The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing

Leadership and Development 

Advancing Nursing Leadership Through Writing: Strategies for Publishing Success

Christopher H. Stucky, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM, RN-BC, NEA-BC

Abstract

To serve as leaders in the broader health care system, nurses must have the capacity to write confidently and communicate innovations in clinical practices and outcomes to multiple stakeholders. This article describes the importance of publishing for nurses and guides professional development educators to develop supportive organizational cultures that foster writing for publication. [J Contin Educ Nurs. 2020;51(10):447–449.]

Abstract

To serve as leaders in the broader health care system, nurses must have the capacity to write confidently and communicate innovations in clinical practices and outcomes to multiple stakeholders. This article describes the importance of publishing for nurses and guides professional development educators to develop supportive organizational cultures that foster writing for publication. [J Contin Educ Nurs. 2020;51(10):447–449.]

Writing for publication is an act of developing leadership skills, as it promotes deep knowledge and an ability to articulate ideas, both of which are essential to leadership development. The ability to write fluently, clearly, and concisely about nursing plans, activities, and business decisions is a core competency of nursing and a vital leadership trait (American Nurses Association, 2018). To serve as leaders in the broader health care system, nurses must have the capacity to write confidently and communicate innovations in clinical practices and outcomes to multiple stakeholders.

Nurses play a critical role in redesigning health care, including leading initiatives to decrease cost and improve quality through research and implementation of evidence-based practice (EBP). Because of their numbers, high levels of education, and role as the most trusted health care profession, nurses can influence dramatic system-wide changes across the entire health care delivery system (Brenan, 2020). Thus, professional development educators should prepare nurses to pioneer new ideas, create knowledge, advance policy, and navigate the publishing process.

A common misconception is that nursing is an overtly task-based role that applies science generated by other professions. Nursing science encompasses scientific methods comprising distinct practice frameworks, interventions, and care models separate from the medical discipline. Nursing has an independent and vast body of scientific knowledge originating from within the profession, generated by nurse researchers and theorists, and validated clinically by a highly educated workforce. For the nursing profession to grow and meet the clinical needs of a highly evolving health care system, more nurses should share innovation and knowledge generated from testing new ideas in their clinical, management, and administrative roles.

Unfortunately, the tradition of publishing is not a part of the nursing culture (Tyndall & Caswell, 2017). Although nurses actively engage in practices to increase patient satisfaction and enhance patient outcomes, most nurses rarely publish results from their EBP, quality improvement, and performance improvement projects. Consequently, nurses do not share their expert knowledge and outcomes from clinical activities with the broader professional community. This article describes the importance of publishing for nurses and guides professional development educators to develop supportive organizational cultures that foster writing for publication.

Why Should Nurses Publish?

Writing for publication is not reserved only for nurses working in academic roles, as all nurses should and can publish. Publications enable nurses to disseminate novel findings and practice updates, which expand the nursing knowledge base and assist others to target additional practice questions. Through publication, nurses promote nursing within and outside of their hospitals, and build and sustain a spirit of inquiry that supports clinical decisions based on evidence. Publishing also provides nurses with clinical discourse to determine whether practices are transferable, as unique complexities in patient demographics and settings sometimes inhibit success.

Nurses have an ethical and professional obligation to share and promote best practices and improvements to care (American Nurses Association, 2015). Thus, many EBP models include disseminating results as a step in the evidence-based process (Stucky et al., 2020). When nurses fail to share project results, it perpetuates nonevidence-based approaches and leads to unnecessary duplication of effort (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2015).

The slow rate of diffusion for novel health care innovations sometimes limits patients from receiving safe, effective, and efficient care. The challenges inherent in translational research have some requesting closer collaborations among scientists and clinicians, and further suggesting that research is a cyclical process where practice informs science (Charles & Kron, 2018). Nurses are uniquely qualified to inform science, as they spend more time with patients than any other clinician group and have valuable perspectives on patient satisfaction, safety, and care.

Many personal and professional benefits to publication exist. Publishing provides a sense of personal accomplishment, enhances a resume, builds professional recognition, positively influences performance reviews and promotions, and enhances hospital prestige. Historically, physicians dominated health care, and the contributions of the nursing profession were systematically undervalued. Through publishing, nurses contribute to a robust nursing knowledge base, advance nursing science, and promote the value of nursing in quality, safety, and improved patient outcomes.

Creating Supportive Organizational Frameworks

Just as clinical skills sharpen with practice and experience, writing expertise expands and grows with use. Writing ability is a skill that nurses can develop and improve. Thus, organizations and professional development educators can empower and support novice writers to publish.

