The vital role of leadership in nursing

Few professions offer as much potential for job satisfaction as nursing. It’s a field in which you can always be confident that what you do matters, with your actions and decisions, every single day, able to improve people’s lives. The nursing profession cannot achieve its potential, however, without the presence of good leaders. Whether you aspire to a leadership role yourself, you want to improve the way that you connect with leaders in your workplace, or you’re thinking of taking your leadership experience from another field and transferring to nursing, this article will help you understand why this is so important and just how much depends upon it.

Support and mentoring

Nursing is not a profession in which your family background or the place where you grew up matters. Everybody is there on merit, and everybody starts at the bottom, gradually working their way up. In that situation, the presence of leaders who can provide support and mentor really matters. If you’ve already spent a few years as a nurse, you’ll appreciate just how tough it can be in the beginning. You’ll have had moments when you wondered if you were really cut out for it, periods when you were struggling to build up the necessary level of physical fitness, or times when a poor patient outcome left you upset in a way that you didn’t know how to fix. Leaders in nursing are not just there to show you the ropes or reinforce the skills you learned in college. They’re there to get you through those tough times, to see your potential even when you can’t see it yourself. Even when you’ve got through that stage, and no matter how high you climb, there will always be somebody there to help you and keep you on track.

Access to expertise

No matter how hard you study in college, nothing beats the expertise gained on the ward. You can’t look up in a book or search on the internet the kinds of things that more experienced nurses can teach you, especially when it comes to the management of challenging clinical situations. The clear leadership hierarchy within the profession means that you should never be in doubt about where to turn for help when you need it – and this, in turn, means that your patients will never be in a situation where they are unable to get the benefit of nursing expertise. Good leaders will always be ready to answer your questions and will never make you feel awkward for asking. They know that it’s always smart to be on the safe side. They will, however, also encourage you to think for yourself and to recognize when you can be confident in your own decisions, helping you to get better and better at operating independently as your own expertise increases.

Breadth of understanding

When it comes to expertise, the nature of nursing as a holistic discipline means that it takes time to get beyond being good at specific tasks and develop the broad understanding necessary to excel in the field. This is one of the reasons why nurses are routinely obliged or encouraged to move around and work in different areas. And as you do so, you will have leaders who you can turn to when you need access to that broader perspective. This is important in all sorts of contexts because real patients are not like the ones you might see on television hospital dramas. They rarely present with just one set of straightforward symptoms. They have complex medical histories and individual social and emotional needs, and all these things need to be taken into account when providing them with treatment. As you support them through their interaction with medical services, your leaders will support you and make sure that you are looking at the whole picture, and not missing any pieces that could undermine your ability to give them everything they need.

Hierarchy and security

As well as helping you to give your patients what they need, and reducing the risk of mistakes, the existence of leadership hierarchies within a medical setting means that it’s always clear who is responsible for what. This means that you should always know what tasks belong to you and when you should be turning to somebody else for advice or assistance. It means that if a mistake is made, the right person will answer for it, and you won’t run the risk of being blamed for something that wasn’t your fault. This is vital because it enables you to act with confidence and, where it is necessary and appropriate, to take difficult decisions without the fear that you are putting your own future at risk. The system is designed to protect you because even in the event of an unfortunate mishap, it’s vital that skilled staff remain in place to support other patients.

Motivation and morale

Coping with the strain placed on healthcare services by an aging population – and adding to that the demand created by the COVID-19 pandemic – has put nurses under a lot of stress over the past few years. It’s during times such as these that good leadership in nursing matters most of all. Leaders do much more than just organize and advise their teams. They are the people who take it upon themselves to keep up the spirits of the team and all its individual members. These kinds of skills can be developed with the help of nursing leadership courses such as the one offered by Walsh University.

Nursing leaders are there to help and advocate for their colleagues. They will restore your courage, reminding you of what you’re capable of and why it matters. They will help you recover your perspective so that failures don’t cause you to lose sight of successes. They will remind you just how much you are contributing to the world by working as a nurse. To your patients, you’re a superhero, and when you feel like a nobody, your leaders will be there to help you reclaim that superhero identity. Their skills make all the difference when you’re up against it, and because of them, even a team full of tired, struggling individuals can become more than the sum of its parts.

Improving your leadership skills

Not everybody is cut out for leadership, but if you think that you might have what it takes, then there are plenty of opportunities in nursing for you to develop your skills. Everybody is encouraged to give it a try, if only by having temporary charge of some of the latest crop of newcomers as they put their new skills into practice for the first time. Most people find that there’s a level at which they are naturally comfortable, whether that’s with a small team where they can get to know everyone really well, or at the helm of a big organization where they can bring about policy change. The important thing is to be able to find the level that is right for you, and your leaders should always be ready to help you take the next step in that process, ensuring that you have access to the education and training necessary to develop your skills.

A journey of self-improvement

Virtually no profession invests as much in the ongoing education and training of its personnel as nursing. From the very first day you step out onto the ward until the day you retire, you will be on a journey designed to help you make the very best of your potential, including your leadership skills. This isn’t just about academic activity, however. It’s very much a part of the day to day, as you observe how established leaders do their jobs and you learn how to get better at handling the responsibility you are given for others. No amount of academic accomplishment can stand alone without the skills acquired in this way, especially as nursing is a profession that’s very much rooted in the practical. By engaging fully with these day-to-day opportunities, you can progress much more quickly toward achieving your leadership ambitions, and you can put yourself in a position to do a much better job when you get there.

Without good leaders, nursing would not be the exciting, proficient, and rewarding field that it is, and if you want to ensure that it keeps going strong, then investing in the development of your own leadership skills is a great way to do that. Take advantage of available mentoring. Learn from what you see done well and from what might have been done better. Keep asking questions, and don’t let yourself get set in your ways, as it is always possible to improve. Work to become the kind of leader your profession needs.

Ultimately, nursing is about caring for patients, and patients know good leadership when they see it. It gives them confidence and helps them to relax even during traumatic events in their lives. Leadership is part of how nurses provide care, and by continually striving to improve it, the profession can prepare for whatever the future may hold.

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