Over the next decade or so, the demand for advanced-practice registered nurses, registered nurses, and licensed practical nurses will continue to be high.1 The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a faster than average growth for nursing positions, which is linked to an increased demand for healthcare services as the baby boom generation gets older. This outlook, combined with the constant change in healthcare systems, technology and laws means that experienced and skilled nurse leaders are a necessity for the healthcare industry.
So what does leadership have to do with nursing? The answer lies in your chosen career path. Just like with any other job, while the organization you work with might change, your need to gain increased experience, responsibility and income does not. That’s where effective nursing leadership comes in. Honing your leadership skills early in your nursing career will go a long way toward getting a stronger managerial position in nursing in the future.
Let’s take a look at a few key ways you can show leadership as a nurse.
1. Tactful Communication
As a nurse, you’re dealing with a wide range of people at different hierarchical levels—physicians, technicians, paramedics, orderlies, other nurses, patients—and each requires you to communicate effectively, clearly, and with understanding for both parties to be able to do their jobs.
For example, you need to be honest with your patients but also kind in the way you deliver information or make queries. You also need to effectively communicate the condition of your patients in order for the doctor to prescribe the proper treatment.
If there is a conflict with a colleague, it needs to be addressed in a way that promotes collaboration and support rather than in a way that could cause friction in the future. Remember, the ultimate goal is superior patient care, and it’s important that conflicts among colleagues do not get in the way of achieving this goal.
2. Skill-Based Delegation
Nurses in positions of leadership are often in charge of scheduling and allocating nurses and resources. To be able to delegate responsibilities and tasks effectively, you need to recognize skills in nurses and utilize them accordingly. For example, assigning a nurse who has experience with cardiac patients to a patient recently admitted for chest pain.
However, this doesn’t mean that you push your nurses toward only one specific field. One of your main roles as a leader will be to develop the skills of those you're overseeing. So, you must also learn to recognize potential skills and then delegate to help nurses reach their full potential.
3. Informed Administration
Nurses work in hospitals, clinics, care homes, rehabilitation institutions and other public or private healthcare establishments. For each of these, different policies, laws, budgets and specialties apply. As a nurse, you need to be aware of the limitations and freedom of the organization you work with and how to work within them. You also need to understand the financial status of the department/organization you work for or if a recent healthcare change will affect the way you do your job.
For example, if your hospital has just experienced budget cuts, fewer nurses will be left working, which will require you to manage shift schedules and patient care with minimal loss in quality. If budget cuts or other situations arise, demonstrate your leadership skills by proposing new ideas or tactics to cope with certain situations.
4. Consistent Mentorship
Long hours, fatigue, frustration and mental exhaustion are common elements of the job that no nurse is a stranger to. While it is a good idea to have a mentor of sorts of your own, someone who can guide you, especially in the beginning stages of your career, you should also aim to be a leader amongst your colleagues. It is important to ensure that you are a role model for others during the best and worst of times.
It’s easy to get desensitized to a patient’s pain or a hospital’s morally questionable business practices if you’ve seen it happen many times before. However, as a leader, it’s your job to show those who look up to you that your commitment to proper patient care doesn’t waver, no matter the situation. Empathy is a key virtue in nursing, not only toward patients but to other nurses as well. Make sure you encourage and support your colleagues as you all face similar challenges and want to achieve the same goal of providing optimal patient care.
From tactful communication to consistent mentorship, developing leadership qualities in nursing positions is a surefire way to ensure that you become an indispensable healthcare expert. When you understand these leadership strategies in nursing, you can work toward affecting change in healthcare for the betterment of all. If change in healthcare is something you would like to see, consider WCU’s RN to MSN – Nurse Leader and MSN – Nurse Leader degrees.