Health care leaders must develop and embrace an organizational spirit of inquiry and supportive culture that values and supports nursing innovation, EBP, and scholarly writing. A spirit of inquiry empowers nurses and provides the capacity to challenge current practices and share innovative solutions (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2015). A supportive organizational culture provides time and space for nurses to formulate ideas, share knowledge, receive mentorship, and pursue scholarly activities.

A formal process for collaboration with colleagues is necessary to promote evidence-based decisions and collaborative writing. The process should ideally increase collaboration between nurse scientists, professional development educators, advanced practice registered nurses, clinical nurse specialists, and other clinical nurses. To help develop supportive organizational cultures that foster writing for publication, professional development educators should begin the process through:

  • Targeted training and applied writing opportunities. Many national nursing organizations regularly host educational offerings to support authorship and publication. Nurse educators can build a robust training platform comprised of education such as webinars, online seminars, massive open online courses, and on-demand eLearning. Furthermore, nursing grand rounds and other continuing education offerings provide a captive audience to discuss the many benefits of writing for publication. Although publishing in a nursing journal is highly regarded, novice writers can gain scholarly writing experience in multiple venues. Nurses can improve their writing proficiency and explore the full range of writing by authoring a letter to the editor of a journal, book reviews, articles for hospital circulars or newspapers, case reports, or by writing hospital policies.
  • Increasing access to mentorship through writing and journal clubs. Writing with a team in a hospital writing club decreases anxiety for novice authors and builds confidence for future publications. For many nurses, writing for publication is a new skill they can master with a mentor's help. Some nurses are apprehensive about publishing due to lack of writing experience or have knowledge deficits regarding the research and publishing process and the value of dissemination. The hospital writing club membership comprises nurses with publication experience (e.g., nurse scientists, professional development educators) who are ready, willing, and able to mentor others. Furthermore, a nursing journal club provides an informal forum for nurses to collectively discuss scientific literature and ensures that nurses find, interpret, and implement the latest evidence. The journal and writing club formats allow experienced nurses to mentor novice nurses, thus decreasing anxiety concerning critiques of research quality and statistical analysis interpretation.
  • Developing a formal evidence-based practice and nursing research council. The EBP council's purpose is to increase hospital-wide evidence-based nursing practice and research. However, the close collaboration among nurse scientists, nurse educators, CNSs, and clinical nurses provides a space for mentorship and the proliferation of new ideas. The council provides oversight to current EBP projects and provides opportunities for council members to assist clinical staff with the design of rigorous projects, which will potentially produce publishable results.

Conclusion

The capacity to write confidently and communicate innovations in clinical practices and outcomes to multiple stakeholders is a critical leadership trait. Nurses must have strong writing skills to have a voice in health policy decision making and serve as leaders in the broader health care system. Using the three suggestions provided above, professional development educators can empower nurses to publish through targeted training, mentorship, and by developing hospital resources that foster collegiality and a spirit of scholarly inquiry. Increased publishing behaviors by nurses will advance nursing science, build a more substantial nursing knowledge base, and increase nursing credibility.

References

  • American Nurses Association. (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretive statements, (2nd ed.).
  • American Nurses Association. (2018). Competency model. https://www.nursingworld.org/∼4a0a2e/globalassets/docs/ce/177626-ana-leadership-booklet-new-final.pdf
  • Brenan, M. (2020). Nurses continue to rate highest in honesty, ethics. Gallup Inc. https://news.gallup.com/poll/274673/nurses-continue-rate-highest-honesty-ethics.aspx
  • Charles, E. J. & Kron, I. L. (2018). Bedside-to-bench and back again: Surgeon-initiated translational research. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, 105(1), 10–11 doi:10.1016/j.athoracsur.2017.06.026 [CrossRef] PMID:29233329
  • Melnyk, B. M. & Fineout-Overholt, E. (2015). Evidence-based practice in nursing & health care: A guide to best practice (2nd ed.). Wolters Kluwer Health.
  • Stucky, C. H., De Jong, M. J. & Rodriguez, J. A. (in press). A five-step evidence-based practice primer for perioperative registered nurses. AORN Journal.
  • Tyndall, D. E. & Caswell, N. I. (2017). Changing the publication culture from “nice to do” to “need to do”: Implications for nurse leaders in acute care settings. Nursing Forum, 52(1), 30–37 doi:10.1111/nuf.12163 [CrossRef] PMID:27194252
Authors

Dr. Stucky is Nurse Scientist, Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry, Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US Army, the Department of Defense, or the US Government.

The author has disclosed no potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.

Address correspondence to Christopher H. Stucky, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM, RN-BC, NEA-BC, Nurse Scientist, Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry, Womack Army Medical Center 2817 Reilly Road, Fort Bragg, NC 28310-7301; email: christopher.h.stucky.mil@mail.mil.

10.3928/00220124-20200914-04

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