Ask the nursing expert: how to win over the staff as a new DON

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Ask the nursing expert
Ask the nursing expert
I am a new director of nursing in a facility and do not feel very welcomed by my licensed staff. Their previous DON recently retired. How can I make the transition smoother?

It is always hard to fill the shoes of a colleague who was admired by her team. Perhaps they are still grieving her absence. I would suggest that you meet with all three shifts and speak openly about how difficult it must be having lost a leader that they have worked with and admired for such a long time.

Let them talk about some of the many reasons why they enjoyed working with her. They probably really just want you to know how difficult a time that this is for them.

As an aside, you might learn quite a bit about their values and what they hold as important. Information like this is always helpful to a manager, especially one in a new setting.

As you acknowledge their feelings, introduce to them the goals that you have for the department and that you will need their input and support to reach them. It is never wise to introduce a lot of change at one time.

One of my nurse managers is very inflexible with her staff and constantly complaining that they won't do what she tells them to do. I need to counsel her, but I don't want her to cross her arms and tune me out. Any suggestions?

As you begin the meeting, lay down ground rules, including that she needs to “listen” to what you are saying to her so that she can achieve the outcomes she is looking for.

Remind her that good leaders need to be “open” to their staff and there is some give-and-take involved at times. After your meeting, direct her toward some good leadership resources that you have pre-selected for her.