Nursing is an incredibly meaningful and important career path. As a nurse, you are instrumental in providing patients and their families with top-quality care and support during difficult times, helping patients live as full a life as possible, and providing much-needed comfort in emotional situations. Nurses work as part of a healthcare team alongside other healthcare professionals so that each patient gets the highest standard of care possible. Every team needs a strong leader, and you might have ambitions of becoming a key figure in your leadership team working towards the highest standards of care. Below you’ll find six tips for you to follow in order to become a better nurse leader.
Every top-quality nurse begins with a top-quality education. To become a registered nurse, you need to first obtain a nursing degree before taking and passing your NCLEX exam. If you do want to progress into a leadership position, you will need to consolidate your experience and expertise by taking a master’s of science in nursing with a specialism in nursing leadership. This is a great option if you’re already working as a nurse; however, it is also possible to work directly towards a leadership role by pursuing a masters in nursing for non nursing majors if nursing is your second career. This is an ideal option for students who want to enter the nursing profession and advance to leadership roles to improve patient safety and quality outcomes.
2. Clinical experience
As a nurse leader, you will be responsible for the improvement of healthcare processes and care delivery in your facility. As such, it is important that you have extensive clinical experience before advancing into your leadership role, as this’ll help to inform your leadership practices. For example, your facility might regularly experience a shortage of equipment or staff, or patients might have to wait a long time to be seen by a nurse. By working on the front line helping patients, you will have the first-hand experience of the issues affecting staff and patients and will be in a position to implement real change to improve your service.
3. Communication skills
Good communication skills are a prerequisite for any nurse. Experiencing health issues is frightening for any patient, and you will need to explain complex medical diagnoses and treatments plans in an accessible way so that patients and their families know exactly what is going on at each step of the way, and are reassured. You will need to be able to adapt your communication style to suit different patients. For instance, adults who do not speak English might struggle to understand the treatment options on offer, and children are more likely to become scared and frustrated by their situation. It is important that as a nursing leader you demonstrate excellent patient communication skills to your team to set them a good example. Furthermore, you will need to be able to clearly communicate treatments and care plans to the rest of your team to ensure that patients continue to receive the best quality treatment possible.
Nurses in leadership positions are tasked with making decisions, both small and large, on a daily basis. This could be anything from setting policies to the final say on a patient’s care plan. Resident nurses and other junior nurses will look to you for guidance, so it is important that you are clear and confident in your decisions; however, it can understandably be daunting to make decisions that may have a huge impact on a patient’s outcome. The key to effective decision-making is being confident in your expertise and experience and having the ability to quickly assess a situation based on your best judgment. Being able to make efficient and clear decisions will make for a more organized and direction-driven healthcare facility in which your colleagues will feel confident to carry out their daily nursing duties.
5. Conflict resolution
It’s almost inevitable that you will be involved in resolving conflicts as a nurse leader. This might include conflict between staff members, which needs to be resolved to facilitate a more positive working environment and to prevent a drop in patient care standards due to staff dissatisfaction. You may also be called upon to resolve conflicts arising between staff and patients or their family members – the hospital is an emotional environment for a lot of people, and as such, some might respond to an upsetting and stressful health emergency by reacting in a combative manner and questioning the care plan and expertise of nurses. There are conflict resolution courses you can attend if you feel that your skills in this area could do with a boost. However, key points to remember include remaining calm and composed at all times and working towards solutions.
6. Developing strategies
As a nurse leader, you are in the unique position of developing strategies that could have a positive impact on the lives of those in your community. For example, there may be clear evidence presented by the patients coming through your facility’s doors that intergenerational obesity is a big problem in your community. As such, you, along with the rest of the leadership team, can develop and implement strategies with the goal of providing individuals with the education and support necessary to lead healthier lifestyles and reduce the strain of obesity on your facility and community. You can also look into improving processes within your facility for greater patient satisfaction, for instance, using technology to monitor and reduce patient waiting times in the ER department.
As you can see, becoming an excellent nurse leader involves some of the same skills used by managers in other industries, such as decision-making and conflict resolution. The expertise and experience built on your high-level nursing education and clinical experience will enable you to guide your team and develop strategies to improve the healthcare – and lives – of patients and your wider community. The journey to becoming a nurse will be challenging, but the outcome will be worth it.