Nurse leaders play a pivotal role in the delivery of quality patient care. While nurse administrator or nurse executive may be the leadership positions that most commonly come to mind, opportunities exist for all nurses to be leaders. Through careful design, the coursework included in an online RN to BSN degree program helps nurses identify and cultivate their leadership skills.
Why Is Nursing Leadership Important?
When you consider the various situations and tasks that nurses navigate each day, you begin to see how possessing strong leadership skills — and knowing how and when to step forward and exercise them — can help the healthcare system to function properly.
Working together as a cohesive team is an essential component of any nursing position. However, many of a nurse’s job functions call for independent and critical thinking, advocating on behalf of patients, and remaining decisive and focused when things do not go as planned. For those times when a nurse administrator is not present or coworkers do not know how to proceed, nurses need to be prepared to step up and address these challenges.
“Nurses function more independently than most people think,” said Amelia Roberts, a registered nurse and rheumatology care coordinator in Washington, D.C. “Whenever a patient has a change in condition, strong leadership is needed to move beyond what ‘should be happening’ with the patient to addressing the actual patient response. Oftentimes, there will be a need to lead the charge in reaching out to the physician [to] requisition a change in treatment.”
Depending on the circumstances, a nurse’s ability to demonstrate leadership in daily practice contributes to the overall effectiveness of the team, which can include a wide range of healthcare employees working together in a unit, department or office. “Due to the nature of the registered nurse role, one has to be confident in making independent decisions. These decisions then often will be delegated to a CNA or LPN,” said Roberts. “Effective leadership skills can enhance communication related to task delegation.”
How Can Nurses Prepare for Leadership Roles?
One of the most expansive calls for nursing leadership development was described in the 2010 Future of Nursing report recommendations published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which changed its name to the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in 2015. The report expressed the importance of having more nurses who are able to lead collaboration efforts with physicians and other healthcare providers in order to enact changes to improve the delivery of healthcare throughout the nation.
In response, many online RN to BSN degree programs have incorporated coursework dedicated to enhancing nursing leadership skills. The program at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (UTPB) includes two clinical leadership courses that delve deeper into leadership, delegation and interprofessional collaboration. Nursing electives provide additional coursework related to management and leadership philosophies.
Beyond learning and executing the theories taught during a degree program, nurses can hone their leadership capabilities in several other ways, too. “There is a great potential to engage all nurses and offer opportunities for leadership skills. Some hospitals are introducing ‘Leadership Academies,’ [which] are on-site classes with corporate trainers,” said Roberts. “[You can] look for non-healthcare leadership courses online and offline as well. Are there people who have leadership skills you like? Ask them for a coffee chat. See what they are reading, see what podcasts they are listening to. Plug into those wells of knowledge and information.”
Lean Into Leadership
Leadership roles are no longer solely relegated to nursing administrators. On a daily basis, nurses are expected and encouraged to demonstrate their leadership abilities in situations ranging from patient care to task delegation and beyond. Nurses discover the ongoing necessity for these types of skills during an online RN to BSN program and may wish to seek continuing education opportunities to further enhance their leadership expertise.
Learn more about the UTPB online RN to BSN program.
Roberts, A. (2017, July 10). Email interview.
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