Nursing Leader Attentiveness (Podcast)

By listening closely and responding authentically, leaders can create an environment where nurses feel valued

When clinical nurses raise questions, whether it’s about patient safety, staffing, protocols or other topics, nursing leaders need to be attentive. But too often the perception is that leaders are too busy or distracted to listen carefully and respond thoughtfully. Or worse, clinical nurses feel as though leaders don’t want to hear their thoughts.


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“What we need to do as nurse leaders – and especially nurse managers – is be thankful for the people who are raising comments, asking questions, willing to be vocal and speak up,” says Nancy M. Albert, PhD, CCNS, CHFN, CCRN, NE-BC, FAHA, FCCM, FHFSA, FAAN. “People who are not afraid to do it can help everybody get better.”

Albert, ACNO of Nursing Research and Innovation at Cleveland Clinic, participated in a research project where nurses talked about speaking up but not feeling heard. In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, she discussed the study findings and the importance of leader attentiveness, including:

  • Advice for clinical nurses on how and when to approach leaders
  • Tips for nurse leaders on taking time to understand the clinical nurse’s concern and respond authentically
  • The importance of seeking out resources to help resolve questions and following up with nurses to provide answers
  • How to make nurses feel like they are part of the solution
  • The value of addressing nurses with positivity

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Nurse Essentials episodes at or wherever you get your podcasts.

Podcast excerpt

Podcast host Carol Pehotsky, DNP, RN, NEA-BC: What other themes did you hear when you listened to nurses [during the research project]?


Albert: I think the one last theme that we heard is things like a pat response from a manager. And it was almost like, don’t shoot the messenger. The nurse manager maybe gave an answer that was an automatic response. And nurses don’t want automatic responses.

So, how might a nurse manager get the message across, but make it not feel like a pat response? We try very hard to help our nurse managers out by giving them song sheets to talk off of. And I think that’s really helpful to people who are new nurse managers. But we need to remember that we need to consider the context of what’s on that sheet of paper and the person in front of us when we’re talking and figure out how we do it in a way that doesn’t feel rigid and formalized. It almost sounds like it’s coming from somebody else.

We need to sound genuine. We need to sound like we’re interested. And some of that means that we need to get better at, again, letting people know – especially if we don’t have the answer – that I don’t have the answer for you. Because we’re all in this together.

During COVID was a great example. That’s when this research was going on. And again, people were stressed and burned out. And the number one question was what are we going to do about our nursing shortage? How are we going to get more nurses on our unit?


A pat answer from a nurse manager could have been, “I don’t know; there are no nurses” or “There’s nothing we could do about it.” But what maybe they should have said is, “Let’s talk about what the issues are that are affecting you in your day-to-day work.” Then let’s think about how we could be innovative or how we can work differently together as a team so that the work can get done.

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