8 Great Examples of Leadership in Nursing
Nurses are the core of the healthcare industry. Not only do nurses represent the majority of the industry’s workforce, but nurses also typically spend more face-to-face time with patients than doctors, surgeons, administrators, and other workers. Because of this, nurses have a direct effect on patients’ experience in healthcare facilities, not to mention the profound influence nurses have on patients’ health.
The importance of a successful nursing team in any hospital or clinic cannot be overstated. To benefit the whole organization and the lives of patients, effective leadership must be prioritized.
This guide will define what nursing leadership really means, provide real-world examples of leadership in nursing, and show how you can become a nurse leader within your professional practice.
What Is Leadership in Nursing?
Nursing leadership is displayed when a nurse is dedicated not only to their individual success, but the success of their entire team and the organization as a whole. Successful nurse leaders are:
- Seasoned veterans of the career
- Mentors to less experienced nurses
- Representatives of the nursing staff’s interests within the organization
- Stewards of quality and safety who implement new strategies and support transitions
- Strong communicators with hospital staff and nurse team
Nurses in Management
In addition to the many medical duties that all nurses perform, nurse leaders also have a lot of managerial responsibilities within their respective healthcare facility. They strive to reduce impediments to workflow, motivate fellow nurses to always give 100% effort, and identify issues related to organization, safety, and quality of care. Nurse leaders should also be willing to work with administrators to resolve these problems.
Some of the main concerns that nurse leaders respond to include:
- Budget constraints
- Staff shortages
- Patient safety
Although these may seem like three distinct issues, they often feed into one another. A reduced budget can lead to a hiring freeze, which causes the nursing team to be understaffed. When there are staff shortages, nurses may have to work longer hours or have a higher nurse-to-patient ratio.
This demanding schedule can leave little time to recuperate between shifts, and even lead to burnout over time. In fact, a 2018 study of 50,000 nurses found that 31.5% reported feelings of occupational burnout—and those working 20 or more hours per week were more likely to fall into this category.
Although a difficult work-life balance comes with the territory of a healthcare career, when the balance swings too far toward work, nurse burnout can lead to bigger problems. If the nursing staff is overwhelmed, physically exhausted, and emotionally drained, patient safety can suffer.
Fortunately, there are some ways nurses can overcome this burnout and continue working as leaders in their field. Taking time for self care, asking coworkers for help, and keeping your body and mind healthy are just a few tips to help overworked nurses.
The hard work associated with leadership may also come more naturally to nurses with certain characteristics and skills.
Character Traits and Skills of a Successful Nurse Leader
Different healthcare facilities challenge nurse leaders in myriad ways, making the traits and skills required of nurse leaders unique. That being said, there are a few qualities that most successful nurse leaders share.
Here are some examples of character traits and skills that can help you thrive as a nurse leader:
Working well under pressure – There are few roles in the healthcare industry that don’t require this skill. Healthcare professionals often work in highly stressful situations. For nurse leaders, the pressure of performing their daily nursing interventions is combined with leadership responsibilities. It’s not easy to be the one everyone looks to for answers. Remaining calm under pressure is a must.
Critical thinking – Nurses are responsible for the majority of patient care. In many facilities, nurses work autonomously, meaning they are not always supervised and are tasked with making important decisions about the care they provide to patients. While critical thinking skills are important for all nurses, as a nurse leader, these responsibilities can be intensified even more. Nurse leaders need to be able to balance a complex system of patient needs and organizational limitations. You also need to know how to collaborate with other departments.
Willingness to learn – When transitioning from a standard nursing role to the level of a nurse leader, there will likely be skills you haven’t learned yet. These could include reading budget reports, analyzing quality metrics, negotiating contracts, advocating for your team’s needs during administrative meetings, and holding team members accountable. While all successful nurses must be willing and able to learn new skills, those working as nurse leaders need to continue their education—whether on the job or by pursuing additional education at a graduate level.
Adaptability – A good nurse leader has to be a jack of all trades. They need to be able to go from delivering bedside care to managing schedules and implementing new workflow processes—all within one day, or even one hour. Plus, nurse leaders must help navigate their team through the constant, rapid, and often unpredictable changes that every part of the healthcare industry experiences. Nurse leaders must be flexible and agile.
