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Become a Better Leader in Nursing

Nurses account for the lion’s share of patient interactions. They are the front line of medicine and have many responsibilities. Being a leader in nursing requires going that extra mile to advocate for patients, taking the initiative to pursue higher education and function well in a team of diverse people.

There are notable differences between leadership and management in nursing. The separation comes from the roles and responsibilities of nurse leaders and nurse managers in their organizations. Nursing professionals learn about these roles in Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs and gain more working knowledge in practice. As Kati Kleber, MSN, RN and owner of FreshRN, explains, “one strives to lead through expert-based knowledge while the other manages operations through administrative tasks.” Nursing leaders and managers must both be able to follow protocols while also managing their employees and patients to the highest ethical standards.

Optimization Through Optimism

Nurses must often deal with people at their worst, during bouts of physical pain or while enduring the trials of a tough diagnosis. Important qualities in a good nursing leader include continuously focusing on what’s best for the organization, the patients and the team of staff. Embracing this kind of optimism can help set the right tone for a nursing team to have the most positive effect on patient outcomes.

In her blog, Donna Cardillo, RN and keynote speaker, writes, “Effective leaders have high regard for others, see the best in those around them, and have a way of making others feel good about themselves.” Being a nursing leader is not limited to directing a team of nurses; it is also important to lead patients. Trailblazing nursing leaders know how to use optimism to benefit their team and patients.

Finding Role Models

On Cardillo’s list of ways to improve one’s leadership skills, finding “role models and mentors” is at the top. Having other nurses and medical professionals you look up to is integral to building your leadership style and furthering your education. “When you encounter people whose leadership style you admire,” writes Cardillo, “take some time to observe how they deal with others.”

Wherever you are in your career, it is key to have a set of mentors and role models who provide you with a schematic for your future as a nursing leader. Ask yourself what traits these individuals have that make them such effective leaders and apply those methods to your own sphere of influence.

Yet, at the same time, explore your own natural, authentic leadership style. Authentic leadership is central to developing trust, collaboration and motivation to achieve shared goals, all of which support staff cohesion and positive patient outcomes.

A Culture of Healthy Leadership

In a culture of healthy leadership, leaders do more than articulate and expect desired behavior and performance from their team. They practice what they preach, demonstrating good communication, collaboration, patient advocacy, commitment to a healthy work-life balance and other hallmarks of excellent nursing practice.

Healthy leadership also involves showing empathy and compassion. Supportive leadership is central to fostering a healthy workplace culture, especially in challenging times of crisis. For instance, research has shown that supportive leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic positively impacted nurses’ psychological and physical well-being. Along with evaluating the nursing leaders you look up to, it is vital to reflect inwardly on what kind of work environment you help create for those around you.

Strengthening your skills as a nursing leader is also deeply rooted in education and a willingness to learn throughout your career. Progressing from an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) RN to an RN with a BSN is one of the more concrete ways to take control of your future as a nursing leader.

Learn more about the Northern Kentucky University online RN to BSN program.

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