Nurse leaders impact patient safety, quality care, employee engagement, and organizational performance.
A nurse leader’s role is not just to make change happen once; it is to create sustainable change in an organization for the better.
Experienced nurse leaders are able to identify and develop potential nursing leaders from within their organizations. This enables them to have more leadership coverage and more stability as they retire.
Continuing education strengthens the knowledge base of a nurse leader while providing opportunities for collaboration with other health care professionals who share similar interests or professional goals.
Evolution of Nurse Leaders in Healthcare
The transition to a nurse leader role is not necessarily an easy one. It can mean adjustments in roles and responsibilities, new relationships, changing cultures, and organizational structures.
Nurse leaders who adjust effectively to the transition are the most successful. They understand that they must be ready for changes—both personally and professionally.
In today’s healthcare environment, there is unprecedented pressure on hospitals and other healthcare facilities to provide high-quality patient care at lower cost, with less risk for patients and staff – all while maintaining the focus on patient satisfaction.
Nurse Leadership as a Career Choice
Being a leader in the healthcare industry isn’t just as easy as taking a leadership course and then claiming the position.
The field of nursing is changing, and new nurse leaders are needed to face the challenges that lie ahead.
Nurse leaders are not just nurses who assume leadership positions for an individual unit.
They must be knowledgeable about healthcare leadership at all levels of the healthcare system. Nurse leaders must be able to offer a broad perspective, including management and policy knowledge that can only be gained by years of experience in management.
In addition, they must also possess expertise in areas such as nursing education, policy development, and implementation, interdisciplinary relations, and crisis management.
Nurse leaders aren’t always managers—yet they aren’t traditional “nurses” either.
For example, a nurse who has taken an accelerated bsn online and worked within a healthcare setting for a number of years might begin to take on a leadership role.
They may take on new roles and responsibilities, or they may be promoted to a new position, whether that is director of nursing or director of quality management.
Many nurse leaders continue their careers in leadership roles throughout their entire nursing career. This is a significant difference between nurse leaders and other types of healthcare leaders, such as hospital administrators, who are more likely to move from role to role as they advance in their careers.
Nurses who aspire to become nurse leaders must be ready for some changes, both personally and professionally. Nurse leaders must also be knowledgeable about healthcare leadership at all levels of the healthcare system.
Becoming an Effective Leader for Nurses
If you are serious about becoming an effective and well-rounded nurse leader, there are a few things you should consider.
The most important thing you can do is to get an education in leadership. There are a host of different types of leadership training available, and the one that’s right for you will depend on your individual needs.
Here are a few tips on how to become an effective leader as a nurse in healthcare:
Listen To Your Team
Being able to listen to your team effectively will be one of your greatest strengths as a leader.
When you can’t see the whole picture, it’s easy to lose perspective and change your mind in the middle of a decision.
Being able to listen to your team will help you avoid these problems.
Be willing to listen, too, even when it seems like team members are just making excuses for why things aren’t getting done. There may be some legitimate reasons for why things aren’t getting done, but there are also some crazy ideas that need listening to, too.
Become an Educator (as Well as a Leader)
Good leaders are able to educate as well as lead, and this is something that you can learn to do over time.
When you begin leading in your role, you may find that all of the other nurses are relying on you for leadership and direction.
Even if it feels like a burden or a huge responsibility at first, it’s important that you learn how to educate your team effectively so that they can help themselves.
You’ll find that this will build self-esteem and team unity at the same time. You’ll also be able to take more of a backseat approach in some situations, letting the team members come up with solutions themselves once they’ve had some direction and education from you.
Utilize Your Team Members
When you’re a nurse leader, there will be times when you know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. But other times, you won’t.
Use these as opportunities to utilize your team members more.
This lets them have greater responsibility and will make them feel valued in the work that they are doing.
You may also be surprised by some of the great ideas that your team members come up with on their own, regardless of whether or not they’re the first ones to get their hands dirty.
Give It Your All
In leadership, one thing you can’t be is a slacker.
So don’t try to put your team in a position of relying on you to do it all—tell them that you are willing to do it all and let them do the work. In this way, they will be able to see just how much their work helps the whole team.
Leadership positions are hard and demanding, so if you don’t give it your all, then no one will blame you for not being effective as a leader.