8 Ways Nurses Demonstrate Leadership
Nurse leadership is not just an organizational position you achieve, but a habit you aspire to every day. It is the sum of the actions you take each shift to set a positive example for your team.
Here are 8 examples of leadership in nursing:
Being proactive – When you see a problem, address it immediately. Taking the initiative to solve problems is one of the most fundamental aspects of leadership in any profession. As a nurse, you can be proactive about responding to patient complaints. You should always be thinking several steps ahead when coordinating care and addressing staff issues. Remember that your team is there to help, and leadership is best used to bring staff together for efficient problem-solving.
Being the first to respond – Healthcare workers are accustomed to crisis situations. These emergency moments can also be opportunities to demonstrate positive leadership. During mild trouble or substantial worry, you should be an example of calm perseverance. For example, if there is a local emergency like a major storm and the facility is understaffed, you can volunteer to cover nurses’ shifts.
Knowing when to delegate – Although you want to be proactive and be the first to respond, you can’t do everything on your own. Taking on too much work in the name of being a good leader can actually backfire. In the worst cases, this can directly affect patient outcomes. Nurse leaders should also be fully aware of each staff member’s level of training and experience to delegate tasks appropriately.
Serving on a committee – If you’re not officially a nurse leader within your organization, but you would like to demonstrate your interest, volunteering to serve on a committee is one of the best things you can do to catch the eye of upper management. Many healthcare facilities (particularly those striving for magnet status) have self governance boards that are staffed by volunteers. Joining this committee shows that you care not just about your individual work, but the success of the whole organization.
Tactfully communicating – This is a way of engaging with others that promotes collaboration and conflict resolution. If there is a conflict between colleagues, you can speak with them in a way that leaves emotion aside. Nurses also need to be adept at communicating calmly with patients who may be distressed or confused. As a nurse leader, you can assist when a team member struggles to get through to a patient.
Staying informed – Nurses work in hospitals, medical offices, clinics, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation centers, schools, and more. Each of these institutions is subject to different healthcare laws, policies, regulations, and specializations. As a nurse leader, you’ll be required to play an advocacy role by promoting and improving these practices, as well as staying up to date on changes in the field.
Being a mentor – The best leaders create more leaders, which is especially true in the field of nursing. Through the ups and downs that will come in your career, it’s your responsibility as a leader to be a good role model for your colleagues. You also need to empathize with their struggles, and show them that they can persevere in a highly demanding job. When other nurses display signs of effective leadership qualities and a desire to advance their careers, take them under your wing.
Continuing your education – Nurses who want to demonstrate their interest in a leadership position often further their education. Many facilities are staffed with licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs). LPNs often have a diploma or certificate, and some RNs entere practice with various degree levels including associate’s, bachelor’s, or masters degree. Opportunities in leadership will present themselves if you expand your level of education to fine tune your knowledge of systems thinking, leadership, quality, safety and evidence based practice. Advanced nurses are required to obtain at least a level two clinical competency before they can take on these leadership roles.
Become a Nurse Leader More Quickly by Earning Your Degree Online
Nurse leadership is a great career choice for anyone who is passionate about helping people, because nurse leaders directly impact quality patient outcomes. Becoming a nurse leader is also a great way to earn more money, with an average salary range of $83,141 to $104,244 per year.
Most nurses with leadership roles have advanced degrees in nursing. Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) and doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in nursing are some common steps nurses take in the path to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) — although not all programs lead to APRN.
APRNs have more advanced training, more responsibilities diagnosing and planning patient care, and can pursue specialized careers, such as:
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Nurse anesthetist
- Nurse practitioner
- Certified nurse midwife
Earning a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing was once something you could only do in person over a number of years. Because of that, it was difficult for people with jobs to pursue their goal of acquiring advanced nursing knowledge . Luckily, those days are over. You can now earn a DNP degree through flexible online classes and clinical experiences within your local community.
Apply to one of the top online DNP programs from the best accredited schools across the country, and start your nursing leadership journey today.
NCBI. Transforming Leadership. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209867/