Not everyone has the time or inclination to pursue advanced degrees. There are options such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Executive Nurse Fellows initiative or the American Organization of Nurse Executive's Nurse Manager Fellowship, but these are few and far between.
Some organizations create their own nurse leadership programs, which is what United Healthcare Group has done. The company employs more than 7,000 nurses in 43 states, making it one of the largest employers of nurses in the U.S.
The idea began a couple of years ago, says Dawn Bazarko, senior VP of UnitedHealth's Center for Nursing Advancement. "We observed there were needs around leadership development," she says. "There were not enough nurses at the table and their voices were not being heard. Given changing healthcare and the fact nurses make up the largest portion of it, we saw a missed opportunity and a chance for us to invest in nursing in a different kind of way, for us to prepare leaders to serve in larger roles."
The Center for Nursing Advancement focuses on nurse engagement strategies and training, development, and mentoring for nursing professionals within UnitedHealth. In conjunction with the University of St. Thomas, Bazarko created an executive development program specifically for nurse leaders.
"We could bring out untapped potential," says Bazarko. "Move our nurses into senior leadership roles. Many didn't have the skills and competencies to move into these roles."
"We designed a curriculum based on a number of needs assessments and put together a cohort-based intensive," she says. The program lasted just two weeks and offered a variety of executive leadership development competencies. It provided training about strategy, finances, change management, ethics, and business communication, all centered around the creation of a nurse leader profile.