Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. As the largest component of the healthcare workforce and the profession that spends the most time in direct patient care, nurses have a profound impact on patient safety, outcomes and satisfaction.
Those who wonder why nursing leadership matters need only note that effective nurse leaders elevate nursing values to the forefront of healthcare management. By doing so, they drive the healthcare profession to be more compassionate and inclusive.
Multiple studies, such as Wong and Cummings’ systematic review and Robbins and Davidhizar’s research on transformational leadership, have demonstrated why nursing leadership is important. Effective nursing leadership improves patient care, increases nursing staff satisfaction and provides guidance through the complexities of healthcare administration. Without strong nurse leaders, the healthcare system would falter and fail to meet the demands of the 21st century.
Transformational Nurse Leadership
The American Nursing Association Leadership Institute describes nurse leaders as individuals who are not only interested in excelling in their careers but are also focused on improving the quality of healthcare. By combining clinical expertise, leadership skills and administrative know-how, nurse leaders are successfully transforming the healthcare industry.
Research on effective nurse leadership demonstrates why nurse leadership is important. Nurse leaders positively impact staff morale and patient outcomes through their actions. Although there are multiple leadership styles, the American Nurse Credentialing Center, ANCC, has identified transformational leadership as the most effective in leading change in healthcare.
Key components of transformational nursing leadership include the following: individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealized influence.
- Identifies the needs of individual staff members
- Gives effective feedback that encourages professional growth
- Communicates with staff frequently using different modalities
- Questions the status quo and presents new ideas
- Supports creativity at work and tries to solve problems
- Works collaboratively and respects the views of the others
- Presents a vision in which team members can achieve their personal goals by focusing on the organization’s goals
- Avoids micromanaging and gives staff the freedom to explore different career paths
- Uses customized rewards and recognition to help keep staff engaged
- Models behavior for emerging leaders to emulate
- Acknowledges difficulties and encourages problem-solving
- Focuses on staff members’ positive qualities, instead of focusing on the negative
Qualities of Nurse Leaders
Nurse leaders bring about transformational change by exhibiting specific qualities. Research about nursing leadership states that effective nurse leaders are empathetic, demonstrate clinical expertise and act as mentors.
Nurse leaders must have empathy for both their patients and the staff they lead. Being empathetic allows nurse leaders to communicate in a non-judgemental way and encourages staff to discuss problems that need to be addressed. Although empathy is not normally associated with strong leadership, empathetic nurse leaders have a better relationship with their peers and are more likely to bring about change effectively.
Demonstrating clinical expertise is a cornerstone of nursing leadership. The complexities of the healthcare market require leaders to understand the clinical ramifications of leadership decisions. Without clinical expertise, nurse leaders would be unable to fill this role.
In order to take on the challenges of the tumultuous healthcare market, nursing leadership must continue to expand its ranks. Therefore, a crucial role of nurse leaders is mentorship. Supporting nurses who demonstrate leadership potential is key to replenishing the healthcare industry with new nurse leaders.
Although many nurse leaders have innate leadership qualities, there is value in pursuing an advanced degree in nursing leadership. Advanced degrees in nursing leadership empower nurses to take on transformational leadership roles in healthcare institutions.
Nursing Leadership Transforms Healthcare
The importance of nursing leadership is undeniable. The combination of clinical expertise, patient-driven values and logistical intelligence puts nurse leaders in a unique position to shepherd the US healthcare market through the complex changes of the 21st century. For nurse leaders to achieve their goals of improving patient outcomes, reforming the healthcare market and bolstering staff morale, they must strive to be role models, lead change, and collaborate among departments.
Be a Role Model
The healthcare industry’s culture is, in large part, determined by the behavior of its leaders. One of the key attributes of being a transformational nurse leader is leading by example. Being a role model inspires others and creates a positive work environment. By being role models, nurse leaders motivate others and set a high standard of performance that ultimately makes the nursing profession more respected and improves patient care.
As the nursing profession grapples with increased demands and higher patient acuity, nurse leaders are rising to the challenge by changing the matrix of healthcare management and creating more sustainable work environments. By advocating for change, nurse leaders are at the forefront of transforming healthcare.
Are you ready to take on a nursing leadership role? Be a change agent in order to improve staff job satisfaction, staff performance and patient care.
Collaborate Among Departments
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses, AACN, clearly defines why collaboration is so important.
“Collaboration among nurses and staff ensures more efficient, effective patient care and a more supportive environment where team members can develop in their practice.”
Optimizing patient care and creating a supportive team environment are fundamental pillars of effective nurse leadership. The ability to collaborate among departments is a key component of this trait. By recognizing the need to work with others and developing professional bonds outside of their primary unit, nurse managers ensure continuity of patient care and provide learning opportunities for staff nurses.
Collaboration is also an instrumental part of advocacy, which is defined by Hubinette et al. as the “activities related to ensuring access to care, navigating the system, mobilizing resources, addressing health inequalities, influencing health policy, and creating system change.”
Nurse leaders advocate for other nurses and their patients. Through collaboration and transformational leadership nurse leaders break down barriers in healthcare, create a more equitable healthcare system, and provide guidance to emerging nurse leaders.
Nurses are truly the lynchpin of the healthcare industry. They are the most trusted healthcare professionals, spend the most time in direct patient care and have the greatest representation in the workforce. However, for many years nurses have been undervalued. Through the courageous actions of transformational nurse leaders, nurses are taking on more leadership roles and improving healthcare as they do it.
Those who have wondered what is the importance of nurse leadership need only to look at the tremendous impact nurse leaders have had on the healthcare industry. Through nursing leadership, hospitals have implemented safer staffing ratios, provided additional training to novice nurses, increased the morale among staff nurses and improved patient outcomes.
If you are ready to become part of nursing leadership, an MSN in Nursing & Health Systems Leadership from the University of Indianapolis can help you make a difference for the patients, nurses and departments around you.