Three nurses

Management 101: Leadership Advice for Nurses

All nurses lead, regardless of the titles they hold or duties they perform. With wisdom, level demeanor, and kind rapport, they consistently guide their patients toward better health and personal well-being.

Leading other nurses, however, is a whole different ballgame. Nurses already naturally exhibit many desirable leadership characteristics, but real management requires even greater rigor and an exhaustive commitment to holistic excellence.

Although there’s no denying nurses do everything they do for the sake of their patients, many health care professionals seek undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees to advance their potential. The trick is redirecting the attributes vital to patient health and applying them to staff performance and oversight, which ultimately improves the quality of all-around care.

Nursing as a professional is fast attracting a wide field of talent, a momentum fueled in part by an industry-wide commitment to the now famous 80/20 goal set by the Institute of Medicine. Can health care reach its objective of 50 to 80 percent more nurses with bachelor degrees by 2020?

More importantly, will any of these nursing professionals have what it takes to lead the U.S. into a new era of health care? What advice can nurses with management aspirations carry with them in their quests to become stronger leaders?

Be humble, communicative, available and real

A management position may feel like an honor, but the truth is 4 out of 5 people selected to perform a job aren’t “the candidate with the right talent,” according to a Gallup poll of business leaders. Let that soak in. Could the same thing happen in health care? It can, and it does.

Any person awarded a manager-level position should take a balanced approach, demonstrate clear communication skills and be accessible at all times to remove all avoidable hurdles to excellent administration.

Think of it this way: The best managers are the ones who aren’t so “managerial.” They don’t condescend. They don’t use opaque jargon to sound smart. They don’t lock themselves away in ivory towers. Real managers should be in the trenches with everyone they supervise, right in the thick of things.

Learn a lot about health care technology

The rate of innovation in telemedicine, parallel to technological innovation in practically every other industry, has accelerated dramatically in the past few decades. Luckily, many nurses are already quite savvy with their gadgetry. One study found more than 95 percent of nurses owned a smartphone and nearly 65 percent owned a tablet. The same study, however, revealed a stark difference between doctors and nurses finding these devices valuable in performing clinical duties. Nearly all doctors found smartphones “useful” or “very useful” while a little more than half of all nurses agreed with the same assessment.

What does that tell us? Maybe nurses may have a higher standard with respect to the equipment they must use daily. Maybe nurses aren’t utilizing technology as well as they could be. Either way, nurses who wish to lead one day should learn everything they can about the latest technology. In doing so, they enhance the quality of patient care their organizations offer by making a commitment to share knowledge and collaborate with other staff members in practical, meaningful ways.

Apart from the thousands of mobile apps available to health care providers, managerial hopefuls should also take every opportunity to experience and handle electronic health record management systems and sensors for remote patient monitoring, and demonstrate their adaptability by embracing the technology of tomorrow.

Hold the team accountable but acknowledge individual achievement

Nurse managers walk a tight line when it comes to accountability, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Health care staff members polled agree that accountability matters as a concept, but they argued against the conventional trappings of accountability like transparency.

How then is a manager to hold people accountable without the basic tools and information to do so? By creating a culture of accountability that everyone builds together, refines together, and thus has an equal stake in. Although transparency and validation is crucial for managers in a medical facility, when they foster responsibility in the hearts of others, there’s little need for it other than as a quick checklist.

Moreover, accountability should not end at discipline or correction. It also means spotlighting those who model ideal behavior. More than a mere recognition of a job well done, acknowledgement further expands the limits of a culture of accountability can achieve.

Even in hard times, never ignore the impact of good leadership

In 2016, researchers from Johns Hopkins University conducted a meta-analysis that concluded professional medical errors resulted in a quarter of a million preventable deaths every year. This statistic alone might deter some from pursuing a management position in nursing. The responsibility appears unbearable, the challenge too insurmountable.

Yet leaders see data like this and think two things: First, they hold these losses against the immeasurable lives that have been saved by nurses, doctors, and surgeons. Second, they see potential in these shortcomings, wondering where and how they can support their staffs to constantly raise the bar on care.

A survey of nurses found many “generally believe the quality of patient care is continuing to decline” under their watch. Far from failure, feelings like these are opportunities for unprecedented development. Leaders harness those difficult emotions, strategize with workers, discover solutions, and push them to excel. Engagement like this, one Gallup poll found, was the foremost “predictor of mortality variation across hospitals.” The best managers always maintain a perspective of continuous improvement, within themselves and in their teams.

Plant the seeds of leadership in others

In nursing, a manager ought to instill the fundamental elements of leadership – careful analysis, keen decision-making, and organization – in those he or she manages. As other nurses take on these skills and hone them in time, the quality of care, and standards of operation will rise.

Advanced nursing positions almost always require advanced degrees. Start strong down the path to nurse administration or bolster your chances of a promotion by enrolling in the Rutgers University Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program. Reach out to an RU representative today for more information on how to further your career with a BS in Nursing.


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