nursing leaders

Being able to live a healthy lifestyle and take care of ourselves is something that we all know is important. Due to this, having access to the most up-to-date information on medical news and developments in the health sector is crucial. But what happens when you fall ill and need the services of trained medical professionals to help you recover? 

In this case, there are many hard-working professionals in the healthcare industry who play a pivotal role. Nurses are one of the best examples and have a front-line responsibility for delivering excellent care to patients. 

However, modern nursing does not simply encompass front-line care in a clinical sense – it is also a much more varied career to follow and is therefore enduringly popular with those looking to work in health. Nursing leadership positions are a case in point – but what are they, what settings can nurse leaders work in, and what are the different roles open to these professionals? 

What are nursing leaders?

Nursing leaders are highly trained professionals in the nursing sector who work at a senior level. They are responsible for helping to drive the nursing sector forward and set a clear direction for it to follow. 

Leaders in nursing also have a responsibility for maintaining professional standards either within their specific facility/department or on a broader scale across the sector. They will also take great care to find ways to improve professional standards within nursing. 

These senior-level nursing professionals are usually tasked with fostering innovation within the industry and setting an example for those they lead in terms of ethics and behavior. People at this level of the industry are also crucial in terms of inspiring and educating the next generation of nurses.

What do you need to move into nursing leadership roles?

If you like the sound of becoming a nurse leader, this is a great career to think about pursuing. But how do you go about it? 

To begin with, you would need to gain your basic qualifications to become a registered nurse and then go on to study for further awards that qualify you to work at this senior level. The first step is enrolling on a suitable master’s program, and you must then carry on to study on a doctoral nursing course. 

Spring Arbor University’s online DNP degree program is a good option to consider and is a very popular program for those looking at moving into nursing leadership. It teaches students to focus on system-scale thinking, which is key in jobs such as this, and delivers convenient, excellent academic learning. 

What skills do nursing leaders need to thrive?

As well as the right educational qualifications to help you break into these kinds of jobs, as a nursing leader, you also need the right skills to succeed. Although it is not an exhaustive list, the skills shown below are among the most important: 

  • Leadership
  • People management
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • IT skills 
  • Research skills 
  • Data analysis 
  • Critical thinking 
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem-solving

If you are keen to move into nursing roles that have a leadership focus, then honing the skills listed above will help a lot. This is because you not only have what employers are looking for, but you also have the right traits to perform well in the role.

Why move into nursing leadership roles?

While the above shows what it takes to move into these kinds of positions, you may well wonder why so many people choose to do it. The simple fact is that these kinds of jobs come with numerous benefits. 

There is no doubt that competitive pay rates, which allow you to earn more than less-senior nursing positions, is a factor. This can be seen when you think that the average annual salary for a nursing manager in 2023 is around $93,000. Leadership roles in this niche also allow you to have a direct impact on how the industry develops, and this is appealing to many. 

As with all nursing positions, leaders in the sector also get a sense of personal satisfaction from their work. When you also consider how key leaders in nursing are and how bright the job outlook is as a result, the picture becomes clearer. 

What settings can nursing leaders work in?

In addition to the above, lots of people pursue nursing leadership positions for the variety of roles it opens up and the choice of settings they can work in. But what are the most common settings? 

One of the most obvious is facilities within healthcare, such as hospitals, community centers and clinics. These facilities are where you will find nursing staff who help to care for patients when sick or recovering from illness. Due to this, nursing leaders can also be found there, and they play a key role in ensuring that patients get the best care. They are also key for providing support to nursing staff in a personal and professional sense. 

It is also common to find nursing leaders working in academic settings – be it colleges or universities. This sees them training up student nurses to move into the professional world post-graduation to care for patients in the most effective manner. As well as teaching classes, this setting can also see nursing leaders take on educational leadership responsibilities and have an input into what is taught. 

Some nurse leaders may be more focused on research and spend most of their time driving new innovations in the industry. This may be within academia, but can also see them working for public health bodies or governmental departments. 

In what other settings might nursing leaders be found?

