Strategic Planning Process | Notes Pinned to Wall | CHCM

Engaging Clinical Nurses in Strategic Planning

Creative Health Care Management recognizes Amber Orton MBA, MSN, RN, NE-BC for the publication in Nursing Management on successful strategic planning.

Today’s complex healthcare environment is fraught with twists, turns, roadblocks, and detours that pose unique challenges and require creative solutions. Strategic planning is a powerful tool to help organizations establish priorities, align work, and chart a path forward.

During times of crisis and uncertainty, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, some organizations may have paused strategic planning. However, effective strategic planning is more important than ever to provide clear direction and enable organizations to adapt, evolve, and move forward despite an ever-changing environment.

Healthcare Professionals Employ Strategic Planning

Engaging Clinical Nurses In Strategic Planning | Nurse Holding Stethoscope | CHCM

Those in the healthcare industry today face challenges that need immediate attention. Healthcare professionals employ strategic planning to generate solutions for any roadblocks the health industry will face. Unfortunately, moments of crises like the recent pandemic cause organizations to lose sight of this planning phase. However, despite the uncertainty any crisis will bring, effective planning  is much more needed as it aims to create a strategic direction so any healthcare organization can remain flexible and ultimately thrive. 

As it plays an important role in determining a healthcare organization’s future, read on to learn the purpose of strategic planning and why any nursing administration should engage clinical nurses during the planning process.

Purpose of the Strategic Planning Process for Health Care Organizations

Strategic planning and workforce development begins when organizations and nurse leaders ask basic questions. While they may seem simple on the surface, they serve a vital role. It is extremely difficult to move from a certain position if one loses an awareness of where they are. Often, loss of awareness puts organizations in a place where they’re putting out fires, so to speak, instead of engaging their problem solving abilities to get out.

  • Where are we? 
  • What do we have to work with? 
  • Where do we want to be? 
  • How do we get there? 
  • How will we know when we’re there?

By having answers to these questions, any healthcare organization will have a roadmap to clear any uncertainty, ambiguity, and confusion regarding where they want to be, specifically when it comes to patient care.

Why Clinical Nurses Are Needed for the Strategic Planning Process

Some healthcare organizations may have a strategic plan that only takes into account the opinions of higher-ups instead of clinical nurses. Because the employees had no part in its creation, they will feel disconnected from the action plan and less motivated by it. Beyond that, their knowledge and experience of working on the front lines is valuable. They, especially those who have a recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, often have unique insights from working in that environment and can better summarize the challenges and priorities of the organization than someone who’s seeing that from a top-down perspective, like nursing administration.

Ideas for Engaging Clinical Nurses in Strategic Planning Process

It’s common for frontline nurses to assume that any new organizational initiatives and patient outcome goals are determined by administrators that may not have experience in nursing practice and patient care. As a result, it’ll lead to frustration since any changes they want won’t be communicated well. Thus, it’s important for healthcare leaders to engage clinical nurses in the strategic planning process.

1. Have a Strategic Planning Team

Before developing a strategic planning team, always consider the right people you’ll need to involve, inform, consult, and empower so the strategic plan can come to life and lead to better patient care. 

The best way to engage clinical nurses is to invite them to be a part of the strategic planning team. 

2. Organize a Strategic Planning Retreat

A strategic planning retreat is a perfect avenue to ignite enthusiasm and unite workers around the company’s vision and future. This type of retreat will also give nurses the ability to provide quality improvement suggestions in the strategic planning process. 

Thus, in addition to knowing the location of the retreat, who will run it, and the tasks to accomplish there, make sure to always consider the clinical nursing staff as participants.

3. Create a Survey or Focus Group

While the above-mentioned tips are beneficial, the reality remains that some will not be able to attend the retreat or join the team. That’s where starting a survey or creating a focus group will help. It will not take up too much of anyone’s time, and yet it will give valuable information on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that clinical nurses face on a daily basis. 

Here are some questions that a nurse leader may ask healthcare providers to cultivate a better strategic planning process: 

  • Strengths (internal):
    What keeps you working in the health care industry? What are the reasons why patients keep coming back to us? What makes our organization unique?
  • Weaknesses (internal):
    What areas should we improve, especially when it comes to patient safety? Are you satisfied with the organization’s resource management? Are there any healthcare providers that aren’t updated on patient safety? 
  • Opportunities (external):
    How can we address any problems in a different or new way? Are there any patient/employee/community needs that aren’t met? 
  • Threats (external):
    What common obstacle or barrier have you encountered in our organization? Are we currently applying trends that have a negative impact on our patient outcomes?

4. Utilize Shared Governance Councils

A shared governance council can serve as a way to refine and validate the strategic plan. Hence, distribute copies or drafts of the strategic plan to this council so you can gather feedback, make sure that your tactics are achievable and accurate, and make any adjustments before putting the plan into action. 

Councils can also engage the daily work of clinical nurses to the general priorities of the organization. By doing so, clinical nurses will feel heard as they’re able to contribute to the future of the organization, increasing engagement. 

5. Develop, Integrate, and Evaluate

Always bear in mind that a strategic plan in a health care organization will be highly effective if it’s developed with input from those who do the patient care work. Moreover, make sure to integrate the strategic plan into daily business operations, and it must be evaluated routinely. By doing so, you’ll have a strategic plan that’ll play an important role in the success of your organization. 


Nurse Leaders | Nurse Putting on Gloves | CHCM

As you can see, nurse leaders should always engage nurses, especially those who are recognized by the American Nurses Association, when creating a strategic plan. This is because the latter has valuable insights regarding the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, both internal and external. Once these insights are considered and addressed properly, an organization significantly increases the chances of attaining its desired future and promotes better patient care.


  1. Guanci G. Feel the Pull: Creating a Culture of Nursing Excellence. 3rd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Creative Health Care Management; 2015.
  2. Guanci G, Medeiros M. Shared governance strategic planning retreat: a best practice. Nurs Manage. 2018;49(8):36-40.
  3. Wright P. Strategic planning: a collaborative process. Nurs Manage. 2020;51(4):40-47.
  4. Lal MM. Why you need a nursing strategic plan. J Nurs Adm. 2020;50(4):183-184.
  5. Borum C, Marcum K. Having a voice: the nurse’s role in organizational strategy. Tenn Nurse. 2019;82(4):13.

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