Good leadership can be the difference between resounding success and epic failure. Faced with COVID-19’s daily uncertainty, ICU bed shortages and on-the-fly safety protocols, many nurses stepped up to become the leaders that hospitals and health systems needed.

The pandemic created urgent scenarios in which leadership was critical, but there are many opportunities outside of emergencies where nurse leaders can excel. An online RN to BSN program can equip nursing professionals with the necessary knowledge to step into leadership roles in healthcare.

Where Do Nurse Leaders Work?

Nursing leadership is a multidimensional concept that applies to various types of healthcare organizations. For example, nurse leaders may serve in clinical or bedside settings where their work is very hands-on. As they advance in their careers, they may also act as influencers in the boardroom, as administrators or CEOs, or within research, academia and technology.

Regardless of the setting in which a nurse performs leadership duties, the foundation of that leadership involves providing direction and support, coordinating care, facilitating collaboration among all staff, using effective communication and advocating for patients to achieve optimal outcomes.

What Attributes Make a Nurse a Great Leader?

As the nursing shortage looms, many healthcare organizations realize the great need to fill the impending leadership void. Some executives have formed mentorship-type programs to cultivate the new generation of nurse leaders.

While some individuals possess innate leadership characteristics, the right education and experience can teach you crucial skills for managing, supporting and instructing others in nursing. True nurse leaders can practice the following skills in their job:

  • Think on their feet: Nurse leaders must be both quick and critical in their thinking and decision-making processes. There’s not always time to “sit” with a judgment, especially in emergencies. An increasing multidisciplinary and collaborative approach to care also requires nurse leaders to think and act quickly when called upon.
  • Be a good listener: Communication is a two-way street. Without top-line communication skills, leadership will suffer. Nurse leaders often interact with multiple healthcare professionals, including support staff, primary care providers and senior executives — all while managing their own team. Listening is a highly valuable but often underrated skill.
  • Practice emotional health: Healthcare can be a mentally exhausting career field, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made this all too apparent. Nurse leaders’ approach to mitigating this challenge is two-fold. First, they must possess their own emotional resilience. Then, they need to promote self-care in their nursing units, facilitating resilience development in others. This includes fostering an environment that destigmatizes mental health discussions and ensures all employees have access to mental health resources.
  • Prioritize quality care: Healthcare organizations employ multiple strategies to ensure they’re constantly striving for excellence. Nurse leaders must have adequate knowledge of the healthcare environment and systems to promote and support the resources and culture essential for delivering quality care. The more stakeholders working toward this same goal, the more prosperous the organization will be.
  • Lift others up: Finally, nurse leaders need to recognize the importance of empowering their charges. Being a manager isn’t just about assigning and overseeing care. It’s certainly not about micromanaging or “making the numbers.” Rather, nurse leaders should help to create and fulfill a vision for an organization’s success. By serving as mentors, nurse leaders also pave the way for the next generation of nurse leaders.

It’s Time to Lead

Of course, no organization expects nurse leaders to jump in the deep end of the pool unprepared. While some nurse leadership positions arise as a natural progression within a healthcare setting, formal programs exist to help nurses gain the skills they need to thrive.

For instance, Eastern Michigan University offers an affordable RN to BSN program that nurses can complete online in as few as 12-24 months. The curriculum includes a course titled RN Professionals of Nursing Practice: Nurse as Leader. This course builds on other courses in the program to prepare graduates for the leadership component of their nursing careers. Such options allow nurses to advance in the healthcare field and start making a difference in the communities they serve.

Learn more about Eastern Michigan University’s online RN to BSN program.


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