Modern healthcare with its multifaceted and complex nature requires nursing leadership professionals who can create effective interdepartmental and facility-wide systems of healthcare delivery while leading a productive and efficient workforce allowing for optimal patient care in any medical setting from private hospitals to government nursing homes.
Nursing leadership is one of the single most important factors in motivating and inspiring nurses to practice at the top of their licensure. While the definition of leadership in nursing often includes qualities such as encouraging, inspirational, and supportive—truly successful nursing leadership must be equipped to evolve as the nursing industry itself experiences ongoing change and shifts.
Leading nurses as a healthcare professional
As nurse leaders become increasingly aware of the correlation between a stronger team and stronger achievements inpatient quality and safety, understanding how to incorporate steps for strategic, long-term success into day-to-day practice is key. In any given day, a nurse leader will problem-solve issues related to bedside care, patient safety, budget constraints, and staffing shortages. Being able to perform well under pressure and balance the myriad of daily challenges is no small endeavour for even the most experienced nurse leader.
Nursing leadership professionals must be able to develop a successful vision for the nursing organization and nurture collaborative relationships among interdepartmental staff and management in an effort to implement that vision. Nurse leaders must apply analytical and problem-solving skills on a daily basis, and provide direct guidance and mentorship to their unit nurses, often acting as a liaison between staff, various levels of management, and the hospital’s executive team.
Aside from analyzing reports and dashboards (quality metrics, data, and finances), a nurse leader must also focus on their people. Without a team that feels supported, motivated, and inspired, the nurse leader and the organization will experience negative consequences. A good nurse leader will incorporate a healthy balance of managing people and processes into their daily routines by ensuring staff is recognized for quality improvements, that feedback is encouraged to promote continued success in improving patient care, and a physical presence is maintained (onsite visits, rounding or huddles) to show support and appreciation.
While many leadership qualities in nursing can naturally benefit a nurse leader throughout their career, the willingness and ability to learn new skills will help them succeed in their nurse leadership role. Of all the leadership skills in nursing, agility has to be the most important skill it allows a nurse leader to implement rapid changes that will benefit the organization without sacrificing momentum or losing sight of the overall vision/goal. Additionally, a truly agile nurse leader will be prepared to take on the growing number of paths in their own career. With opportunities to impact patient care on a global level through policymaking, research studies, or new impactful initiatives across the care continuum—agile nurse leaders that are comfortable with thriving during times of unpredictably see the potential for greatness whereas others may see instability as a hindrance.
Effective leadership in nursing practice has been linked to major contributions to the healthcare industry as a whole. Due to the significant impact, nursing leaders have on their direct units and teams, their leadership effectiveness is crucial to determining how patients will ultimately be affected.
While nurses (both new and experienced) are generally understanding of the healthcare industry’s nature of change, they will be better prepared for success in their roles if leadership is able to implement change in a way that allows the unit/team to see the overall benefit of the change, in the least disruptive way possible.
Coping effectively with change
Being visionary and proactive when faced with a healthcare system defined by rapid change and chaos is perhaps the most important of all the qualities listed. Today’s healthcare organizations face continual change in the form of organizational restructuring, quality improvement and employee retention.
Such change brings with it feelings of pride and stress in equal measures. Nurse leaders need to embrace change, adapt to it and in doing so re-energize and empower the workforce.