Nurse leaders are asking me how to help staff become more long-term thinkers. Younger staff, they observe, are living in the moment and fail to consider the longer-term impact of some of their decisions. Some examples they give include the following:

  • Taking every hour of sick leave or PTO as quickly as it is earned.
  • Signing a travel contract without reading the terms and then having your pay reduced two weeks into the assignment.
  • Criticizing a former or current employer on social media.
  • Resigning a position without notice.
  • Failing to sign up for the hospital 401K or 403B plan.
  • Deciding to take out a student loan for graduate school instead of using a generous tuition reimbursement program.
  • Leaving an employer with a generous retirement contribution plan to take a position in an organization without one.
  • Failing to attend a scheduled interview without a call or text after confirming the appointment.

The list goes on and on. We know that when you are young, you may make decisions that feel good at the moment but could have a longer-range negative impact.  I have found in my career; sometimes you need to play a long game. I have often asked myself the following questions:

  1. How might I feel about this decision six months from now or five years from now?
  2. What am I giving up by making this decision, and am I willing to accept those losses?
  3. What might I not anticipate that could happen here?
  4. What could change if I adopt a longer-term horizon in this situation?
  5. How does this decision support or contribute to my longer-term goals?

When you think long-term, you are playing the long game. Life is a series of habits and steps that you take every day to set yourself up for success—many things in life compound over time. Eleven years ago, I decided to write this blog. Many colleagues told me I was wasting my time and no one would read it. Yet I persevered even when it looked like they were right.

Likewise, decisions that feel great at the moment may look different in time. What if a nurse uses all her sick leave, develops a serious illness, and has no buffer?  Such things happen every day, and none of us are invincible. The truth is, none of us has perfect information. Over time and through experience, you may learn new things about yourself, your skills, and your preferences.  Engaging in long-term planning enables you to think big and adapt where necessary. Having these conversations with our young nurses and playing the devil’s advocate to short-term thinking takes time but it is the only way that we can foster thinking that is more long-term.

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