6 Hacks to Optimize Your Leadership

by Nursetopia on September 22, 2015

I’m not an expert on time management, but over the course of 10 years in leadership, I have never had an assistant manage my schedule or emails. I squeeze a lot of goodness into jam-packed days. Students, new leaders, and those I have the privilege of leading often ask me how I get so much accomplished between work, family, volunteering with numerous organizations, church, and hobbies. Here are a few tricks I’ve incorporated into daily work to help optimize my time:

1. Always have a blank notecard and envelope on-hand. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve needed to write a quick, special note. Sometimes it’s because I’ve forgotten an occasion; other times it’s because I just learned of something happening quickly. Because I have the tools on-hand, I can always contribute in meaningful ways that align with my leadership style. Hand-written notes are rarities these days, which means anyone who gives them is quickly set apart from others. It’s an incredibly easy way to differentiate yourself. Popping a few blank notecards and envelopes into your briefcase, outer purse pocket, or work binder takes little effort with maximum opportunity.

2. Easy-access reading material is a must. There will be downtime in your day no matter how hard you try to avoid it. You should always be reading a book or a journal, no matter how long it takes you to finish it. Learning never stops. So, carry journals with you, have audio books downloaded for travel between off-site meetings, make sure you have an e-book ready for a quick chapter read when you can fit it in. You’ll whiz through your reading pile in no time…all during your “downtime.”

3. Incorporate post-meeting follow-up time into your calendar. This little jewel of a tip has been a sanity saver for me as I’ve grown in leadership and in responsibilities. Some days are  continuous meetings, and if you’re not careful, you can end up with 40+ hours of meetings and equally as many evening, early morning, and weekend hours of desk work resulting from those meetings. No thanks! Make sure you schedule follow-up time immediately after most meetings to complete your action items. This tactic can help you seek clarity throughout meetings in anticipation of completing actions following meetings, and it can also help expedite work that can easily get dropped through the proverbial leadership cracks. Even better? Complete low-level action items during the meeting as you discuss them.

4. Schedule your to-do list. I used to keep a list of everything I needed to accomplish. It worked at one time in my career, but now I cannot manage the moving pieces and deadlines of numerous strategic initiatives via a to-do list. I’ve learned that my daily calendar is the best way to set a deadline and work backwards, actually scheduling the milestone work. Covey’s “begin with the end in mind” always delivers.

5. View your calendar one week at a time. If there’s one thing nursing has taught me it’s that priorities change. The same is true in any kind of leadership. The days never look the same, so as meetings get delayed or something else needs attention, I can attack portions of the schedule later in the week or move around daily work to readjust for unexpected moments.

6. Prioritize your day the day before. The last thing I do each day is look at my calendar for the next business day. I often number my scheduled items for the day to ensure I take care of the most important work first whenever possible because – as number five pointed out – priorities change, and what sometimes feels like a priority may not be one at all. Viewing my calendar prior to the next business day helps me refocus. In addition, I often set my desk up so I can jump right into work – separating files and projects in order so I can more easily move throughout my day and work.

And while all of these hacks are great at the office, they most certainly work at home, as well. I am not quite as scheduled at home, but I always have blank notecards/envelopes with me, I am never without reading material, and the next school/work day is always prepped the night before with clothes, lunches, and backpacks. It just makes for a happy and productive day.

So, hack away and have a happy day! What tips do you have that help keep your days humming along?


When Nurses Grieve Together

by Nursetopia on September 4, 2015

Oncology nurses experience grief. All nurses experience grief. It’s part of the job we agreed to as life also encompasses death.

As a nurse leader, grief over a patient death is very similar to the grief I experienced as a frontline nurse. While I do not routinely put my hands on patients daily, I still get to know patients and their families in my role, and I get the pleasure of caring for them in ways they may never know. In addition, I get to hear nurses and the rest of the team talk about patients in care meetings or in the break room as they munch on a homemade treat a patient just happened to bring for the group. Stories and story-telling moments are vital learning sessions in healthcare, and it’s important (and sometimes fun) for me to hear these stories of our patients throughout their care.

