4 Steps You Need To Become a Nurse Leader

Medical Team Lead by a Male Nurse Leader

Are you interested in becoming a nurse leader but don’t how to get started?

If you’re interested in leadership positions in nursing but never heard of a nurse leader, you’re not alone.  A Nurse Leader is a fairly new position and differs from a nurse manager. Nurse Managers are involved in detailed patient care planning, oversee staff schedules, are considered a resource for staff, and ensures staff carries out duties. Nurse leaders focus on patient quality care and to oversee the safety outcomes of patients.  This means making sure healthcare facility standards and protocols are being met, developing policies,  and supervising the nursing team to ensure the patient is receiving adequate care.   They also work in various departments i.e. Pediatrics, Dermatology, and lead a team of nurses in their department.

According to Regis College, there are about nine qualities essential to nursing leadership, emotional intelligence, integrity, critical thinking, communication, and professional socialization, respect, mentorship, professionalism, and dedication to excellence. Even before you become a nurse leader, there are steps you can take to gain these essential qualities.

Here are four steps to take to become a Nurse Leader:

Get A Mentor

 Finding a nurse leader with leadership abilities you admire and observe their actions; how they communicate with staff and patients, resolve conflicts, and handle stressful situations. 

Having a mentor allows a potential nurse leader to get an inside look at what they’ll be doing as a nurse leader in their department. Also, mentors provide professional socialization, personal support, and can help connect potentials to other nurse managers/leaders or supervisor.  Mentors can also give you pointers, advice, and criticism during your pre -leader stage.

Essential Skills Learned: Professional Socialization, Integrity, Respect

Volunteer for Leadership Positions

Want to build leadership skills? Why not volunteer?  As a nurse leader, you must connect with those around you, set standards, and lead a team of nurses.   By volunteering to lead discussions or mentoring new nurses, you’re able to build on those experiences. Volunteering in small leadership positions gives you the opportunity to expand your network, gain new insight on what it means to lead.  

Essential Skills Learned: emotional intelligence, critical thinking, mentorship, communication, professionalism, and dedication to excellence.

Take Leadership Training Courses

As a nurse leader, management, nurses and patients look to you for knowledge and experience, especially when delivering patient quality care. This is for all nurses, continuing education whether its leadership courses, webinars, or workshops is important for nurses to keep up to date with the latest care and treatment.

As a nurse leader, must help develop new guidelines and protocols, training, and education courses on healthcare policy are important to make sure you’re equipped to help those in need. Nurse Leaders can learn about what new protocols are in place at various facilities and communicate about the best way to handle patient care in certain specialty departments.  Webinars and Workshops allow nurse leaders to interact with other leaders, learn and improve their leadership skills.

Webinars and Books/Papers on Nursing Leadership

Essential Skills Learned: professional socialization, respect, and dedication to excellence.

Making Plans and Goals

Making a plan and goals allows you to build on your strengths and view your weakness. It’s best to write what you plan to accomplish during the time before you become a nurse leader and during. This allows you to set concrete goals for yourself and develop a plan of action; write where you see yourself in a year or in five years plan is 

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is it you want to accomplish now?
  • How will you reach that goal? 
  • Who do you have to connect with to do so?
  • What skills do you need to accomplish this?

 Look at yourself and decide what kind of leader you would like to become.

One of the nurse leader skills is strategic planning, developing a plan to help you understand your own skills and assess potential challenges

Creating a Plan That Includes:

  • How to deal with regulatory compliance and  taking on fiscal responsibilities 
  • What training you need to accomplish these goals 
  • How to deliver patient Care
  • What’s needed for Patient and Staff Care
  • How to create a facility and patient-friendly initiatives
  • Past Strategic Plans that worked v. your future plans

Note: Keep your notes, not only to reflect but for when you become a mentor. 

Essential Skills Learned: integrity, critical thinking, and dedication to excellence.

We’ve reached the end, you’ve decided that becoming a nurse leader is right for you, but you have one more question.

What credentials do you need?

To become a nurse leader, you must be a nurse i.e. RN and have leadership abilities. If you plan on becoming a Clinical Nurse Leader (CLN), a leader that offers direct patient services and addresses the critical needs of patients. A nurse leader is any nurse that assumes leadership, it can be formal or informal CLNs are required to sit in for a 140 question exam on the nursing leadership, clinical outcomes management, and care environment.  Both roles focus on the needs of patients and leadership, but CNL focuses on the effects of individual care plans.

These are the four steps to take to become a Nurse leader, essential quality skills included. Let us know if you have questions or have another step, you’d like to add.

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About the author

Joycelyn Ghansah

Joycelyn Ghansah is a former Healthcare Organizer with a background public health, include reproductive and sexual health. When she's not freelance writing, she's transcribing interviews and researching ways to strengthen healthcare labor laws.

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