Admit When You’re Wrong
Speaking about being wrong is a sign of a true leader.
Leaders tend to make fewer mistakes than their followers, so when you make a mistake, admit that you made a mistake and have the faith in your team members to do so as well.
A leader needs to be someone who can admit fault and go back to working on the problem. Most importantly, a leader needs to have the confidence that they’re not wrong and can work things out on their own if they are.
Leaders should be able to set an example of leadership, and being honest and genuine is one way to do this.
It’s important that you show your team that you’re open with them, even when it’s hard. A leader should also be able to admit when they’re wrong, which is something that most team members can’t do.
Build Your Team Through Mentoring
Leadership can start from the bottom up—that is, from the least experienced to the most experienced.
This doesn’t mean you should mentor everyone in your leadership role; instead, choose one or two people who are doing great and let them be your role models.
Focus On Your Health
It’s important that you don’t put the health of your team members above your own.
Taking time out for yourself to make sure you are in the best health possible will help to keep you from making unnecessary mistakes in the first place.
Be the Overall Leader
Most leadership positions are made up of several different leaders.
You may find yourself as both a leader and a team member at some point in your leadership role, but it’s important that you keep everyone focused on the goal and bring everyone together as a whole.
Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
When you’re a nurse leader, you will learn that it’s important to move on and not dwell on any mistakes.
Moving forward is the only way to get better, and it will keep the team from getting frustrated with you. The same is true of whatever mistakes you make as a nurse leader, no matter how minor they may seem at the time.
Always try to learn from them and move forward as a better nurse leader.
Take Some Time Off
With everything that is going on at work and with your team, it’s easy to take your own well-being for granted.
Make sure to take some time out of every day to ensure you’re staying healthy, both mentally and physically.
You don’t want to work yourself into the ground or burn out because that will hurt future team development and progress. As a nurse leader, you’ve got a lot of people counting on you. Make sure that you stay healthy so that they can do their best too!
The Role of the Nurse Leader in Today’s Healthcare System
Hospitals are not the only places where you will find a strong nurse leader.
Many hospitals have smaller sisterhoods or guilds, and these groups often include experienced nurses as well as those just starting out in the field.
These groups were created to serve the needs of nurses on staff and help them develop their skills as well as their leadership abilities.
This is a great opportunity for you to use your expertise and help your fellow nursing professionals.
The size and diversity of today’s healthcare systems mean that nurses working in multiple settings will need to develop leadership skills that are relevant and useful anywhere they work.
In this way, being a nurse leader is more than just being an expert in one particular area.
Nursing leaders are also able to enter into related conversations about the profession of nursing, what nurses can do right now, and what they can do to make things better tomorrow.
This background information will allow them to build their teams and share what they know with their followers.
Nurses who want to be effective leaders need to understand how to use this background information when working with the rest of their staff on a regular basis in order to advance the field as a whole.
Your Leadership Skills Can Make or Break Your Nursing Career
A nurse leader is someone who is able to take the best of what they know, apply it to other people, and see some results right away.
Leadership is not something that you can learn in a book or even from a long training program.
Those who want to learn how to be a nurse leader need to figure out what they know and then put it into action so they can see results as quickly as possible.
Effective leadership means being able to show your followers not just how you do things but why you do things the way you do them. You can’t lead without knowing what makes nurses tick.
It’s a lot easier to improve your leadership if you understand the problems and challenges that your team is facing day-to-day.
Nurses who have made it to the highest level of leadership are those who have learned to take what they know about their patients and apply it to people more broadly.
Being a leader isn’t easy, but being willing and able to step into a position of leadership in order to try and solve some of these problems will lead you down a path toward success.
A great nurse leader doesn’t just use their experience with the nursing profession as part of their leadership skills; they also use their knowledge of other industries as part of this.
Leadership skills are a very valuable tool for nurses to have, and they will help you to effectively communicate and lead your team of nurses.
While some people may think that nurse leaders are just really good at their jobs, it’s important that you use the skills that you’ve learned throughout the course of your nursing career in order to be successful.
After all, being a nurse leader is not about being better at nursing than anyone else; rather, it is about being better than anyone else at helping others succeed.
If you want to improve as a leader in this industry, start by taking the knowledge from this article and putting it into action for yourself and for those around you.