Former Staff Nurse Returns as CEO

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , May 25, 2010

Freeman says that such fellowships are rare now, but that they allowed her to gain a comprehensive management experience.

"For young nurses with management experience, it's sometimes hard to break out of the nursing manager paradigm," says Freeman, who wants to develop future leaders across nursing and non-nursing areas.

She says most hospitals have management and leadership development programs for nurses. Many hospitals pay for advanced degrees or have formal and informal mentoring programs. Sometimes the most important part is to spot the stars and encourage them to seek leadership experiences.

"When you see individuals who have capability, start working with him or her," says Freeman. With some employees, you can just spot their potential, she says. "You see critical thinking skills, organization and prioritizing skills, analytic thinking, good old common sense, people skills, knowing how to work with others, people who have a public presence and sense about them and are clear and direct.

She recommends helping those potential leaders to get credentialed, giving them projects, and assigning them more responsibility to grow their leadership skills. "Technical knowledge comes and goes," says Freeman, "and is often not as important because science changes so quickly." It's the other skills that are so important to the development of the next generation of CEOs.

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Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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