And conversely, the grief over a patient death as a leader is different from the grief as a patient’s nurse. That bond is entirely different. Entirely.

The longer I am in leadership, the more tenderly I view my nurses and team during seasons of patient loss. It is humbling watching a group of nurses attend a viewing together or stop by an end-of-life patient’s room one-by-one, only to leave with tear-stained faces. It’s moving caring for a multidisciplinary team passing the Kleenex box around a gathered office space during work hours. It’s endearing hearing a handful of nurses share unknown stories with a family who may have never been in the care environment to experience them, showing either a completely different side of a patient or reinforcing the truest of true personalities and characteristics throughout even the hardest of health times.

Nurses are seriously some of the strongest, most courageous, versatile, and resilient people I’ve ever met. Even in their grief, they are amazing. That gathered grief shows the deep sincerity of their care to people who were once strangers to them but now forever a part of them.

Not everyone grieves together. I believe it is a sign of a strong team when grief is shared, though. What do you think?


Missed You Bunches and Bunches

by Nursetopia on September 4, 2015

Long time no see! Yes, I am still alive. And well.

I always wonder when blogs – in general – suddenly stop. What happened? Is that it? 

Well, I could share reason after reason for not writing over the last two months. I’ll spare you, though, and just tell you I missed you bunches and bunches instead.

I did. Bunches.

In transparency, I’ve been nurturing a long-time dream, and it has taken a lot of my creative energy. I’m excited to share more when the time comes…which will be in about nine or ten more months…I think. You know how the creative process goes, right?

Anywhoooo. Good to see you again!


Just Ask: Getting Over the ‘No’

by Nursetopia on July 18, 2015

She Could Say NoThere once was a time in my life that I would assume some of my ideas or requests would automatically be squelched with a “no” answer. My assumption would actually limit me from even asking or discussing the request or idea. One thing is for sure -the answer will always be “no” to something that’s not asked.

I had to get over the fear of “no.” In light of many other things in work and care, being told no is not really that big of a deal, but when you’re told no over and over again, you can start to think your ideas are rubbish and simply stop generating ideas altogether. That’s not good for any organization.

“No” for the sake of “no” has never really set well with me; I have always wanted to know the why behind the answer. Most people are this way, which is why leadership communication is important to validate ideas and questions. Just because the answer is no doesn’t mean the idea or request wasn’t valuable. I’ve learned that both when I’m told no with an explanation or I do the same thing with those who follow me, often times a subsequent idea results to overcome the explanation’s barrier. It’s a beautiful thing – respectful, transparent communication.

Receiving a “no” answer is really no big deal, but it does take practice – just like everything else – to maintain professionalism and competency within the situation. “No” comes in all forms, but it mostly signifies the opportunity to grow – to research more, collect additional data, strengthen a business case. It’s a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block.

Get over your fear of “no.” Just ask.


Cure a Case of the Mondays with Gratitude

by Nursetopia on June 12, 2015

I had the case of the Mondays. You know the feeling; everything seemed to fall apart at work or be too busy for me to catch my breath.

Amazing, though, how gratitude washes away the Mondays – or fear – or anxiety – for me, at least. As I pulled away from work in my air conditioned vehicle, with tires in great shape and full gas tank, I drove on paved roads – passing an ambulance on its way to the exact place I was leaving for the day. I picked up my smartphone and called my family who was all safe and sound within our home, getting ready for an evening of rest. I had the luxury of silence on my way home, able to process the day, and I thought about the coding specialist who identified cost savings, the nurse who agreed to write an article for professional publication, the physician looking for ways to expand our integrative medicine capabilities, the manager diligently filling her team with the right candidates, the manager who secured emergency resources for a patient, the nurse who identified process improvements, the social worker who protected a patient from harm, the nurse who offered to come into work if needed, the pharmacist who spoke up about an environmental concern, the leaders who entrusted an issue to my hands and mind, the colleagues who helped me with an intensive, new process…and those are the examples I thought of in the first five minutes. I paused thinking of how blessed I am to work with such exceptional people.
And as I realized how blessed I am at work, making a prosperous wage, I pulled into my home driveway and entered my air-conditioned home, warmed by the love of a healthy family who needn’t even think about where the next meal will come from because the scent of supper, from a bubbling crockpot, was filling the rooms. I took a warm shower and put on clean clothes, only to be met by one of my children asking to spend time with me.
Rough day? What rough day? Gratitude is self-care for my soul.

