Nurses serve in a variety of professional leadership positions, from administrators and unit managers to chief nursing officers and hospital board members. Today, the challenges of leading in an increasingly complex health care environment are great; therefore, nurses need to take every opportunity to develop and hone their leadership qualities and skills. The question for every nurse—no matter the stage of her or his education or career—is: Are you the best leader you can be?
The Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health made a series of recommendations about the role of nurses in the future of U.S. health care. The recommendations included a call to the health care system to “prepare and enable nurses to lead change to advance health,” with the development of leadership programs and increased opportunities to lead.1
Nurses with strong leadership and management skills are better prepared to serve individuals and their families and the community, and to collaborate with colleagues. Some nurses acquire these skills on the job within their health care organizations or as representatives of their organizations in the community. Others pursue higher education, such as a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree, or a clinical specialty certification. No matter the pathway or the desired role, nurses who seek greater professional involvement develop a deeper sense of their own authority and of the leadership they can provide throughout the course of their careers. It's not just a matter of whether a nurse is a leader, but whether a nurse develops and exercises leadership skills.
Learning on the job or in the classroom are two ways to acquire these skills. However, many organizations have created programs to empower nurses to become leaders in health care.
Table 1 lists a sample of nurse leadership programs for nursing students and professional nurses. These programs are supported by a variety of professional organizations, universities, state associations, and other groups. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsors several nursing leadership programs with the goal of addressing broader health care issues, such as workforce development and improved quality of care. For a selection of nursing resources, go to http://links.lww.com/AJN/A55.
Whether you're a nursing student thinking about your future career, a staff nurse interested in professional growth, a nurse manager seeking to develop a toolbox of problem-solving and leadership skills, or an executive looking to make the next career move, a leadership program is a step toward becoming the best leader you can be.
1. Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine. The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health
. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 2011. http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12956