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Top Tips to Build Nursing Leadership

Students in library studying

All too suddenly, after finishing their education and entering the workforce, new nurses find themselves in a “leadership moment” sometime after entering practice and building clinical skills. Subsequently, the nurse may be challenged to take on a formal leadership role, such as lead or charge nurse. Because leadership is a distinct competency that can and needs to be learned, both situations lean on nurse leadership and management as essential, foundational skills. Professional and accrediting bodies recognize this as core content. Thus, all nurses need a strong background in leadership and nursing care management lest they find themselves unprepared for inevitable challenging situations. Whether the situation revolves around staff conflicts, scarce resources, miscommunication, or other system issues, here are some helpful suggestions to guide the preparation of students in leadership and management:

Leadership and Management are Discrete Skills

The first step is to recognize that leadership and management are discrete skills and abilities that can and must be taught and learned. Certainly, clinical skills need to be acquired, but leadership and management skills need to co-occur in teaching and learning in order to fully prepare nurses for the complex and quickly changing environment in health care. The COVID-19 pandemic is an example of a sudden challenge requiring high levels of leadership and management knowledge, skills, and abilities to pivot quickly for effectiveness and patient safety.

The most valuable skills that graduate and undergraduate students will need in developing leadership knowledge, skills, and abilities are communication and relationship management, how to perform as a leader, systems and environmental awareness, business aspects, and nursing professionalism. These also are the five core competencies promulgated by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL/AONE), reflecting the consensus of the field about core competencies.

Core Principles to Leadership and Management in the Classroom

There have been a tremendous number of leadership and management theories over the years, but the core principles have stood the test of time and apply across disciplines. Many theories were generated in other disciplines such as business management yet apply when viewed through the lens of nursing as a service industry and nurses as human capital and front-line workers who deliver the core “product” of the organization. Nursing students and new nurses can be challenged to view their work and profession through this enlightened lens and to educate workplaces about their need to have control over the work process and work environment.

Faculty can better teach their students about what to expect in their present and future role as problem solvers in the environment of care delivery by incorporating evidence-based knowledge about leadership and management and then applying this as they address the context of care delivery. For example, the research shows us that shared governance is a core element of constructing an environment of achievement in nursing and is central to the Magnet Recognition Program™.

Adapting to Changes in Nursing Education

In Leadership and  Nursing Care Management 7th Edition, you will find selected examples of how leadership and management concepts can be used to challenge nurses’ critical thinking and clinical judgment, following the structure of the NCSBN’s Next Generation NCLEX® (NGN) initiative to revise the national nurse licensure exam. Instead of presenting clinical scenarios where the nurse may be asked to evaluate the use of medications or other therapies, the NGN case studies in this edition use leadership and management situations to challenge thinking and judgment. This highlights how nurses have a dual professional role: caregivers (clinical) and care coordinators (leadership and management). Both aspects need to be taught and learned for effectiveness.

In addition, this updated book provides a foundation and roadmap for the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s (AACN) 2021 The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education educational framework for nurse preparation in 4-year colleges and universities. The new Essentials emphasize systems-based practice in integrated healthcare systems and needed nurse care coordination. This text directly addresses The Essentials’ Domain #7: Systems-Based Practice and applies to related threads throughout the ten domains that are needed for nurse education in the 21st century.