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The Frankenstein Approach to Building the Perfect Nurse

December 17, 2015


frankensteinHalloween is just around the corner – made me think about how we look at behavioral competencies to build the model of the perfect nurse, Dr. Frankenstein material.

I recall when my wife had post-surgical complications making her very ill and uncomfortable. One younger nurse was very kind and professional. She had a solid handle on how to manage my wife’s post-surgical course and her reaction to the anesthesia, but she wasn’t very comforting.When the shift changed, a more experienced nurse came in and while I doubt she was as organized or thorough as her colleague, she immediately put her hand on my wife’s shoulder and went through some breathing exercises to calm her (and me) – a much more high touch approach. Both nurses were good. Both were “patient-focused” but wouldn’t it have been wonderful to magically meld them into one super nurse?

Cue lightning strikes and evil doctor laugh.

What exactly are we looking for? Well -- collaboration, compassion, patient focus, diligence, adaptability and decision-making skills are good starting points when looking at healthcare hiring. Now think about some famous pop culture nurses – what if we could throw out their bad qualities but put the good ones in a blender?

Jackie Peyton (Nurse Jackie): She handles the pressure of the ER well, is a creative problem solver, diligent about her duties, but not much of a collaborator and certainly struggles with violations of the nursing code of ethics!

Carol Hathaway (ER): She collaborates well with the team in the ER, has pride in her profession and is patient focused, but she’s not particularly high touch or compassionate (or at least she didn’t always convey it to patients).

Gaylord Fokker (Meet the Parents): He’s pleasant, compassionate adaptable (at least at home -- adapting to his father-in-law!), but he displays questionable decision making, to say the least!

Nurse Ratchet (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest): Although voted one of the five best movie villains of all time, she still has some positives: (1) Her uniform and hat were always perfect, and (2) She was diligent and organized. Of course, she’s pretty low (well, REALLY low) on compassion, patient-focus, adaptability and collaboration.

Hot Lips Houlihan (M*A*S*H): Showing our age, but Hot Lips had real leadership qualities. She was diligent, patient focused and always exhibited sound decision making. But on the other hand, she struggled with collaboration and adaptability -- didn’t she?

Unfortunately, we aren’t in the business of the “Science Fiction” of selection (like Dr. Frankenstein) so it’s not as easy as putting these famous nurses on the table, piecing them together and shocking them with a few thousand volts to give life to the “perfect nurse”. There is, however, a SCIENCE to selection and if every hiring and promotion decision is based on solid data about the desired behavioral competencies, you’ll be on your way to building the nursing workforce you envision.

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Bryan Warren Bryan Warren was the former Director of Healthcare Solutions at PSI. He was responsible for developing and promoting tools and services designed specifically for the unique challenges faced by healthcare organizations.