How to Become an Effective Nurse Leader

Nurse leaders are on the frontlines of patient advocacy.
Nurse leaders are on the frontlines of patient advocacy. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Nurse leaders must manage staff and work systems to meet the needs of patients. Those who are able to successful perform this balancing act understand the responsibilities of their leadership roles, continuously develop and enhance their communication skills, reduce conflict and build team camaraderie. While the role of a nurse leader varies by health care setting, they all set expectations for their staff, provide the support the staff need to meet their expectations, hold staff accountable for their performance, follow policies and procedures and serve as deliverer of information to and from the management and nursing staff.

Delegate tasks accordingly and follow-up with nursing staff. A nurse leader does not have to do things himself to make sure tasks are performed correctly. Delegating tasks can be an effective way for nurse leaders to tend to clients who have needs that are complex. Before delegating the care of a patient to a member of the nursing staff, a nurse leader should consider the condition and needs of the patient, how the patient may respond to care and the likelihood of adverse outcomes. Then the nurse leader should evaluate the skills and abilities needed to care for the individual and determine which nurse has the experience and competence to handle the patient.

Communicate effectively. Leading a team of nurses can be likened to conducting an orchestra. Just like musicians count on conductor to lead and guide them through a piece of music, nursing staff look to the nurse leader to guide them as they work with patients and grow in their careers. Additionally, clear communication promotes workplace safety and helps reduce medical errors. Effective nurse leaders guide staff in the right direction by letting them know how to accomplish tasks, the information a staff member needs to report and the deadline for reports, how to seek clarification about patient care and how the staff member should respond in an emergency. While communicating, a nurse leader should always take into account distractions that can create a communication barrier between patients and staff, as well as preferences and communication styles that differ among different cultures, generations and genders.

Provide feedback. It is hard for staff to grow and improve without knowing where they were strong, what to change or how to improve. After observing a staff member, a nurse leader should evaluate if there was a better way to meet the patient’s needs, if the nurse need to change the care plan and the learning moments the staff and nurse leader can take into consideration. Nurse leaders should also provide positive feedback whenever appropriate.

Build team camaraderie. Nurse leaders should create an environment that allows teamwork to take place. Nurses in leadership positions play important roles in staff retention, effectiveness and productivity as the leader is generally the only stable force in the midst of 12-hour shifts, new patient assignments and ever-changing team members on the same shift. A lead nurse should always be accessible to staff and at the front line of the patient care provided. A nurse leader can build team synergy by sharing the vision of the facility, building trust among the staff, redistributing heavy workloads and by clearly defining team member's roles and responsibilities.

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