September 24, 2023

Healthy Ideological Pluralism in Nursing Relies on High-Quality Leadership

Lately I’ve been writing about my personal search for a deeper ideological pluralism in nursing. A couple of weeks ago, I started with a brief discussion of the nature of pluralism as it might relate to nursing, asking a few broad questions. Last week, I highlighted the importance of autonomous participation in the development of nursing culture. What is the role of nursing leadership in fostering this autonomous participation?

Ideally, nursing leaders aren’t simply authoritarian figures scattered throughout a hierarchy. Just as human beings are commonly viewed in health care as whole persons, so leaders in health care must be seen as whole in the sense that they, too, can and must be related to as multifaceted individuals who cannot be fully accounted for by our finite categories.

The prospect of accounting for whole persons exhaustively is daunting and ultimately impossible. Therein lies part of our problem, for we in this day and age so often seek to analyze others–other people, other things–breaking them down to their component parts, as if a thorough analysis of the individual parts represents thorough and sufficient knowledge to enable control of the objects of our analysis. What’s wrong with this approach?

To begin with, virtually nothing filtered through the complexity of human experience can be known exhaustively. The very foundation of our human awareness involves a finite perspective and limited capacities. Given that, we simply “miss the point” when we try to “manage” reality.

Speaking of managing reality, some of you may recall from nursing school the distinction between management and leadership. One way the distinction is commonly presented identifies management with the implementation of a program, often external to the manager, within an organization. The same presentation identifies leadership as a more of a pattern than a structure, a pattern of living with certain influential attributes that foster the realization of a vision rooted in a ground that transcends the organization.

Ideological pluralism of the type that I’ve been writing about recently requires nursing leadership capable of establishing and promoting a vision of growth, fostering conditions of growth, removing barriers to growth, and influencing others to identify with and contribute to the growth of that pluralism.

If you’re a nurse, you’re a leader in at least some context within health care. That’s true whether or not you aspire to that role. As a leader, are you working to the benefit of a healthy pluralistic culture within the profession?