4 Things that Make Nurses Great Home Health Leaders
by Hannah Wolfson

As Nurses’ Week wraps up, HomeCare asked Jennifer Sheets, president and CEO of Caring Brands International and Interim HealthCare Inc., to share the top five attributes nurses like her bring to homecare leadership roles. Sheets, who served as an intensive care nurse, has 20 years of health care management experience in both home health and hospital settings; she was most recently chief clinical officer and senior executive of clinical operations, innovation, education and quality at BAYADA Home Health and chief clinical officer for Highland Capital/Cornerstone Healthcare Group.

“I draw on all my nursing experiences as a CEO today,” said Sheets, who has a bachelor’s and master’s in nursing.

Her list of the top reasons nurses make great home health care leaders:

1. Empathy – Nurses wake up every day knowing they have the potential to enrich someone’s life. Personally, the desire to make an impact has never been lost on me. Having started my career as an RN, I am acutely aware of the dedication and heart it takes to serve others. I understand the sacrifices nurses make, and the long hours and hard work put into caring for patients. We’re trained to listen intently and offer the right counsel at the right time. And in a world where recruitment and retention remain a major challenge, the ability to show empathy brings another layer of humanization that technology tends to remove in many ways. When you combine this skill with the ability to think strategically, there’s no stronger combination. This is incredibly important when it comes to leadership, no matter what setting you work in.

2. Connection to purpose – Most nurses, including myself, at one time or another take the night shift. I remember these shifts as the longest, but each one constantly reminded of my “why” – why I did the job; why I committed to a career in caring for others. The same “why” can propel a nurse to be a highly effective leader in the home agency setting. Nurses bring invaluable experience managing multiple patients’ needs at a time, building relationships, delivering the best care even in the toughest times, and most importantly, understanding how important it is to ensure a patient is given the opportunities to live an enriched life. I draw on all my nursing experiences as a CEO today.

3. Problem-solving skills – Nurses are champions of assessing and connecting multiple data points to identify a problem, developing a theory or intervention and working towards a solution. Because each person responds differently to each intervention, they also become skilled with continuous process improvement—something we have practiced long before it became as popular as it is in organizations today. Problem-solving in times of high stress are more than second nature for nurses—we are pushed to look beyond policies and calculations to find underlying causes for the problems our patients face. And it is equally as important for nurses to be able to recommend solutions in a way that improves healthcare delivery at every level, where we have influence and before other challenges arise. This trait is undeniably something I carry with me today as CEO of a home healthcare company.

4. Communication skills – Effective communication with patients and their families throughout the healthcare journey is typically the responsibility of the nurse. Patient-nurse interactions also require deep listening skills – with the intent to hear the patient’s experiences, capture their concerns and help them overcome hesitation or nervousness. The ability to communicate (and listen) is a critical skill set, particularly in today’s collaborative care provider setting. A great nurse also communicates in non-verbal ways that makes their patients feel they are receiving the best care. In business, verbal communication and body language have a profound impact in how messages are received or perceived. Whether in a doctor’s office, hospital or the boardroom, a leader with poor workplace communication can be the cause of low morale and job satisfaction, high turnover and increased stress.