Stepping Up: Deciding if a Nurse Leadership Position Is Right for You (Podcast)

Nurse leaders play a pivotal role in employee engagement, quality, safety – and, yes, patient care

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Most nurses enter the profession envisioning a career in patient care. But there is an array of impactful and fulfilling leadership roles, even for nurses who never considered leaving the bedside.

Perhaps no one knows this as well as Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, Cleveland Clinic’s chief caregiver officer, who began her career as a clinical nurse on a cardiothoracic step-down unit and never imagined rising through the leadership ranks. While she’s not involved in day-to-day care, Hancock remains committed to patient care.

“Certainly, I miss the daily interactions with patients and their families, but I am caring for patients,” she  says. “I am caring for patients in a different way – by my leadership, by the ways I advocate for patients and for our colleagues.”

In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, Hancock shares her professional journey and thoughts on nursing leadership. She discusses:

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  • Performing a self-assessment to decide if the time is right to move into leadership
  • The role of colleagues and mentors on the path to leadership
  • Maintaining work-life balance as you move up the career ladder
  • The importance of furthering your education through certifications and advanced degrees
  • Leadership competencies and behaviors, including the ability to listen and admit your vulnerabilities

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 would you recommend somebody who’s a bedside nurse do to sort of self-assess, “Do I have what it takes? Am I ready for this in my career and in my time of life?”

Hancock: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think when you’re reflecting whether leadership is for me or not, you have to really reflect on what impact do you want to have in that role? So, if you reflect on, you know, “What am I really good at? Am I a strong communicator?” And what I mean by that is not only being an effective communicator in terms of messaging but also listening.

You know, I think one of the strongest competencies that a leader has is the ability to really listen and be present. So, if you feel that you have that attribute, that skill set – and you really want to make an impact on the quality of care, the engagement, the culture – I would say if that aligns with you and what you want to do in terms of commitment and balancing where you’re at personally and professionally, I think that’s something that you should pursue.

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What I often share with people who are contemplating a journey in leadership is shadow with some different leaders. You know, not only within nursing, but outside of nursing as well. So, you have our physician colleagues who went to medical school, right? And they didn’t necessarily think they were going to assume leadership roles. Some of our administrative colleagues.

So, I mean, there’s a variety of talented leaders in our organization, in particular, that you should just go have a conversation with, and ask them where they find their joy in leadership. What are some of the things that they’ve done to prepare them for this leadership journey? And that always seems to be a positive recommendation that people appreciate and find value in.