Ashley Kahan has always aspired to leadership. The registered nurse was promoted to Assistant Nurse Manager just three years after starting her nursing career at Broward Health, a multisite health system headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Then in March 2022, Kahan was promoted again to Nurse Manager of the cardiovascular neuroscience progressive care unit, a job she calls a “dream come true.” In this role, she focuses on supporting, training, and mentoring the nurses on her unit—a responsibility that she’s committed to for the long haul.
But it’s not easy. COVID-19, an uptick in violence against nurses, and other significant, unprecedented challenges have rocked the nursing profession—as well as the healthcare industry writ large. To successfully build and maintain an environment where nurses feel supported, protected, and engaged, Kahan must tune in to the individuals on her unit to best understand their needs, frustrations, and achievements—and give them a foundation to flourish.
Bringing the joy back to nursing
Press Ganey’s research shows all-time low scores nationwide for both employee and physician engagement, which began declining before the onset of the pandemic and have plummeted since 2020.
Broward Health hasn’t been immune to the new challenges introduced by COVID-19. “The pandemic was such a difficult time for everyone,” Kahan says. “My goal is to bring the fun back to nursing.”
Initiatives that do “bring the fun back” are key to driving employee engagement. Kahan’s team instituted a friendly competition to see which nurse could discharge the most patients each month. “I had a sash for the winner, but then they really got into it,” she says.
On-Demand Pulse surveys help leaders listen to employees in real time—and then deliver immediate and actionable insights, so Broward Health can assess the current state and quickly make improvements that positively impact the workforce.
For Kahan, listening to her employees is a top priority. “In addition to employee engagement surveys, we have monthly staff meetings, daily huddles, and mid-shift huddles. During our mid-shift huddles, we ask each employee when they last took a break or plan to take a break.” Gathering that kind of honest feedback from the nurses she manages helps Kahan create a psychologically safe and supportive environment. Because, in her words: “Prioritizing mental health and self-care is so important right now.”
Training the next generation of nurses
Nurse turnover remains a hot topic today—as it’s been for the past several years. Rather than shy away from the subject, Kahan encourages her team to look toward the next step in their careers. She knows her unit is a “stepping stone” for ambitious nurses hoping to move onto critical care areas and pursue leadership roles within Broward Health. And she’s completely supportive of their aspirations.
“For many nurses, this unit is the first step in their nursing career,” she acknowledges. “I know that it is my responsibility to provide a solid foundation for them to build their career upon—and it’s my privilege to do that.”
Just recently, a nurse resident whom Kahan had trained pulled her aside to say she was more passionate about working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and would be transitioning to that team.
“I was devastated, because she’s amazing and such a well-rounded nurse,” Kahan says. “But it’s bittersweet, because I know she will be an amazing addition to the NICU. She’s grown more confident on my unit and feels comfortable to move on—and that’s a win for me.”
Turnover in healthcare usually has a negative connotation. But when “nurse turnover” means keeping talent in house and building an environment that champions professional growth, it can be reframed as a badge of honor. Collecting feedback is a surefire way to understand and address workforce challenges and develop the next generation of talent—so the future has more nurse leaders like Kahan driving positive change.
Press Ganey’s suite of employee experience solutions can help nurse managers better understand and support their staff. Reach out to an expert to learn more.