. Aim to become familiar with each process to avoid losing your cool while they are seeking help from you.

You can visit MED+ED, NAMI, and Trusted’s own mental wellness resource center for more tips to help your employees manage their mental wellness and improve their overall wellbeing.

And don’t forget to sign the pledge. Join Trusted and dozens of other nurse leaders and pledge to make wellness and mental wellness a priority for you and your team in 2020 and beyond.