the role of nursing leadership in healthcare

Nursing has considerably developed over the years, moving from behind the scenes to the front lines. Centuries ago, nurses worked with little knowledge of healthcare and were expected to provide services similar to household care. But in contemporary healthcare, nurses stand shoulder to shoulder with the doctors. This dynamic and challenging yet fulfilling career has produced leaders in the field who serve in various capacities.

With diverse background knowledge and specializations, leadership positions in nursing cater to various requirements. Whatever your reason might be for pursuing the field, with a passion for this field and the right education, you can be part of the nurse leaders and upscale your career or achieve your goal.

How to Be a Nurse Leader?

Taking leadership roles not only requires strong leadership skills, professionalism, and ethics, but you also need the right degree in your hand. As a leader, you will likely work in both clinical and research positions; both require specialized skill sets and detailed knowledge. Higher education programs such as MSN (Master of Science in Nursing) and DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) equip you with both.

While MSN sounds like a good option because it leaves room for further education, nursing leadership positions prefer applicants with higher education degrees. For this reason, DNP programs give you an edge with the terminal degree and higher rank. In addition, DNP programs are often open to BSN as well as MSN degree holders.

Why Does Nursing Leadership Matter?

Nursing and leadership go hand in hand. Every day nurses have to make decisions in their domain to save lives. Formal leadership positions are meant to make healthcare strategies more effective.

The main job of the nurse leader is to form an effective team. By offering constructive criticism to their mentees and implementing changes in policies and regulations for improved productivity and efficiency, they ensure that team members under their supervision provide services that meet health and safety.

Technology is evolving and advancing rapidly, so it’s no surprise that the healthcare industry is experiencing constant changes too. As a nurse leader, it is your job to stay updated and incorporate the latest techniques to meet the new demands. Displaying the characteristics of mentors, nurse leaders also develop strategies to integrate tech and recent research in policies by training the staff and introducing new practices. This ensures that all practicing nurses are fully equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to improve the care rendered to patients.

Since nurses are advocates of patients, the leader’s role is to bring changes that produce higher patient satisfaction and ensure their safety at all levels.

Types of Nursing Leadership Roles

Impacting healthcare as a nurse leader can be done in various ways. For example, you can choose to be a nurse executive, supervisor, administrator, or healthcare policy, advocate. However, nursing leadership roles are broadly divided into clinical setting-based and managerial roles. While there are leadership jobs that fit either of the core-type job descriptions, many positions and specializations require a balance between the two types.

Clinical-Setting Leadership:

Clinical nurse leaders can diagnose and run tests on patients like registered nurses after taking their initial history. However, because nurse leaders often have a DNP degree that provides them with in-depth specialized knowledge, which means they have more power at their disposal. They can prescribe medications to the patients and develop care plans for them. Clinical nurse leaders also serve as reservoirs of specialized knowledge and are available to supervise patient cases.

Clinical nurse leaders also conduct risk assessments. Working in a clinical domain, they interact and coordinate with physicians, social workers, clinical nurse specialists, and practitioners as well as pharmacists.  

Nurse leaders also act as a bridge of research and its applications. Nurse leadership equates to having advanced and expert skills. The nurse leader, possessing a deep understanding of subject matter and theoretical pharmacology because of being DNP qualified, can translate the findings into practice.

Clinical nurse leaders also train junior nurses, offer feedback and pinpoint areas needing improvement. Nursing leadership is not just limited to nurse leaders’ work habitat. Using digital forums and seminars, nurse leaders can mentor other nurses who want to learn to achieve the shared goal of better healthcare provision.

There are several examples of nursing leaders who serve in clinical settings. Most of them require certification and holding a license to ensure practitioner credibility. Some of the examples are discussed below:

  1. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) is concerned with providing anesthesia care. Patients are diverse; ranging between ages and health sensitiveness. These nurse leaders can make decisions in life-threatening situations and injuries.
  2. Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) provides services related to childbirth, prenatal care, and family planning services. Since the conception of bringing a new life to the world is a sensitive matter, in-depth knowledge and spontaneous consultancy are required. The nurse leaders of this field can work independently of a gynecologist and provide excellent service.
  3. Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) helps with advanced care, diagnosis, and management of acute and chronic diseases. They can practice independently and are expected to participate in general health promotion.

Managerial Nurse Leadership:

Instead of dealing with the practice, managerial leadership focuses on managing the healthcare practitioners. Nurse leaders in management roles have human resource jobs and are in charge of developing and forming teams. It means they hold the power to hire and fire employees, as well as provide them professional development. They may also be responsible for making the department’s budget or staff training decisions.

Nursing leadership might also include dividing the workforce and assigning tasks to a group of junior nurses. They also can be the ears to the patients’ complaints, eventually making managerial changes to address the concerns.

Some examples which lie under managerial nurse leaders’ roles are:

  1. Chief Nursing Officers or Executives develop and examine policies for nursing care keeping safety in mind. They also serve as a link between the nursing teams and departments and executive management.
  2. Nurse Managers are supervisors who offer guidance to nurses during crises while monitoring policy adherence. They make decisions related to budget, schedules and personnel. Although they decide patient care practices, their primary focus is administrative work.

Hospital Chief Operating Officer is one of the most powerful jobs in nursing. It lies directly under the CEO, thus, making it the second most important position. As chief operating officers, you would be expected to analyze reports and review team performances.

Final Thoughts

Healthcare is not dependent on physicians as it was in the past. Nurses have been taking leadership roles and working on the front lines competitive to old leaders.

As leadership requires understanding practical and theoretical concepts, having an MSN or DNP can armor you to take on future challenges. You can choose leadership roles that fit your academic interests and goals well. If management is your strong suit, you might want to consider managerial leadership roles. Otherwise, being a specialist, you can dominate clinical practice.