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Identifying Nurse Leaders

According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), over 500,000 seasoned RNs are expected to retire by 2022, with turnover in nurse leadership of particular concern. Although there are many reasons these nurse leaders may leave their current position, such as retirement or other career opportunities, what is certain is that their departure will increase opportunities for up-and-coming nurses. With this growing need for qualified nurse leaders, organizations will need to quickly identify potential candidates and groom them for future roles. Often staff members do not recognize the leadership qualities they possess until someone takes the time to point them out. What qualities make a good nurse leader more successful than their counterparts?

Proactive and Have Foresight

As with most industries, nurse leaders must be able to see the larger picture and world of healthcare. Although they may have been experts in their prior positions, those in nursing leadership positions must have the foresight to see what changes may come and how those changes fit into the bigger picture of healthcare administration. Successful nurse leaders recognize trends and understand how policy change will affect nursing staff and patients. They are proactive in planning how to behave in the new environment instead of just responding to changes as they happen.

Team Players

Effective nurse leaders understand that in order for healthcare to be successful, it takes multiple interdisciplinary members working together to be efficient. Gone are the days of authoritative rule and dictatorships. With so many facets affected with every aspect of managerial decision-making, nurses in leadership positions must be able to function efficiently and seamlessly with other leaders. Nurse leaders must also partner with entities outside of their own workplace in order to provide care that protects the safety of their communities. Teams of forward-thinking nurses will be in the forefront of efficient and prosperous healthcare systems.

Effective Communicators

Not only do nurse leaders need to be able to communicate well with their team, but they also need to be able to effectively communicate with non-medical personnel. Healthcare management teams consist of experts in technology, finance and human resources, and lead nurses need to be able to efficiently and clearly communicate among these team members to ensure appropriate decisions are made. Nurse leaders need to be powerful, yet succinct, in their message, both verbally and written, while also having empathy and the ability to listen to others’ needs, concerns and ideas.


It is rarely a smooth road to a nursing leadership position; therefore, resilience will be necessary to have the stamina to stay the course. Changes will inevitably come, and not all plans will work as anticipated; however, the resilient nurse leaders will have the tools to overcome and transcend the challenges for success.

Financially Savvy

Although many nurses do not like to think of healthcare as a business, a good nurse leader recognizes that finances contribute to many of the decisions that are made in modern healthcare. A nurse leader needs to recognize the financial implications decisions make on the bottom line if they want an organization to be able to care for patients safely and efficiently.

The challenge for current institutions is to identify and foster the nurse leaders of tomorrow. These nurses will not necessarily resemble previous leadership, as they will be required to be multi-faceted and better equipped to meet the increasing challenges of an ever-changing healthcare system.

Learn about the UT Arlington online MSN in Nursing Administration program.

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