CNO Roundtable 2023

Question 6: Advice for Future Leaders

What advice do you have for nurses interested in a leadership career?

Our panelists offer their advice for aspiring nurse leaders, including non-nursing subjects to study and constructive habits to develop early.


Nancy Blake, LAC+USC Medical Center

Early in your employment, you should become familiar with budgeting and healthcare finance. It helped me to have taken courses in finance and human resources management before I became a manager.

Supporting nurses with servant leadership is crucial for nursing leaders. I also believe that being an engaged listener is a habit that people need to develop early if they want to succeed.


Annabelle Duschane Braun, MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center

The best advice that I can give is to be flexible, practice active listening, build relationships, and stay patient-focused.

I also recommend taking courses on emotional intelligence and leadership skills, with a specific focus on creating high-performance teams. These courses improve self-awareness, self-regulation of emotions, and the ability to motivate and inspire.


Lori Burnell, Valley Presbyterian Hospital

Always be present and listen intently to the person in front of you. You should also cultivate adaptability. Especially in the hospital setting, no two days will be alike. Blessed are the flexible!

Taking courses in healthcare finance and accounting, leadership development, and human resources management will help you understand budgets, how to grow the capabilities of others, and how to effectively deal with the challenges of a diverse workforce.


Gloria Carter, Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center

Find a mentor, embrace servant leadership, always lead by example, and cultivate a collaborative and inclusive culture. Learn from your challenges, don’t forget self-care, and enjoy the journey.

I would strongly encourage taking communication courses that include interpersonal, organizational, and intercultural communication as well as change management. Also, cultivate habits like setting goals, positive thinking, and challenging yourself to embrace change.


Anita Girard, Cedars-Sinai

Go easy on yourself, develop your own roadmap, and find a mentor who is leading the way you envision yourself leading. Also, learn to step away at the end of the day.

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Take all the leadership classes and human resources courses your organization provides, and learn the business of healthcare. I also encourage my leaders to learn to lead from their strengths rather than their weaknesses.


Karen Grimley, UCLA Health

Be present, authentic, transparent, and available. Speak up often on behalf of patients and nurses, and advocate for the resources needed to make things happen.

Never take your staff for granted, and remember to say thank you. Be a role model and act with empathy and kindness. Above all, love your job — it will give you the passion you need to led people through change.


Katie Hughes, Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare

I wish I had honed my computer skills prior to entering leadership. Being comfortable with the software you use really helps make you more efficient.

Another skill to work on is being able to have critical conversations, where the right outcome is crucial or where emotion is high. It’s natural to want to avoid difficult conversations, but as a leader, you need to be able to address situations effectively.


Evelyn Ku, Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital

Be courageous, fearless, and willing to adjust as necessary. Stay up to date on changes in the healthcare industry, participate in continuing education, and attend conferences.

As you take care of your career, also remember to take care of yourself, physically and mentally. This is a demanding industry, and your health is as important as the patient’s. Be a role model for your staff and patients in body and mind.


Joyce Leido, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center

To have a positive impact as a nurse leader, you need to be a well-rounded individual with a diverse range of skills and interests, including areas outside of nursing.

Consider taking courses in leadership and management. Additionally, I suggest studying public health or healthcare policy to help you understand the broader healthcare landscape and the policies that govern it, which will be invaluable to you as a nurse leader.


Deborah McCoy, USC Arcadia Hospital

Purposeful listening is essential to successful collaboration and leadership. Huddle often with your teams, and remember that you are always learning. Embracing input from others and fostering an environment of collaboration will facilitate decision-making and action planning.

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From a more academic perspective, mastery of foundational concepts like budget and finance, systems thinking, and collaborative decision-making is vital at higher levels of leadership.


Theresa Murphy, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital

Develop a strong understanding of the business of healthcare. Often, nurses are experts in the clinical environment but may not have as much knowledge about the business side.

Courses in accounting, finance, and healthcare payment methods will provide invaluable knowledge. A good practice for aspiring leaders is to be engaged in several professional organizations. These provide opportunities for peer collaboration, identifying mentors, and professional progress.


Jinhee Nguyen, Adventist Health Glendale

Any aspiring nurse leader should pursue continuing education in financial management and human resources. It is critical to also cultivate the habit of being a lifelong learner. Leaders must be on the cutting edge of the ever-changing world of healthcare.

Active listening will also prepare you for success as a leader. Knowing your audience and creating the space to pause, listen, and reflect creates a healthy team culture.


Tanya Osborne-McKenzie, MLK Community Healthcare

Be curious. Consider different ideas. Build relationships. Don’t make assumptions. Know that everything you do is a learning opportunity.

Study sociology, which focuses on human behavior and culture in everyday life, and economics and finance, which are important to understand as a nurse leader. I also recommend journaling. Early in my career, I was advised to start a journal, and I wish I had taken that advice.


Gloria Sanchez-Rico, Huntington Health

If this is the path for you, one of the best and easiest ways to develop as a leader is to identify a mentor or role model whose managerial style you would like to emulate. Leadership books and videos are also helpful.

A nonclinical subject that I recommend for nurses is sociology. Understanding what makes people tick helps build perspective and empathy for different cultures and experiences.


Dianne Sauco, PIH Health Downey Hospital

It’s important to understand that as a leader, your focus should be on the people or team you manage, not on the task. You need an engaged team to successfully accomplish anything. It’s a leader’s job to help each person utilize their gifts.

I think it’s important for nurse leaders to understand the business side of healthcare, and many nurse leaders could also benefit from courses on public speaking.


Darlene Scafiddi, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center

A constructive habit to develop is rounding at the start or end of your day to connect back to patients and staff, no matter how busy you may be. Never forget the reason we chose nursing: our patients.

Change management is one of the most transformative courses a nurse can take. The most challenging part of being a leader is shaping and implementing change in critical moments. ■

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