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How to Be a Great Nurse Leader

This is a guest post from one of our amazing NurseGrid Ambassadors, Ellyn Wirth, BSN, RN. Find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Being a great nurse leader isn’t something you do; it’s something you are. And effective management style has a big impact on nurse retention. As a nurse and a leader, one must be hardworking, compassionate, organized, and in control, leading by example and not just with words.

Nurse leaders can play many different roles. The nurse leader might be an educator, a preceptor, a clinical leader, a charge nurse, a manager, an administrator, a director, or a CNO. A nurse with less experience can even find him or herself acting as a leader. Nursing is a second career for me. In my year and a half of nursing, I’ve worked in the ER, where I experience countless codes and traumas and have had a hand in helping to save the lives of patients of all different ages and backgrounds. Currently, I work in a vascular thoracic surgical ICU step-down floor in a very large, busy hospital. Newer nurses often come to me with questions or for advice, and I’m always glad to help. I can’t wait to become a preceptor and hopefully someday a charge nurse. I’m very passionate about nursing and patient education, and I plan to get my master’s degree and continue to advance my career.

For those interested in nursing leadership, be confident and don’t be afraid to emerge as a nurse leader early on in your career. Here are some more tips on how to be a great nurse leader from my own experience both being led by others as a new nurse and leading and giving advice myself:

Nursing Staff Engagement

  1. Be a great team player. A nurse leader needs to have charisma and the ability to get along with all types of people. In the nursing profession, you’ll work with people of all races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and genders. Have an open mind and be nonjudgmental; a leader can’t discriminate against anyone or play favorites.
  2. Stay educated. Make sure to advance your own education while encouraging your staff and colleagues to continue their own education in the field as well. Stay up to date on the most current evidence-based practice and research so you can be a resource for your nurses.
  3. Be flexible and adaptable. You definitely can’t be afraid of or unwilling to change. In nursing and healthcare, anything can change at any moment. Be creative in the way you approach things and use all available resources to solve any problems. You can be compassionate and empathize with patients and staff, but you also must keep your emotions in check. Stability is crucial in this field, especially for nurse leaders.
  4. Be dedicated to your role. Be dedicated to nursing, leadership, and your staff and colleagues. You play a vital role in supporting your staff, colleagues, and fellow leaders and administrators. Encouragement and engagement are vital to keeping morale high, and your staff will know if you’re not being genuine. A positive leader will create a positive, cohesive team dynamic.
  5. Be confident. You need to be able to analyze a situation and make solid decisions, often in a quick, high-pressure situation. Good communication is key among all nurses, including nurse leaders. Nursing staff will look to their leaders for constant guidance and direction.
  6. Model with your actions, not just your words. You can set the tone and raise the bar of the unit, so as a leader, try to exemplify everything you want a nurse on your unit to be.

Nurse leaders are paving the way for the future of nursing and patient care in America. We need our best, brightest, and strongest to lead the way within nursing--and hopefully help us get more nurses into leadership positions across healthcare, which we desperately need.

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