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Phoenix Forward magazine

U.S. instructor trains Omani nursing leaders

Omani nurse training

How do you maintain strong leadership on the job and improve performance?

Those were two key questions Richard Schuttler, PhD, sought to answer when he traveled to Oman this past February to help train nursing leaders in that Middle Eastern nation to be better at their jobs.

The journey began with an Omani doctoral student who heard Schuttler speak during an open workshop in the organizational leadership program at University of Phoenix. The student, who is director of the Directorate of Nursing & Midwifery Affairs (DNMA) in Oman, asked if Schuttler would be interested in working with Omani officials to find out why the country was having difficulty retaining qualified nurses.

Schuttler was intrigued. He and colleague Ruby Rouse had put together a 65-question survey to explore how leadership and communication styles correlate with overall performance in the workplace. In coordination with the DMNA, Schuttler and Rouse emailed the survey for Oman officials to administer to nursing leaders and midlevel hospital supervisors.

Everyone had to say how they were going to take these tools and do something different at work.

The results showed that employees struggled with issues such as teamwork, morale and workforce management, Schuttler says, so Omani officials invited him to conduct a workshop to provide strategies to address the workers’ concerns.

“The DNMA asked me to come out and do five days of training,” he says. “The employees wanted to be educated on being better leaders.”

The workshop drew 120 midlevel health care managers and directors of nursing from across the country. Schuttler provided a range of topics for them to explore and ways to handle various situations.

“I wanted them to learn about problem-solving,” he says, so he used diagrams and other tools to help them work through issues.

At the end of each day, he asked participants what they had learned. “I didn’t want to do feel-good training,” he says. “Everyone had to say how they were going to take these tools and do something different at work. They were there to learn. The country made a five-day investment in them, and they took it seriously.”

Schuttler, whose book “Laws of Communication” discusses the influence workplace supervisors have on employees, found that those in his workshop also wrestled with internal and external communication.

He learned that communication often is difficult because “there are a large number of immigrants who work in the hospitals who don’t speak Arabic. I had to help [workshop participants] understand that if you’re a supervisor speaking Arabic and the nurse or patient doesn’t understand, that causes stress.”

Schuttler emphasized using nonverbal ways to communicate, such as charts and drawings, and pairing speakers of the same language to help create a work environment in which employees understand their supervisors, and patients know what to expect with their care.

Oman’s minister of health was so pleased with how the workshop went, Schuttler says, that he may want the University instructor to hold a session for hospital board members and top executives. “Oman,” Schuttler says, “is very open to ideas and involvement from the West.”

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