4 reasons you should follow leaders in nursing

As health care expands, nurses are taking on a more influential role.

4 reasons you should follow leaders in nursing

Nurses deliver patient care at the core of the interdisciplinary team that makes patient-centered care happen. With a current focus on population health, nurses’ roles are expanding, as are the roles of nurse leaders.

So, what exactly are nursing leaders? They are committed patient advocates, clinicians, or employee advocates, according to americannursetoday.com.

As the journal Nurse Leader noted in August, “this ongoing and oncoming transformation will continue the progress of nurse leaders in becoming critical architects and managers of new care delivery systems.”

Your job title may say “leader” or it may not, but you know if you have the skills to lead rather than follow. You may decide to become a clinical nurse leader, a nurse leader in the C-suite, or on your ward.

To do so, you need to be a visionary, be equipped with strategies, and use problem-solving processes. You should also be dynamic, passionate, have a motivational influence on other people, be solution-focused, and seek to inspire others, according to Nursing Times.

Here’s what else you need to know about nurse leaders in 2015.

Nurse leaders are a hot topic in health care now

“The Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report on ‘The Future of Nursing’ focused on whether nurses are already prepared to not only participate in change, but to lead change,” says Mary Beth Kingston, executive vice president and chief nursing officer at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

This report called on nurses to become more involved in health reform, especially as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each year, adds Rose Sherman, professor of nursing leadership at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.

“It recommended that the profession strive for an 80% baccalaureate workforce by 2020,” she says, citing a movement in that direction during recent years. “Many jobs now require a Bachelor of Science Nursing (BSN) as the entry-level degree.”

Yes, you can still obtain an associate degree, but the trend is for graduates to move right into BSN programs, says Sherman. Nurse practitioner or nurse midwife roles require a minimum of a master’s degree and often a doctorate. “To transition into nursing from other careers, we do have accelerated BSN programs of just a year at many universities in this country,” she says.

Nurse leaders don’t just work upstairs

The term “leader” connotes formal positions such as chief nursing officer, director of nursing or nurse manager, says Kingston.

“In fact, nurses have expertise working with people with health care disparities, changing the way women care for at-risk newborns, impacting public health issues, and excelling in academia—making a difference across so many health care settings,” she says.

“Every single nurse is a nurse leader,” says Linda Burnes Bolton, president and vice president, nursing and chief nursing officer at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles. “To be a chief nursing executive, you should have an advanced degree and have gained significant knowledge and experience over the years. You want to be able to do more ‘circle-calling’ and inviting others in to resolve issues. Everyone has to step up—the C-suite just has more steps to climb.”

Nurse leaders prep for their greatness

“The first part of leadership is to learn how to lead yourself,” says Burnes Bolton. “Start by asking, ‘What do I need to do to improve myself?’ Then commit to making change, and you’ll be better at leading others by inspiring them to be on the team.”

Kingston says fulfilling basic goals can help advance you through the leadership ranks. She suggests you:

  • Develop leadership skills and apply to different settings.
  • Learn your job and take advantage of other opportunities.
  • Join a committee and then chair it.
  • Enhance your education.

Nurse leaders don’t mind asking for help

Kingston also suggests finding a mentor. Sherman tells the story of a young nurse she’s mentoring who is “truly brilliant.”

“She was born in Haiti and moved to Miami as a child,” Sherman says. “Her single mom worked long hours to provide education and a better life in the U.S. My mentee first went to a community college, then to our university in her junior year to attend nursing school—primarily on scholarships and loans while living at home.”

Knowing she would benefit from help, she asked Sherman to be her mentor. The professor also helped with interviews, and the nurse obtained a good first job.

“Now she works full time and is back in school studying to be a nurse practitioner,” Sherman says. “I am so proud of her and she has a very bright future. We do need people just like her in health care today.”