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Guide to Becoming an Effective Nurse Leader

Successful care delivery depends on developing strong leaders at all levels of healthcare

Gregarious. Vocal. Assertive. These are common traits used to describe commanders of groups. However, these dominant qualities can create a negative and misleading stereotype about leadership. In my experience as a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), I have seen all types of people serve as leaders in the nursing profession and can say without a doubt that leaders come in many different forms. In fact, the most effective nurse leaders I've witnessed weren't exceptional because of their ability to "command," they were exceptional because they passionately focused on the larger goals of the team and knew how to empower and motivate their team, regardless of position.

In my nearly 40 years of experience working in nursing, I have seen firsthand that regardless of whether a nurse works bedside or in the boardroom, nurses at all levels of the care spectrum can become leaders. With the evolution of the 21st Century health care system, including more complex policy changes and advancements in medicine and technology, the safety of patients and successful delivery of care requires additional leadership development of CNOs, nurse managers and RNs across all areas of the profession1.

In fact, as an academic leader, I see increasingly that more employers seeking nurses who not only have the education and skills necessary to complete their primary job responsibilities, but who also have the leadership skills. These professional nurses are positioned to adapt to and lead through a challenging and continuously changing healthcare system while also continuing to grow in the profession throughout their careers.

Stay Focused on Care
Much has been written on the subject of leadership, and a common theme emerges. Leaders remain focused on their goals, despite challenges2. To thrive amongst the complexities of today's health care system, nurses must remain focused on why they joined the profession: to make a difference in patients' lives and improve health outcomes. This is the core mission of the nursing practice. Nurses of all levels who remain dedicated to this mission, who continually ask themselves if what they are doing is contributing to meeting those goals, will naturally integrate and aim toward better care into everything they do.  nurse leaders

Resilience is essential in preparing a full care team to focus on continuing to achieve the health care organization's goals successfully in tough circumstances. To have this kind of resilience, nurses are aware of the mission of the health care organization, understand external trends and how they affect the long-term goals of the organization, and exercise flexibility to modify system structure and processes when it is required to improve patient outcomes or system performance.


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