How Nurses in Non-Management Positions can Assert Power Effectively

Power and Influence: Part 2

In Part I of this series, I proposed that nurses have power, even when they’re not in management positions. I believe this because power is the ability to influence an individual or group to act in a specific way. That ability is not position-dependent, although, certainly, individuals in management positions have an added advantage because of their position. In this piece, we’ll identify the sources of non-management power, ideas for strengthening your power base and techniques for using it effectively.

Sources of power

Think about people in your life you view as powerful. What is it about them that makes them powerful? From where do they get their power? You may be surprised to realize that the sources of power not derived from a place of position are many. Here is a list of some of those sources. Keep in mind that each one of them can be a strong source of power for a nurse:

  • The power of purpose
  • The power to invoke fear
  • The ability to grant favors
  • Knowledge and skill
  • Confidence, poise and maturity
  • The ability to speak the truth
  • The ability to set a standard that influences others
  • The ability to choose how to react in a situation
  • The ability to choose to follow or not follow
  • Relationships and associations with others
  • The ability to withdraw support
  • The power to control time and resources

Identifying the multiple sources of power available to nurses is the first step towards developing a powerful presence. The second step is building a strong base for power in order to be effective. Let’s consider ways to build a power base.

Build your power base

Building a power base requires a plan, focus and hard work; however, the benefits to patients, the work unit, and your own job satisfaction are significant. Consider engaging in the following:

  • Develop self-management and self-care practices that allow you to maintain clear thinking, articulate expression and poised demeanor.
  • Actively participate in activities that contribute to the organization beyond basic expectations.
  • Identify those who are powerful in your organization, both in the formal and informal power structures, and strive to understand their resources, needs and priorities.
  • Create and strengthen relationships.
  • Learn the culture of the organization and its priorities.
  • Keep your professional skills and knowledge current, as well as your communication skills, particularly those of negotiation and persuasion.
  • Strengthen and demonstrate confidence in your expertise and the skill you bring to the situation.
  • Maintain a broad vision and a sense of humor.
  • And most importantly, empower others.

Techniques for using power effectively

Having power does not guarantee it will be used effectively. Two often-used techniques for asserting power are the negative and positive approaches. Negative techniques include inciting fear and making threats. While these techniques can lead to a desired result, they generally also lead to unintended consequences that can erode the culture and productivity of the unit over time.

When possible, it is preferable to employ positive techniques, such as:

  • Use facts, evidence and persuasion.
  • Recognize and respect the situation/circumstances of others.
  • Design a win-win for all parties involved.

When do you use your power?

Examine your practice and I’m sure you’ll recognize that you use your power every day with colleagues, patients, families, managers and physicians. It takes the form of negotiating, delegating, and deciding. Some situations are contentious, but most are not. Some issues are large, but most are not. Some issues are high risk, but most are not. No matter the scope or form, when you manage them, you are using your power. And the results are significant to you, your patients and your colleagues.

Examine your practice and you’ll see just how powerful you are. The question is, are you using your power as broadly as possible? Look around your unit and identify the issues you believe need support or change. What can you do to influence them? I expect you can do quite a lot. Go for it!

I’d like to hear from you. What are your experiences with using your power and influence? Please share your experiences, questions or strategies with your fellow readers by sending them to me at healthcare@americansentinel.edu. I look forward to hearing from you.

About American Sentinel University

American Sentinel University delivers the competitive advantages of accredited online degree programs in nursing, health informatics, health systems management, healthcare MBA, and doctor of nursing practice in executive leadership. Its Bachelor’s and Master’s nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The university is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). The Accrediting Commission of DETC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and is a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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