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How to Become a Nurse Leader

Just like in other professions, nursing must have people who are in charge, ideally, these clinicians have natural leadership skills and finds themselves gravitating naturally towards leadership positions. As nursing has changed and members of the profession have assumed more responsibility beyond just assisting physicians, the position and responsibilities of nurse leader has become more common.

What a Nurse Leader Does

According to the University of New Mexico, “ It is the job of the nurse leader to guide nurses and ensure that they are adhering to high standards of quality and safety.” The same source offers that the nurse leader has three important responsibilities: (1) ensuring the safe delivery of care according to safety standards and professional protocols, (2) support evidence-based practice by their teams, involving saying current as care choices are driven by scientific advance, and (3) monitor patients and their progress to ensure that quality standards are always maintained.

Characteristics of a Nurse Leader

Maryville University offers that certain character traits offer advantages for nurses who want to advance into leadership positions. These attributes are effective for managers who need to be able to encourage staff in their efforts to achieve goals, inspire trust from subordinates, and be decisive in a way that supports high quality care. A personality predisposed for nursing leadership is:

  • Passionate about excellence
  • Effective at building relationships and inspiring trust
  • Confident in and decisive about improving nursing practice
  • Open to innovations that lead to better outcomes
  • Focused on data as a measure of performance
  • Committed to staff development, advancement, and satisfaction
  • Effective at communication with staff, leaders, and patients
  • Reliant on nursing best practices at all times

Becoming a Nurse Leader

RegisteredNursing.org advises that being a nurse leader requires “strong problem solving and critical thinking skills.” To occupy this position, a candidate is usually “an advanced clinician with education at the master's degree level.” Graduate level education, typically for an MSN degree, ensures that the nurse leader brings “a high level of clinical competence and knowledge to the point of care and also to serve as a resource for the entire nursing team.”

The same source offers that “In order to earn an MSN degree, nurses must first complete their Bachelor of Science degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. RNs may then advance to a Master's of Science Clinical Nurse Leader program, in which they will take advanced courses in pathophysiology, clinical assessment and pharmacology. The final step in becoming a clinical nurse leader is obtaining the CNL certification from the Commission on Nurse Certification.”

Helping Healthcare Organizations Develop New Nurse Leaders

The need for providers to develop new leaders is what inspired HealthStream to develop the Rising Nurse Leader Pathway, focused on every part of the effort to Identify and develop nurse leaders to address future leadership needs.

Many health care organizations struggle to maintain a consistent approach to leadership competency assessment and skill development that results in preparing the existing workforce for leadership. The Rising Nurse Leader Pathway begins with an assessment of a target population of nurses, their strengths and gaps are identified, followed by a recommended learning path. From there, organizations can pull from the library of nurse leadership development facilitator guides, to offer ongoing learning to further skills and confidence in their future leaders.

Identify your leadership participants using HealthStream’s Rising Leader Assessment and data visualization tools

  • Includes a library of 6 customizable nurse leadership development facilitator guides
  • Reduce costs associated with nurse turnover and selection and training of replacements
  • Next-generation data visualization tools including a 9-box planner and recommended courses
  • Designed for the full continuum of care, including acute care, post-acute care, physician offices, and pharmacies

HealthStream also offers the Frontline Leader Certificate Program from Sigma, formerly known as Sigma Theta Tau International. This evidence-based course will provide clinical charge nurses/frontline leaders with the knowledge and skills essential for their role. The program will enhance their ability to manage patient flow, manage conflict, concerns from patient, family, staff or interdepartmental colleagues, and managing staff performances.

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