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Tacos – whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, are a big deal in Texas. And so are our nurses. You likely feel the same way about the nurses around you, and what better way to say a little thanks than to bring your favorite nurse a taco or two…along with a Nursetopia card, of course?


To download the wide version, click here.


To download the long version, click here.

Happy Nurses Week!


Even though May 6th, is the official start of Nurses Week, tomorrow begins the observed celebration week for most organizations. As a registered nurse myself and a nurse leader, I love Nurses Week because it gives me one more reason to love on the nurses all around me. Seriously, nurses are incredible people. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate those who make it their life’s work to care for others?!

And in true Nursetopia style, let’s kick off the week with some more free, printable cards, shall we? This series – the Elemental series – is one of my favorites because it’s been in my creative work queue for over a year, and I just finished it yesterday.

It just so happens that “CNO” is spelled out beautifully in the periodic table, and Radon thankfully holds the “Rn” symbol on the table, as well. Yep, there are a few key additional credentials hidden among the elements, so stay tuned to see the Elemental series expand.

CNO_Nurses Week

To download the Elemental CNO card, click here. Yes, your CNO deserves some Nurses Week love, too! Just trim the edges and fold vertically to have a lovely tent notecard.

Elemental RN_Nurses Week

To download the Elemental RN card, click here. There are four of these cards to a single sheet, so download, print, and share the Nurses Week love.


May is full of wonderfulness – graduations, the beginning of summer, Nurses Week, and yes…Oncology Nursing Month. Now, as an oncology nurse I realize my bias; that’s okay, it’s a good bias.

Seriously, I love oncology nurses. They give, give, give. They are brilliant healthcare professionals, and I am proud to belong to the specialty.

Shower the oncology nurses around you with appreciation all month long. There are oodles of free, printable cards here; just click the Freebies & Giveaways link above to start sharing the love.

Happy Oncology Nursing Month!

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NurseWeek_WOW_VerticalLogoNurses Week – May 6-12 – is right around the corner, and it is one of my most favorite times of the year to love on nurses.

I always think of the most influential nurses in my life especially during this time, and now Fastaff is giving nurses a chance to win a $500 Southwest Airlines gift card simply by entering their Words of Wisdom giveaway. Simply complete the entry form, and include your story of the best nursing advice given to you by May 15, 2015; Fastaff will take it from there.

I am so fortunate to have dozens upon dozens of inspirational nurses in my life – from professors to managers to colleagues to researchers – they’ve shaped me into the nurse I am today; they’re leaving their fingerprints all over me and my career. I know you have some of these incredible people in your life, as well. What a super easy way to honor your own inspirational nurse while also having the chance to win a $500 Southwest Airlines gift card to sweep yourself or someone else away. Enter today!



March 19th is one of my favorite days; it’s Certified Nurses Day. I love it because I love certified nurses. It doesn’t matter what the certification is because every certification test is rigorous, requires extensive knowledge and experience to sit for and pass, and carries several ongoing standards to maintain certification such as numbers of hours worked and sometimes hundreds of continuing education credits within a certain specialty area.

Plainly put – certified nurses are healthcare rock stars.

So, why not celebrate these amazing men and women? Even acknowledgement of Certified Nurses Day to a certified nurse will be a big deal, so download, print, and giveaway these four cards to honor the certified nurses around you. Don’t forget to add your own handwritten note into the white spaces. Enjoy!

Certified Nurses Day_Chalkboard

Download Chalkboard Credentials here.

Certified Nurses Day Red Credentials

Download Red Credentials here.

Certified Nurses Day_Awesome Psst

Download Awesome Psst here.

Certified Nurses Day_YOU

Download Certified Nurses Day – YOU here.