Practice Matters

Breathe new life into unit staff meetings

For the front-line nurse manager, holding monthly unit staff meetings is a key responsibility. But sometimes these meetings and the preparation they require don’t get the attention they deserve.
Planning and running constructive meetings call for dedicated time and energy—especially if you want to achieve and maintain a leadership platform that can influence change and desired outcomes. If you don’t plan your unit meetings carefully, staff members will come to see the meetings as trivial get-togethers with poorly developed agendas. Then meeting attendance will drop, enthusiasm will wane, and team effort will dwindle. Mediocre meetings translate into missed opportunities to transmit valuable information, create forums for open peer discussion, celebrate team and individual successes, and gain credibility by demonstrating strong leadership capabilities.
To boost attendance and keep staff members engaged during meetings, make sure you have a clearly structured agenda that aligns with your organization’s strategic goals.
Another way to capture staff interest is to choose key staffers to present agenda items. Also, show administrators’ receptivity to staff concerns by periodically having department managers or directors or even executive staff members speak at meetings.

Publish meeting schedules and agendas
Scheduling unit meetings in advance is essential. Staff members are more likely to attend meetings if they have sufficient notice. Create and disseminate a year-at-a-glance meeting schedule so all staff members know when meetings will take place.
Also, make detailed agendas available for staff to review before meetings. That way, everyone will be prepared to respond to others’ ideas and offer fresh ideas of their own.

Create compelling meeting themes
Try to create an interesting theme for each meeting. Besides giving the meeting a coherent structure, themes are a good way to inject some fun into the session. For theme ideas, mine current events, issues, and trends. (If creativity isn’t your forte, ask an energetic, creative staff member for help in coming up with a theme and elaborating on it.)
Think of ways to demonstrate the chosen theme, such as by using props, planned staff activities, and refreshments. For example, if your meeting agenda includes celebrating 4 consecutive weeks of patient satisfaction scores reaching the desired percentile rankings, serve cookies decorated with that number.
I know of one nurse manager who used a football theme for a staff meeting. She lined the staff break room with banners, had nursing leaders show up in sports jerseys, and used megaphones to introduce agenda items. The unit director, chief nursing officer, and director of organizational change all attended, sporting such nicknames as “Tom the Fridge,” “Kathy the Crusher,” and “Brian Boom-Boom.” Bowls of peanuts and popcorn supported the sports theme. Staff members truly had fun and the central message was received well.
Don’t assume every theme has to be celebratory. Even if the meeting agenda will center on the need for increased commitment rather than successes achieved, using a theme can help deliver the message with spirit and impact.

Recognize and reward staff standouts
For a truly successful meeting, always recognize and reward high-performing staff members. Unit meetings are the perfect opportunity to present employee awards, such as Above and Beyond “wings” for going that extra mile in quality and service. They’re also a good time to read aloud patient satisfaction survey comments and letters from patients and families. Applauding individuals for a job well done encourages continued commitment to excellence. Capitalize on any opportunity to show appreciation for your staff as valuable team members.
Great leaders inspire others by creating a vision that leads employees to a higher level of performance, professional growth, and gratification. A well-structured unit meeting is the perfect vehicle for conveying your vision to staff members. Throwing creativity into the mix will keep meetings lively, meaningful, and results-oriented.

Cynthia M. Shedosky is Medical Unit Nurse Manager at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill.


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