Being a leader in any industry or team requires specific skills. After all, you will always need to be able to inspire people to do their best. In healthcare, that’s incredibly important as patient lives are at risk.
When it comes to healthcare and nursing leadership, there are a handful of mental and physical skills you’ll ideally need to develop while training to provide the best possible support to those around you. Whether you are already working as a nurse, a nursing practitioner, or are moving into healthcare leadership via another route, self-development is key.
What is nursing leadership?
As the name suggests, nursing leadership centers around being able to lead and inspire other nurses working in healthcare. Nurse leader doesn’t just enforce efficient healthcare for patients as they work hard to lead by example for those working beneath them.
Nurse leaders must also work hard to help those delivering care during periods of high stress and when time is of the essence. Moments of crisis and emergency, for example, will always require a nursing leader with a calm disposition and the confidence to lead nurses of all calibers through to the resolutions patients will be relying on healthcare for.
It’s entirely possible to prepare for nursing leadership roles via education through specialized programs, such as the one available at Spring Arbor University. Programs such as this one provide students with extensive support to help healthcare specialists become effective leaders and fantastic carers.
Students will focus their learning on evidence-based practice, quality improvement, organizational change, and systems leadership. Combining online coursework with practicum work, this program is ideal for working nurses as practicum hours can even be earned with their current employer.
What skills do nursing leaders need to demonstrate?
Obviously, all nursing leaders must possess nursing skills as a standard to thrive in the role. However, many nursing leaders develop and transition into these roles after years of experience on the job. There are some skills and attributes all prospective leaders will need to work on if they wish to inspire nurses for years to come.
Let’s review some of the most vital physical and mental skills nursing leaders need to help keep their teams working collaboratively.
1. Critical thinking
Critical thinking is a must for all nurses entering leadership. This is the ability to think without prejudice or emotion while working on the job.
All good nurse leaders must be ready to think carefully and clearly about the challenges that are likely to arise from day to day. Applying emotion or letting bias get in the way of clear problem resolution will slow processes down and potentially put lives at risk.
This means that all good nursing leaders should learn how to think on their feet and make confident decisions without becoming distracted.
Adaptability is a fantastic skill that anyone in healthcare should learn and demonstrate. However, for nursing leaders, it is especially important. Nursing leaders may need to move from team to team and department to department at short notice.
Instead of becoming comfortable with one particular team or set of cases, the best nursing leaders will always be ready to adapt and pivot to wherever they are most needed. The “I go where I am needed” mindset is vital in healthcare, especially in cases where nursing leaders may be in short supply, and nurses need someone to help guide them through the more intense moments of their workloads.
3. Emotional intelligence
While thinking on one’s feet and developing critical thinking skills are crucial in nursing leadership, demonstrating emotional intelligence is just as important. After all, no one expects or needs their nursing leaders to be completely emotionless!
Far from it — nurses and other healthcare staff need their leaders to offer careful guidance and support and to understand their challenges. What’s more, leaders will frequently work with staff to help them develop their career plans.
Beyond this, nurse leaders will need to develop emotional intelligence skills to provide the best care to patients. Just as nurses and nurse practitioners need to provide “bedside manners” to their charges, the same applies to nursing leaders.
Nursing leaders don’t stop caring for the public. In fact, in many cases, they will lead by example.
4. Technological adaptation
Beyond being adaptable in terms of role and responsibility, nursing leaders must also take time to learn about the technology and tools they’ll use to support patients and their staff.
Technology throughout healthcare is evolving at a rapid pace, which means nurse leaders must always take care to be on top of what’s emerging. It’s the leader’s responsibility as well to roll out new training to their staff.
For example, if new tools or software arise in a specific healthcare department, it pays for nurse leaders to become accustomed to using those systems before they roll them out to their staff.
They should be on hand to help nurses and other staff acclimatize and develop — and provide tailored one-to-one support if needed to help get them up to speed as soon as possible.
Beyond this, nurse leaders should also be ready to learn new technological skills as and when needed. Keeping an open mind and developing a technical skill set is highly important in this role. Again, as a nursing leader, you are not purely barking orders at people but leading by example.
Patience is an incredible skill that all healthcare experts must harness at some point in their careers. For healthcare and nursing leaders, patience is particularly important when working with staff. For example, a leader may be working with a new cohort of nursing graduates, who may need time to get up to speed.
That isn’t to say nurse leaders should abandon the idea of being firm but fair. Nurse leaders should offer support and guidance but, at the same time, know when to exercise authority. Patience goes impressively far in building relationships between new nurses and their leaders.
Patience will also come in extremely useful when dealing with members of the public and when handling multiple complex case files. A cool head and a willingness to see projects through to completion will always benefit nursing leaders.
Nursing leaders and leaders in general healthcare will speak to almost everyone in a hospital or clinic during a year or two on the job. This means all good nursing leaders must be willing and able to communicate clearly with a variety of different people.
This frequently means discussing cases with staff on their own teams, potentially transferring cases over to specialist areas, such as endocrine medicine, and approaching administrators and hospital directors. Nurse leaders must be adaptable and willing to speak to everyone at all levels of an organization.
In addition, nurse leaders should also be able to provide advice and support to different groups of people, tailoring that support to their understanding and needs. This is especially important for patients if working with them directly, as there may be technical terminology they don’t necessarily understand. They may also be scared about what happens next.
After all, nurse leaders do more than just lead other people in healthcare as they help to improve patient experiences too.
Nurse leaders are needed more than ever
Healthcare is fast-paced and under as much pressure as ever. This means hospital staff and patients need strong leadership to help guide them through some of the more complex and intense moments on the clinic floor.
Being a nurse leader is hard work, but you’ll build a fantastic sense of pride and accomplishment! Simply make sure to develop the skills listed above and you’ll hit the ground running in a great career with endless potential.