Although nurses make numerous independent judgments throughout the day in order to deliver optimum patient care, they do operate within a team framework and professional hierarchy at clinics and hospitals. Because cooperation helps health care professionals offer better care, the positive effects of leadership on nursing practice relate not only to enhanced outcomes for patients, but also to a more collaborative and effective workplace. Growing leadership among nurses is a long-term goal, and somewhat unpredictable, because hospitals and health care professionals can’t necessarily predict what the future climate will be, according to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.
Practical Application of Leadership
The RN.com article, “Development of Skills, Behavior, and Leadership for Charge Nurse Positions,” states that nurse leaders assist with assessing, planning and implementing patient care. Example titles of nurse leaders might include “team leader,” “charge nurse” and “assistant manager.” In practice, nurse leadership might involve mentoring new nurses, prioritizing staffing needs and contributing to budget development. When needed, lead nurses might also contribute to disciplinary decisions.
Creating a Healthful Work Environment
One positive effect of leadership on nursing practice is that it contributes to an overall healthful work environment, according to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. In 2004, the Nursing Organizations Alliance created a list of nine components that contribute to a positive health care work environment, several of which are leadership-oriented. Collaboration and communication facilitate better decision-making, and accountability reinforces the goal of positive outcomes while affirming nurses who consistently deliver results. Expert, credible leadership, appropriate staffing and shared decision-making also made the list. Other factors included professional development opportunities and recognizing nurses for their leadership and contributions.
Building Relationships Through Leadership
The International Journal of Nursing Studies states that not all types of leadership promote positive effects on nursing practice. Some types of leadership were detrimental to overall health care quality and workplace environment. For example, laissez faire or “hands-off” leadership approaches didn’t lead to positive effects. Transactional leadership styles, those that are dependent on external factors instead of relationships, also led to negative effects. In contrast, leadership styles that focused on building relationships among colleagues led to positive outcomes. Relationship-focused leadership occurs when nurses identify common goals or objectives and work on them together to facilitate achievement. Positive outcomes of relationship-focused leadership might include better job satisfaction among nurses, lower turnover rates and better performance.
Leadership as a Team Sport
In the New York Times article, "When Nursing is a Team Sport," Theresa Brown, a registered nurse, writes about the role of collaboration and teamwork in an effective health care environment. Cooperation, checklists and team support play at least as much of a role in effective health care as individual effort. Lead nurses may coordinate the efforts of other health care professionals based on their own expertise and assessments of the situation. When opinions differ about treatment care options, or when ego intervenes, nursing leaders can gently guide the conversation or discussion back to the best interests of the patient.
- The New York Times: When Nursing is a Team Sport
- RN.com: Development of Skills, Behavior, and Leadership for Charge Nurse Positions
- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Leadership Styles and Outcome Patterns for the Nursing Workforce and Work Environment: A Systematic Review
- The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Growing Future Nurse Leaders to Build and Sustain Healthy Work Environments at the Unit Level
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