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Sigma LinkedIn Learning Pilot Highlights Importance of Personal Leadership Training for Nurses in Pre-Clinical Academic Learning

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Results from a two-month long pilot of LinkedIn Learning Courses for early career/bedside nurses overwhelmingly affirmed that fundamental personal leadership and resilience skills traditionally not provided in pre-clinical academic learning are critical to their professional success.

100 early career nurses from one urban academic and one rural medical center participated in the pilot conducted by the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation and supported by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation with long-time partner Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma). Sigma’s nursing experts curated a series of nine LinkedIn Learning courses based on proven leadership competencies used in Sigma’s leadership development programs, including leading without formal authority, communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution.

The pilot’s results were overwhelmingly positive. Across the two hospitals, the average rate of course completion was 80%. Participants noted that they were motivated to complete the coursework as they were interested in moving into leadership roles or found the coursework relevant to a current leadership role. Other participants noted that the courses were applicable to any nurse regardless of a formal leadership role.

“We at Sigma were pleased to see the impact the pilot program had on early career nurses interested in developing their leadership skills,” said Sigma CEO Elizabeth Madigan, PhD, RN, FAAN. “As the outcomes demonstrated, these competencies are needed now more than ever.”

Madigan added that while nurses can and do lead from the bedside, coordinating their patients’ care, collaborating with other healthcare professionals, and advocating on their patients’ behalf, many of them—especially early career nurses—feel underprepared or lack the confidence to do so. It’s a theme echoed in The Future of Nursing 2010 Report by many health systems leaders who express that pre-clinical academic curriculum does not adequately prepare nurses for the realities of healthcare.

Post-course surveys issued to all participants as well as three focus groups confirmed that the courses were applicable to the nursing profession, with participants noting moderate improvement in their leadership skills. Despite the pilot running concurrent to the COVID-19 pandemic, 100% of nurses surveyed noted that the program was worth their time, with some noting that a few courses provided them with “just-in-time” skills to advocate for PPE or other COVID-19 related training.

Convenience of the LinkedIn Learning platform and relevance of the courses scored high points. Areas for improvement included incorporating live interaction with instructors and opportunities to engage with other nurses taking the course at the same time, and for more nursing-specific examples to be included in the curriculum. Participants also recommended that future leadership development programs leveraging LinkedIn Learning include units for continuing professional development.

Johnson & Johnson Global Talent Management was a key enabler of the pilot, providing LinkedIn Learning licenses and technical guidance. The initiative is part of the Center for Health Worker Innovation’s strategic objectives in North America and next steps include expanding the pilot to more nurses, adding nursing-specific components to improve the overall program effectiveness and offering opportunities for continuing professional development.

“The goal of this program is to build on the natural leadership skills of nurses early in their career,” said Julie Cornell, Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation. “We believe nurses are agents of change and they need to be part of a new, diverse generation of leaders leading and shaping health systems at all levels—from the bedside to the boardroom.”