Role of Leadership in Nursing

Effective nurse leaders can influence policy in their workplace.
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Nursing leadership is not synonymous with nurse management. However, most nurse managers are required to exhibit leadership skills as part of their daily responsibilities. If you are working as a nurse manager, you might wonder what type of roles your leadership plays in your specific facility and beyond.

Logistical Responsibilities

Part of the role of registered nurse leadership involves completing specific logistical responsibilities. The most time consuming in many facilities is scheduling of employees. Since most nursing inpatient facilities operate 24/7, you have to contend with many variables. If you're in a nursing leadership role you may also need to communicate with human resources about organizing and supporting professional development and training and even negotiate with union officials about grievances and contracts.

Patient Advocacy

In many inpatient care facilities, including almost all hospitals, the nurse manager is the most senior member of the patient service team during hours when the the patient advocacy office is not staffed. This means the nurse manager is the employee patients and their family members can go to for resolution of a complaint or to negotiate a specific privilege. For example, night-time nurse managers are often asked to address questions of a family member who wants to stay overnight with a patient on a unit where that is not normally permitted.

Explaining Nurse Roles

Because patients and their family members, as well as the general public, don't really understand the culture of healthcare, hospitals are foreign environments and it is a common nursing leadership role to explain to families what is within nursing practice and what is not. Nurse leaders may also need to address questions on a facility-wide matter, such as explaining to hospital administrators why it's not reasonable or safe to replace registered nurses with unlicensed assistive personnel for certain tasks.

Influencing Policy

Because nurses have knowledge of the microcosm of individual facility workings and also an understanding of the bigger picture of healthcare, nursing leaders are often asked to advise on public decisions, including general public health public policy and healthcare policy. Sometimes nursing leadership can help foresee that actions taken by government entities will negatively impact public health. For example, in 2012 the New York State Nurses Association wrote an open letter to New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg that may have been influential in helping cancel the NYC Marathon in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, citing lack of open hospital beds to adequately care for any injured runners.

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