Leadership in Nursing: An Essential Skill Set

NursingJanuary 12, 2014


The skill of leadership in nursing is essential no matter what nursing position you hold. In fact, a 2010 Institute of Medicine report entitled "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health" highlighted this very important skill set, stressing its necessity in dealing with our changing health system. For nurses and prospective nurses who wonder whether they already possess any leadership characteristics, this article discusses some commonly agreed upon leadership traits, and how these traits are important to the field of nursing. These traits are essential to leadership in nursing:

  • Passion: A nurse who is passionate about taking care of patients inspires his or her coworkers to have the same attitude.
  • Confidence: Other team members tend to rely more heavily on someone who is confident, and they often look to this person during uncertain times.
  • Collaboration: A collaborative individual has the ability to work well on a team of health care professionals, allowing each member to function at their own level.
  • Knowing the strengths of your team: If you are unsure that the current course of action is correct, you gain the respect of those around you by relying on someone whose instincts or knowledge is stronger than yours in a particular area. 
  • Persuasion: Sometimes a nurse has his or her own thoughts about how to better treat a particular patient. The nurse must be prepared to persuade the physician as to why the suggestions might work.
  • Negotiation: Nurses often deal with patients who are uncooperative for many reasons or perhaps the patient simply disagrees with the nurse. 
  • Integrity: Being honest and fair and adhering firmly to one's moral values is vital in gaining the respect of your coworkers. Your team must feel assured that you will always do the right thing, even when a decision is difficult. 

If you are a nurse, you probably already have some of these skills, and also know your strong points and those that could use improvement. Individuals who have very strong leadership skills often excel to positions of management within their organizations. While some people naturally have these traits, many of them can be learned. For resources on nursing leadership, you can visit the American Nurses Association's (ANA) Leadership Institute website. There, you will find seminars on leadership issues targeted at nurses within various stages of their careers. Their programs offer continuing nursing education credit as well.

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