A nurse leader is a position of exceptional responsibility. Nurse leaders oversee a team of nurses and make key decisions on patient care as they work tirelessly to improve patient outcomes. Their responsibilities can include staying up to date on the latest developments in medical research, ordering diagnostic tests, and overseeing community health initiatives.

It can take a considerable amount of dedication and hard work to become a nurse leader, and this will include additional study to help provide the knowledge and skills for this responsible position. Further nursing degrees can be undertaken at universities across the country, and there is also the option of online study, with the best online courses rivaling anything that the physical programs can offer, including the arrangements of high-quality clinical placements.

For those who opt for an online program, a good option can be found at Walsh University. The university’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs prepares nurses for leadership in nursing through courses that allow them to gain advanced nursing knowledge and the strategic mindset that they will need as they prepare to take on leadership roles. As well as gaining qualifications, there are also a number of other skills that nurses should be keen to develop if they intend to rise to the senior levels of their profession, including the following five key skills.

  1. Good communication

A nurse leader needs to be a skilled communicator, able to deliver instructions to their team that will be quickly and easily understood even in a busy hospital environment. They must also be able to actively listen to the information delivered by their colleagues and process it effectively. Additionally, they will need to communicate effectively with patients and their families. This requires particular skills as they will be talking to people who may be feeling very ill, in pain, frightened and vulnerable, making it particularly hard for them to fully take in the information communicated to them. The nurse leader must be patient and sympathetic in their communication, while also making sure that the information is conveyed as clearly as possible.

A further role of the nurse leader that also requires excellent communication skills is that of an educator, working with students and new nurses to ensure that the next generation of nurses get their careers off to the best possible start.

  1. Decision-making

The day of a nurse leader is full of decisions, some big and some small. Often, these decisions will need to be made quickly and at times of high pressure. Of course, some of these decisions will be highly significant, perhaps being quite literally a matter of life and death. A nurse leader needs to be able to make these decisions quickly and calmly, no matter how stressful the situation.

Nurse leaders will also need to make decisions that have long-term implications for practice and policies at their workplace, so they will need good critical thinking skills to be able to consider all the relevant information to make sure that their decisions result in the best possible outcome for patients and colleagues.

  1. Conflict management

In a high-pressure medical environment, it is inevitable that there will be conflicts. These might occur between different members of the nursing team or between nurses and other medical staff. The nurse leader needs to be effective in managing these, bringing resolutions that will restore a positive working environment without leaving any colleague feeling hard done by or unvalued.

There may also be conflict with patients or their families that will require considerable tact to resolve. These will be people feeling frightened and vulnerable, desperate for good news, and they may get angry if they feel that there is inaction or they think that the clinical decisions are wrong. A nurse leader will need to find ways to resolve these, while still providing reassurance for the patients.

  1. Organizational skills

Anyone becoming a nurse leader will need good organizational skills to maintain the smooth running of their team and deliver the best possible patient outcomes. This skillset will cover a number of areas from the admin involved through to the rapid changes that may be required in the event of something unexpected occurring.

As well as managing others, the nurse leader also has to be able to manage and motivate themselves. Part of this will be self-care – they will need to keep themselves in the best possible physical and mental state in order to be able to help both the rest of their team and their patients.

  1. Adaptability

When a nurse leader starts work for the day, they are unlikely to be able to predict what will happen in the day ahead and so they need to be ready for whatever is thrown at them.

As well as the sudden changes that the nurse leader will need to adapt to throughout the day, there are also more managed changes that the nurse leader will need to deal with. Research into new treatments, medicines, and clinical practices means that the world of nursing is continually evolving, and the nurse leader needs to be ready to implement these changes. Those who have been working in the field for a long time will be able to describe how much nursing has changed throughout their career, and the nurse leader will need to help their colleagues prepare and adapt to the changes as they come.

As these new treatments and practices come in, the nurse leader will have to become familiar with them, learning how they will work. They need to be prepared for a lifetime of learning and a willingness to develop new skills.

Becoming a nurse leader

While these are some of the key attributes needed to be a nurse leader, this list is very far from exhaustive, with many of the skills needed generally for nursing such as compassion, empathy, and dedication being ever more important for leadership roles. For those keen to advance their career into a nurse leader role, a lot of hard work lies ahead, but so does a highly rewarding, fulfilling career.