A strong nurse leader is important because the initiatives and protocols they establish impact everyone and every system, from nursing effectiveness and satisfaction to patient care and outcomes. While a career in leadership appeals to many nurses, there is often a steep learning curve. However, there are several ways to begin that preparation now.
Enrolling in an RN to BSN online program is a good first step to becoming a nurse leader. These programs often include a course dedicated to leadership and management theories. Additionally, here are six tips to help you make a successful leap into nursing leadership.
- Prioritize Communication
Just as it is important to address any potential communication barriers in the nurse-patient relationship, you need to be proactive in how you interact with your team and colleagues. It is critical that you establish open and ongoing communication with your team so that you can freely share vital information with them, and they are comfortable doing the same with you.
- Ensure Goals Align
Getting everyone on the same page is difficult, but the synergy created from such an endeavor is powerful in propelling the team and quality of care forward. The organization or unit may strive to achieve one specific goal such as lowering readmissions, and each employee's efforts will contribute to that outcome. If you also help each teammate identify individual goals to work toward that are complementary to the group goal, like ensuring every patient is connected to a primary care physician prior to discharge, everyone benefits.
- Be Empathetic
Although you must carve out your own leadership style, which at times will require you to be strict or unyielding, empathy is one trait to keep top of mind. Aim to be respectful and kind to your team — superiors and patients. Be a source of support and encouragement they can always count on.
- Provide Constructive Feedback
No one enjoys being told their ideas or efforts are not up to par. Alternately, nearly everyone you interact with responds much better to feedback when it comes from a place of caring and consideration. The most useful feedback is constructive and allows the employee to initiate rapid and lasting change, so strive to provide feedback that is actionable and balances the positive with the negative. For example, you can tell a colleague, "Your willingness to always assist a co-worker in need is inspiring and appreciated. I have noticed that you are struggling to keep up with charting, though. Let's chat and figure out a way to proceed so that you can manage your responsibilities."
- Address Problems as They Arise
Always do your due diligence and thoroughly investigate problems as they arise, particularly those that require you to address an employee's behavior or work. Nursing is rife with potential ethical and moral dilemmas, so you want to be sure you have the facts and details straight. This not only minimizes the risk of wrongful accusations, which breed discontent and animosity among the team, but it also demonstrates your ability to address matters quickly and fairly.
- Avoid Rushing Change
When transitioning into a new position, it is tempting to make note of everything that you would like to improve and start making changes right away. However, being too aggressive from the onset is often unsettling and stressful for your team and may have unintentional effects on patient care and satisfaction. Although critical situations, such as a notable increase in patient falls, often warrant immediate action, many other changes can be rolled out with a more gradual approach, allowing time for employees and patients to acclimate.
Leading With Confidence
Becoming a nurse leader is an opportunity to harness your clinical expertise and stretch yourself personally and professionally. While challenging, nurse leaders can find success by incorporating these tips and learning from other leaders' experiences.
Learn more about UHV's RN to BSN online program.
Sources:Studer Group: If I Knew Then What I Know Now -- Advice for Nurse Leaders From a Former CNO
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