5 Winning Strategies for Thoughtful Nurse Leaders

By Keith Carlson via Multibriefs

Nurse leaders face a challenging environment in today's world of healthcare and nursing. Rapidly changing technology, a volatile economic healthcare climate and other seismic shifts point to ways in which nurse leaders must be willing to pivot when necessary while offering strong support to the nurses whom they supervise and lead.

While not a panacea, these five strategies can assist nurse leaders in keeping their eyes on both the micro and macro as they navigate the choppy waters of 21st-century nursing and healthcare.

1. Listen closely

According to an old saying, we have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. The thoughtful nurse leader does more listening than talking, constantly taking the pulse and assessing the needs and frustrations of the team on an ongoing basis.

Nurses can often feel like silent martyrs to a system over which they have little to no influence. The nurse leader sees the nurses on her team as her eyes and ears, and she listens closely, taking the value of nurses' opinions and feelings at face value. In all cases, listening is an act of courageous leadership.

2. Serve as a bridge

The conscientious nurse leader serves as a bridge between staff nurses and executive leadership. After listening to staff nurses, the nurse leader distills the collected data for those further up the organizational hierarchy. The nurse leader can represent the needs and challenges of the nursing staff, conveying their messages to administration in language that translates across any perceived divide.

Acknowledging the tightrope of such a position, the skillful nurse leader bridges the gap between staff and administration, taking both sides into consideration while advocating strongly on behalf of nurses on the floor.

3. Advocate for nurses

When faced with bureaucracy, the thoughtful nurse leader finds a path that allows her to understand the concerns or objections of administration while strongly advocating for the needs of staff nurses.

Although the nurse leader may more clearly see the economic realities faced by the employing facility than nurses working on staff, she still advocates for that which will most benefit nurses and patients in the bigger picture.

4. Never compromise on safety

While understanding the aforementioned economic realities, the conscientious nurse leader will never allow nurse safety to be compromised. When faced with policies that put nurses or patients at risk, the strong nurse leader is a fierce advocate, choosing to defend the need to keep both nurses and patients safe.

5. Zero tolerance for bullying

With bullying (also known as lateral or horizontal violence) rampant in nursing, the dedicated nurse leader has a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior. When a bully is identified, the nurse leader gathers data, intervenes impactfully and works to legally and ethically remove the aberrant staff member from duty.

Bullying undermines workplace culture and contributes to burnout, and the decisive nurse leader gives no quarter for nurse bullies.

While this list may not be comprehensive, it offers conscientious nurse leaders the beginnings of a blueprint for creating a positive workplace culture and unequivocally supporting, and advocating for, hard-working, dedicated nurses. The recipe for successful nurse leadership is complex, and thoughtful nurse leaders must be prepared for that complexity.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has been a nurse since 1996. He is the blogger behind the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and a widely read freelance nurse writer. Keith is also the co-host of RNFM Radio, a popular Internet radio station devoted to the nursing profession. Under the auspices of Nurse Keith Coaching, Keith's passion is helping nurses and healthcare professionals create ultimate satisfaction in both their personal and professional lives.


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