Nurses often provide front-line services outside of traditional clinics or hospitals. This in turn means that nursing leaders who guide and manage them can also be found outside of these facilities. Care homes are one very good example and somewhere that nursing leaders play a crucial role in patient outcomes. 

It can also be common to see leaders in the sector working within the home healthcare sector. While this might not be actually providing the direct care at home to patients, it can see them managing teams of trained nurse who do. In this setting, nurse leaders are crucial in terms of upholding standards of care, ensuring that the right procedures are followed, and drawing up rotas for home visits. 

What are the different roles open to nursing leaders?

Those working at this level within the nursing sector have a range of specific roles to target. But what are some of the most widely seen? 

Nursing manager

This role comes with a competitive salary, as shown above, and is ideal if you like managing nursing staff in a clinical setting. Fast paced and challenging, it is a leadership position in nursing that is very rewarding. 

Nursing managers make sure that the nurses they manage deliver the best care to patients and help to drive the best patient outcomes. They manage teams of nursing staff and help to ensure that performance levels are kept high. 

In addition, they monitor the nurses they manage to guarantee that all relevant policies for patient care are followed. Nursing managers will also help to resolve any issues that come up within their teams and provide pastoral support to those they manage. 

Nurse educator

Another popular role for leaders in this healthcare niche is nurse educator. This role involves working in an academic setting and passing your expert knowledge on to the next generation of nurses. The average nurse educator salary of around $107,000 shows that it is a well-paid position, while the ability to inspire the students they teach is also something that people in this role value. If you plan to work outside of a clinical setting as a nurse leader, then it is a great option. 

As you may expect, planning and teaching lessons makes up a large part of this role. Nurse educators may also be required to conduct seminars with smaller groups of students or provide one-to-one feedback on academic work. They may also be called on to provide pastoral support to students and help set exams for the classes they teach. Once you have built up some experience in this role, you may also be able to move into subject or departmental leadership. 

Clinical nurse researcher

Researchers in nursing play a vital role in helping the sector move forward and constantly find new innovations to improve patient care. These ground-breaking leaders are the people behind evolutions in nursing theory and practice. As a result, it is an exciting job and one that allows you to really leave your mark on the industry. 

This position involves setting up clinical trials, conducting tests and carrying out studies into various aspects of nursing. It may also see nurse researchers publish academic papers, review medical journals and research new nursing practices. Working in this kind of role also involves using techniques such as the Delphi Method to achieve best results.

By doing this, nurse researchers are able to lead the sector forward in the right direction and allow it to offer better outcomes to patients. It also enables them to discover exciting new ideas for nurses to follow and identify ways to apply them in practice. 

Nurse executive

While nursing managers may be responsible for a team of nursing staff within a facility, nurse executives usually operate on a broader scale. This means that they play a crucial role in modern healthcare and ensure that patients get the best experience in terms of nursing care across the whole institution. 

Operating at an executive level means that these leaders are responsible for communicating the facility’s vision in terms of professional standards to all nursing teams and staff. They will also work closely with nursing managers to ensure that individual teams are clear about this vision. Nurse executive roles also involve strategic thinking at an organizational level and data analysis to help drive the facility’s nursing operations forward positively. This role normally involves lots of meetings with colleagues and stakeholders to discuss nursing policies or guidelines moving ahead.

Nursing home administrators

We have mentioned previously that care homes are one setting in which nursing leaders can be found. One specific role where this can be seen is nursing home administrator. This is a very senior role in nursing and sees you having responsibility for the overall management of a nursing home. 

As a result, this leadership nursing job can see you looking after budgets, recruiting staff, dealing with complaints from families and more. It is a wide-ranging role that is never dull and offers a different challenge every day. It is also a job that is satisfying on a personal level, as it sees you being able to help those in the nursing home get the best care.

Nursing leaders can work across many settings and roles

The above clearly shows that nurse leaders can work in many different settings and across a wide variety of roles. If you plan to move down this career path, you should have a diverse choice once you’re qualified. 

With all nurse leader positions offering good rates of pay, excellent job satisfaction and a bright employment outlook, they really are something to consider for those looking to work in this area of healthcare.