My journey: Growing as a nursing leader

My name is Rae Becker and I am a new clinical manager at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center on the inpatient Hematology and Oncology unit. I worked in inpatient neurology, neurosurgery, and trauma for ten years, and spent the past three years in emergency services prior to accepting my current leadership position two months ago.  In the quiet, overnight hallways of Neuro/Trauma, to the bustling Emergency Department, I immersed myself in the art of caring for others, discovered who I was, and found my purpose and my calling. Nursing is many things. Sometimes it is sedating a child while a doctor realigns their bones, sometimes it is hugging a parent in the hallway when the cancer has returned. It is advocating, anticipating, listening, evaluating, and communicating. It is being a part of an interdisciplinary team all working together to achieve the best possible outcomes for the patients and families who present for care. It is quiet strength, honesty, resiliency, and poise. I am completely humbled that each day I have the privilege to walk beside patients and families on their various journeys and work shoulder to shoulder with some of the most capable, compassionate, and inspiring colleagues. 

I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by exceptional leaders in my time at this organisation; each investing in me, inspiring me, and guiding me as I grew as a clinician and as a leader. A few years ago, I reached a place in my career where I had held multiple informal leadership roles at the unit and hospital level and was evaluating my next steps. I asked my director about the Emerging Leader Programme, which was designed for leaders in their care areas who desired a formal leadership position at the organisation in the future. I was immediately encouraged and prepared for the application and interview process. I remember feeling extremely grateful for the emphasis that my organisation placed on professional development. It made me feel valued, engaged, and inspired; and ultimately led me to new opportunities. 

Part of the programme was to be matched with a mentor, and I was matched with a clinical manager in our Emergency Department. We discussed many things over the course of the programme, and still communicate regularly to this day. She was instrumental in helping me look at my interests, my clinical ambitions, and my leadership skills. I ended up transferring to the Emergency Department at the end of the programme and had a wonderful experience there, learning, growing and challenging myself; both in ways I anticipated, but also in ways I didn’t even know I needed. The positive experience with my mentor led me to give back by becoming a mentor myself, and I have now mentored two RN clinical leaders; both who worked on exceptional improvement projects, and are pursuing next steps in their careers. Being a mentor is extremely rewarding, as you share your knowledge and experiences, you gain such inspiration from the enthusiasm of up and coming leaders. 

During the Emerging Leader Programme, I also began my coursework for my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a focus in Nursing Administration. This BSN to DNP programme was a great opportunity for me to spread my wings, and I was again supported by my clinical director from Neuro/Trauma. She remained a resource to me even after I transferred to the Emergency Department, and along with my committee, helped with the data analysis and writing of the manuscript for my DNP project. I was also able to continue networking with Julie Moody, Director of PS Education, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, who was leading the Emerging Leader Programme, as we collaborated on house-wide disaster preparedness, the charge nurse course, and as a member of my DNP project committee. This charge nurse course, another area of professional development, became the focus of my DNP project. 

As I embark on this new journey in my first formal leadership role, I realise that the culture of continuous improvement and professional development supported by my organisation has greatly inspired my career path. My new director came and addressed the group during the Emerging Leader Programme, and her leadership style and expertise were a huge factor as I decided to pursue the clinical manager opportunity within this amazing team.  I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities that professional development has afforded me along my journey. The combination of classes, experiences, and networking have given me a strong foundation upon which to build as I advance my career, to support and give back to the noble profession of nursing in both my current and future leadership roles.