If you're currently working as a staff nurse and feel like you're ready for a bigger role, becoming a nurse leader could be a great option. Maybe you're already feeling like a leader on the floor or have been told that you would make a great leader. This is all well and good, but you also have to know what the day of a nurse leader is like and what will be expected of you. You also have to be ready for the amount of work it takes to get there. Let's take a look at what you'll need to do if you want to become a nurse leader.
The first thing you’ll need to do is check if you have the skills and character needed to be a good nurse leader. One of the most important traits of all leaders is accountability. Leaders can accept responsibility when they do something wrong. If you're not afraid to be confronted on the floor because you've made a mistake and can still manage to have the confidence needed to do your work and take initiative, this is a sign that you could be a great nurse leader.
Nurse leaders need to be adaptable too. The world of nursing and healthcare changes all the time, and it can get chaotic. These changes can affect procedures, work conditions, quality of care, or the facility as a whole. You might be less happy with some changes, but you still need to be able to work around them and make the best out of the situation.
Leaders are great team builders and have great decision-making skills. They can easily identify someone's strengths and weaknesses and what they can expect from the people on their team. This allows them to delegate tasks better, adjust their communication styles depending on who they're working with, and know everyone's limits.
Being able to make good decisions quickly is also a defining trait for any leader. Nurse leaders sometimes have to make life or death situations in an instant and that comes with a lot of pressure. If you’ve always been able to keep a level head in the line of fire, this is another sign that you could be a good leader.
Nurse leaders today also need to develop technology skills. Systems are becoming more complex by the minute and nurse leaders need to understand technologies their staff is using like Clinical Decision Support (CDS), Electronic Health Records, and biometric support, among others.
Volunteering for leadership roles may not pay the bills, but it will help you know more about yourself and see if nurse leadership is truly for you. Another thing you could do is try to find a position as a charge nurse.
If you're a registered nurse, you will typically need to have at least three to five years of experience working in a clinical setting to work as a charge nurse. If you don’t have the experience yet and want to set yourself to be a good candidate, it would be a good idea to build expertise in a particular specialty so you'll be equipped to be in charge of specialized departments.
You should also start looking at the different nurse leader roles that you could fill. Nurse leadership is very broad, and you could work as a clinical nurse leader or as an executive. The roles you pick will influence what type of certifications and education you’ll need to get. Your functions will also be different, as will the type of setting you’ll be working in.
If you still want to stay close to patients, then becoming a clinical nurse leader might be the best option for you. But, if you want to make a difference in the profession as a whole or have a direct hand in improving your organization and its processes, you will need to look at executive roles.
You have to be ready to do the work to get to executive positions, however. If you want to become a chief nursing officer or a nursing executive, for instance, you’ll need to get at least a master’s, though a DNP is usually recommended. This is a significant commitment and it can be a tough proposition for anyone who’s working and has many responsibilities.
One thing you could do, however, is get your credentials online. You could go to a University like Baylor and follow one of their online DNP leadership programs, for example. Online DNP leadership programs allow you to get your credentials faster and more conveniently. You'll get plenty of clinical assignments to help you apply your theoretical skills in a real-life environment. Being able to follow classes from wherever you are will make it easier to juggle your work, studies, and life obligations.
It's also very important that you learn how to build relationships in this business. Networking with other professionals in the industry will allow you to gain more insights and find new approaches. You might be introduced to new concepts or coming changes in the industry and always stay ahead of the curve.
Another thing you should do is try to find a mentor. They can sit down with you and see if nurse leadership is truly the best path for you. They will then be able to guide you towards valuable resources and find opportunities for you.
The best place to find a mentor is in your organization. Look for nurses you admire who are already working as leaders. Take note of how they manage relationships, resolve conflicts, and empower others. Ask them for advice on where you could improve. You should also ask them how they manage tough situations. A mentor will be able to give you constructive criticism and real-world wisdom you'll never be able to get from a textbook.
This is what you'll need to do if you want to qualify for nursing leadership roles. Take the time to learn what a nurse leader truly is and take the steps necessary to get the qualifications needed.
The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.
To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.