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Nurses are indispensable healthcare workers serving the community. Although nurses are the ones who hold it all together, it’s not uncommon for them to feel like they aren’t appreciated or supported enough to land higher positions. Since nurses are essential players in every healthcare team, their roles and responsibilities keep expanding and evolving.

As a professional nurse, you’ll be aware of the mounting responsibilities and tasks you’re mandated to carry out daily. However, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your professional growth on the back burner. While it’s easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day work that you forget to take time to reflect on your career goals, with some intentional efforts, you can learn and develop leadership skills to transform yourself into a change agent.

The following tips will help you develop essential leadership skills to rise through the ranks.

1. Develop academic credentials

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Nursing is a constantly evolving field, and you must stay up-to-date on new developments to provide the highest quality care.

A post-master nursing certification can help you achieve that—it gives you access to additional education, training, and expertise so you can become an even better nurse and seek growth opportunities. Besides, the benefits of nursing certification are far and wide, such as updated knowledge, sharpened skills, higher pay rates, and more leadership opportunities.

You learn how to lead teams of nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals toward better patient care. Likewise, pursuing nursing certification instills skills such as emotional intelligence, team management, conflict resolution, problem-solving, and critical thinking– all of which are crucial to landing leadership roles.

2. Take on more responsibilities

To become an effective leader, look for opportunities within your current position or work environment that will allow you to take on more responsibility and grow as a nurse leader.

It might mean leading teams, mentoring new nurses, or even organizing patient discharge planning meetings in the hospital setting. In the outpatient setting, this could mean organizing patient follow-up appointments or helping patients find their way around when they feel overwhelmed by their condition or treatment plan.

To become a leader, you must take on challenging projects and tasks. After all, nurses eager to take on new job responsibilities are more likely to be promoted and become senior managers.

3. Find a mentor

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Looking up to a role model is one of the best ways to hone your nursing leadership skills. Nurse mentorship is a renowned endeavor taken on by several novice nurses striving for higher roles and positions.

An ideal nurse mentor has years of experience in the field and can offer guidance and advice on securing higher roles. They can help you find opportunities for advancement, too.

Your mentor could be a nurse currently working in your area or someone who works at a different facility but whose expertise is relevant to yours. It could be a peer, supervisor, or even someone outside the hospital who has experience working with nurses.

Formal mentorship programs are also available, but if you don’t have enough time or money, you can take on one-on-one coaching sessions or hire an outside consultant who specializes in helping new nurse leaders get off on the right foot.

4. Gain self-awareness

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Self-awareness allows you to unearth your skills and capabilities and take note of your weaknesses and shortcomings. How can you lead others if you aren’t aware of your strengths and weaknesses?

You must know about your strengths and weaknesses – identify areas you might need to improve while recognizing the skills you already have that make you a good leader.

One way to become self-aware is to ask yourself: What makes me feel understood? What do people say about me when they talk about my work? How do my emotions affect my decisions or communication?

Another way is to take time each day to reflect on how well you are doing as a leader. Ask yourself: Do I think I’m doing a good job leading this team? Do I feel like this team is working together well? If not, what can I do differently to improve the situation?

Also, spend some time thinking about how much support your team needs from you emotionally and professionally when it comes time for them to take the initiative.

5. Become business savvy

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Nurses are often promoted with minimal training or experience in leading others. And that makes sense: as a nurse, you already know how to care for people and make them feel better. But to become a leader, you’ll need more than just your clinical skills.

Transformational nursing leadership warrants business skills that can help you manage an entire department or hospital unit and ensure everyone achieves their intended goals.

Effective nursing leadership requires impeccable time management and resource utilization skills. Leading teams, managing and allocating resources, developing organizational goals, assessing outcomes, resolving conflicts, and building a vision are crucial tasks for nurse leaders.

The following will help you strengthen your business acumen.

  • Learn how to manage people – identify their skills and assign them tasks and work accordingly
  • Take courses on management and leadership. There are plenty of options if you’re looking for something specific. However, as mentioned above, nursing certifications are a worthwhile investment since they quickly help land higher roles.
  • Develop resource management skills. Resources entail not only materials and supplies but also human and intelligent resources.

Final words

Nursing leadership is an ever-expanding domain in the healthcare sector. New advancements and emerging trends increase nurses’ duties and responsibilities every year. While nurses were previously tasked with carrying out assistive roles, today, the paradigm is shifting. Nurses are readily taking on higher senior positions. If you’re striving to secure leadership positions in your organization, pay heed to how to get there. Begin by developing your academic credentials since it’s crucial to remain updated on new information and trends. Secondly, take on challenging duties and consider mentorship opportunities to grow professionally. Most importantly, gain self-awareness to identify your strengths and determine your weaknesses. And lastly, build business acumen since almost all healthcare organizations run on similar business functionalities.