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Assessing the Professional Development Needs of Experienced Nurse Executive Leaders

Leach, Linda Searle PhD, RN, NEA-BC, CNL; McFarland, Patricia MSN, RN, FAAN

Journal of Nursing Administration: January 2014 - Volume 44 - Issue 1 - p 51–62
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0000000000000021

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to identify the professional development topics that senior nurse leaders believe are important to their advancement and success.

BACKGROUND: Senior/experienced nurse leaders at the executive level are able to influence the work environment of nurses and institutional and health policy. Their development needs are likely to reflect this and other contemporary healthcare issues and may be different from middle and frontline managers. A systematic way of assessing professional development needs for these nurse leaders is needed.

METHODS: A descriptive study using an online survey was distributed to a convenience sample of nurse leaders who were members of the Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL) or have participated in an ACNL program.

RESULTS: Visionary leadership, leading complexity, and effective teams were the highest ranked leadership topics. Leading change, advancing health: The future of nursing, healthy work environments, and healthcare reform were also highly ranked topics.

CONCLUSIONS: Executive-level nurse leaders are important to nurse retention, effective work environments, and leading change. Regular assessment and attention to the distinct professional development needs of executive-level nurse leaders are a valuable human capital investment.

Author Affiliations: Assistant Professor (Dr Leach), School of Nursing/UCLA Health System Patient Safety Institute, University of California Los Angeles; CEO (Ms McFarland), Association of California Nurse Leaders, Sacramento.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Dr Leach, UCLA School of Nursing, 700 Tiverton Ave, Factor Bldg 3-234, Los Angeles, CA 90095-6917 (

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins