February 27, 2023

Reigniting Joy and Enthusiasm in the Nursing Profession

Leaders share insights on reducing stress, finding fulfillment


It’s been three years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, an event that placed unprecedented demands on nurses across the globe and prompted some to question their passion for the profession. Nurse leaders addressed this issue in an uplifting panel discussion at Cleveland Clinic’s 2022 Nursing Leadership Summit, “Joy and Enthusiasm for the Nursing Profession,” which aimed to reinforce positivity and provide hope for the future of nursing.


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“We have had a moment, and we are emerging from that moment,” said Mary Beth Modic, DNP, APRN-CNS, CDCES, FAAN, a clinical nurse specialist at Cleveland Clinic and panel moderator. “We want you to know that you have done your best, you continue to do your best and you have managed to lead remarkable men and women through very dark times.”

During the panel discussion with five nurse leaders from Cleveland Clinic, the following themes emerged. Quotes have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

  1. Choose joy.

“My mother often said, ‘Happiness and joy are choices we make when we get up and start our day.’ I can choose to be happy and bring joy or not. It’s incumbent upon all of us as leaders to spread that joy. It comes out of the love we have for our work – that opportunity to bring care and compassion to our patients.” – Kristine Adams, MSN, CNP, Associate Chief Nursing Officer of Care Management and Ambulatory Services

“We all love our work, but we need to do a better job of taking those moments to watch a video, listen to a patient’s story or talk with a colleague about how your day went. That brings the joy back in.” – Mandi Testa, MSN, RN, CMSRN, NE-BC, Assistant Director of Nursing

  1. Prioritize teamwork.

“This is a really important time for nursing and healthcare. We have this amazing opportunity to redesign and reimagine nursing for today because today is the future. We have groups of incredibly brilliant, innovative leaders and caregivers who have so much to share. Let’s tap into that, bring them together and forge the path for nursing together.” – Kerry Major, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Chief Nursing Officer of Florida Regional and Weston Hospital


“Healthcare is becoming more and more complicated. Because of all the great work we have done over the past 20 years, people are alive today who would not have been previously, which puts a huge onus on us to continually keep upping our game….There is no room for toxicity. There is only room for team-based care. And that will need to increase, particularly as we take on more complex patients.” – Kristine Adams

  1. Connect with caregivers.

“The best way I knew to improve work morale and make things better [when I picked up new units as a nurse manager] was to immerse myself in the culture of the units.…I thought it was best to sit down with every nurse, nurse’s aide and health unit coordinator and get to know them a little better. At the end of the day, I would read through my notes and pick out some things about each person to which I could really relate. That helped me build relationships with the caregivers on my unit by enabling me to quickly gain their trust.” – Joseph Grech, BSN, RN, Nurse Manager

It is so critical to remain open and honest about how you feel as a leader and give others an opportunity to share how they feel. We have to be OK with saying, ‘Gee, that didn’t go very well’ or ‘I made a decision that didn’t have the outcome I intended or wanted for you.’ If we humble ourselves a little bit as leaders, it helps those that we serve see us in a different light. It reminds them that we are human, too.” – Kerry Major

  1. Promote positivity.

“I’d like to see us reinvent our deficit-based thinking. We must pay attention to adverse events, of course, but it’s important to celebrate all the things that have gone right. Changing our deficit-based thinking would help reinvigorate grace, and we need more of that.” – Lauren Bruwer, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, PCCN, Clinical Nurse Specialist

“Really bringing positive energy to the unit is something I focus on – recognizing people for the work that’s done and making sure they know I appreciate them.” – Joseph Grech

  1. Create opportunities for growth.

“We need to give our Gen Z teammates a voice; they want to feel valued. Engage them in councils, committees or projects.…Create support groups in which they can meet with peers and learn from one another. We have an opportunity to tap into incredible talent.” – Kerry Major

“Not only do I want my nurses at the table, but I also want them to be prepared and have a voice. I don’t want them to just be a bystander participant. It’s so important to have authentic conversations with your team to pick up on what fuels them. What are their strengths and passions? I try to push them: ‘Oh, you like managing wounds? We could use a wound champion on this unit!’” – Mandy Testa

At the end of the panel discussion, participants shared their final thoughts. Bruwer recalled learning a valuable lesson about joy from a new nurse who was always willing to work an extra shift or float to another unit – and did so with a smile. When Bruwer commented on the nurse’s upbeat disposition, she replied, “I may not always be happy, but I have joy.”

Bruwer said, “She taught me that no matter what happens, you can choose joy. And if you can’t find joy, then be the joy – create it and spread it.”

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