How to Be A High Performing Nurse


The idea for this article came from a book I am in the process of reading called High-Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. Brendon writes a lot about high performance and has put together a lot of data on high performers in different industries in many countries and condensed it all into six habits which he calls high-performance habits

They are seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage.

 You may think this applies specifically to your work environment, but I would say high performing nurses extend their reach beyond where they work. In many cases, beyond their organization.

You do have to start somewhere, and the nursing unit level is a great place to start. So, let’s talk about each habit separately and how it applies to be a high performing nurse.

Seek clarity -Brendon defines this as, “seek clarity on who you want to be, how you want to interact with others, what you want, and what will bring you the greatest meaning.”

In the hospital setting as you become a high performer, you will get more opportunities to make an impact coming from all different directions. You are going to need to be clear on the impact you want to make as a nurse to get any real traction. Also, if you are clear on the problem you want to focus on or impact you want to make sure you will be energized enough to persist through the struggles of making the change a reality. 

 If the change you want to make is big you may be criticized, have to get the support of leadership, and spend many hours of your own time to bring your change to fruition. You will need to be clear and focused to be able to persist and jump over these obstacles in any endeavor in nursing.

Generate energy – Brendon defines this as, “generate energy so that you can maintain focus, effort, and wellbeing. You will need to actively care for your mental stamina, physical energy, and positive emotions in very specific ways.”

In the hospital setting, people you work with and your patients will realize when you have this energy. They may even ask you about it. Personally, I have to work at bringing my best attitude to every situation, and I fail many times.  People are attracted to positive energy, and they will like you and want to help you in generating it. 

Some people generate negative energy and will say this can not be done, or why are you doing that, or you can not do that you are just a nurse.  Being a high performing nurse usually repels people who put out negative energy but sometimes you are forced to interact with these people. 

If you have negative coworkers, leaders, or family members you are going to need to limit your time with them as much as possible to ensure your mission to make the world or the profession better is able to succeed.

You will need to take care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally to bring you’re A game.  Check out my post on Self Care for Nurses Part 1 and Part 2.  A body and mind that is cared for will be able to persist over the long term to allow you to maximize your performance.

Raise Necessity- Brendon defines this as, “actively tapping into the reasons you absolutely must perform well and knowing your Why.” I have talked about this before, but you must know your why on any big accomplishment you are going for.  Why you might ask? Because when the going gets tough, you will need to go back to your ‘why’ to be persistent.  You're why is what will get you through the sticking points.

Your Why is built around your values, dreams, goals and the problems you want to solve in the world or for the nursing profession. Necessity will be different for you versus me. What is necessary for you to do, solve, or fix in the world? There are a lot of people out there hurting in many different ways. How do you want to help and in what way?

Increase Productivity – Brendon defines this habit as, “being in your primary field of interest, and where you want to be known and drive impact.”  For me, this is in prevention, self-empowering and equipping veterans and nurses to take control of their health. Anything to do with these areas I do my best to learn and get involved. Anything out of this area of interest I will rarely get involved. Why because I feel it is a necessity in my heart and soul to empower and equip veterans and nurses to take care of themselves so they can prevent or delay the onset of many of the chronic diseases I see stealing their time, money and quality of life every time I take care of them.

Increasing your productivity also means avoiding distractions. The higher performing nurse you become, the more opportunities will come your way. You have to stay focused on what it is you want to achieve, and you will increase your productivity by not getting distracted by what others want you to do for them. Sometimes it is necessary to take opportunities that may not be perfectly aligned with your mission because they may benefit your mission in an indirect way. It depends on the time commitment. That is something you will have to decide for yourself.

Develop Influence – Brendon defines this habit as, “developing influence with the people around you and getting people to believe in and support your efforts and ambitions.” This may sound a little self-serving, but it does depend on your ambitions. My ambitions have always been about the health of my blog readers, colleagues, and my patients. Everything will succeed from there. Not to say it will always be easy and there will not be any opposition.

In order to make big changes in nursing or any field for that matter, you will need people to come alongside you and help you. Other nurses I work with have resources, connections, and knowledge I do not have, and if they believe in your mission, they will help you get over a hurdle if they can.

You can develop influence by connecting with other high performing nurses at conferences, shared governance meetings at your hospital, and other gatherings where you can meet others who are on a similar path as you.  Also, reach out and help others when you can. There is know better way to develop influence than to offer to help someone first.

Demonstrate Courage – This is a big one. Brendon defines this as, “expressing your ideas, taking bold action, and standing up for yourself and others, even in the face of fear, uncertainty, threat, or changing conditions.”  This is probably one of my favorite high-performance habits because anytime you go against the norm or try to make a big change there are people who are not going to like it for whatever reason.  When it comes to prevention and getting people to be healthy, it usually means somebody is going to lose some money in the long run.  To me, it is about people, not some corporate entities bottom line.

In my opinion, there are a lot of industries, especially in medicine that needs to be reduced by about ninety percent. I say this because what they do does not create health in people; it creates money.  Many times, criticism will come down to money. Money is also a way to get decision makers to buy into your mission. If you can show hospital leaders how a prevention program will save them money, then they will buy in and help you.  You will need the courage to achieve anything that is worth doing. Expect it and embrace it.

Brendon also has a high-performance planner which I highly recommend you check out. The perfect way to start your New Year is with the high-performance planner.

There you have it, six high-performance habits to help you become a high performing nurse in your specialty.  Remember to create positive change you will need to seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage. Pick up the book High Performance Habits today and apply these habits to your life and career. I want to hear how these habits are taking you to new heights in the new year.

Which of these habits are you using to drive your ambitions towards a better world?  Which one is the easiest for you and which one is the hardest for you? Please share your thoughts on high performance with me so I can learn and others can as well.

Have a healthy week,

Nurse Brian