How Is Leadership Evolving in Nursing Today and in the Future?

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Nurses can dramatically influence the quality of care provided for patients, according to the American Nurses Association. They can also positively impact the health care system within which they operate. As leaders, nurses develop strategies and models for delivering better patient care, coordinating with other health professionals and reducing the overall cost of health care. Nurses also serve the key role of liaison between patients and other health care providers, including physicians; nursing regularly ranks as one of the most trusted professions. Nursing leadership will continue to evolve to accommodate changing needs in the future.

Manage independent practices. Today’s nurses must be reflective leaders, monitoring their own practices to identify opportunities for improvement, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nurses. In addition to managing cases, nurses should help establish standards within their workplace, develop procedures for assessing quality of service and identify ways to improve the overall nursing system within their hospital or clinic. Increased personal accountability then translates to a stronger team.

Contribute to workplace culture and norms. Nurse leaders help create, maintain and improve their workplace environments, contributing to overall improved patient care, according to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Today, nurses evaluate new initiatives after implementation to determine their effectiveness. They can also help develop shared values, so that other nurses and health care professionals operate with the same overall mission. Rather than an outdated command and control system based on hierarchy, nurses motivate colleagues to develop their own leadership skills. Visible leadership and support can help reduce turnover and increase morale among co-workers.

Pay attention to the bottom line. Traditionally, nurses became standout candidates for management positions by first demonstrating their superior skills as clinicians, according to After proving themselves, nurses might have slowly accumulated more responsibilities and managerial tasks. Today’s nurse leaders pair their clinical expertise with business acumen right from the start, bringing a business-oriented sensibility to the table that helps reduce costs and boost efficiency. As traditionally trained nurses begin to age and retire, younger nurses must receive training and leadership opportunities to develop their knowledge related to clinical skills and financial management.

Accept more responsibility and professional development. In the not-so-distant future, an aging population and increased access to health care could place strain on an overburdened health care system, according to the Institute of Medicine. Currently, legislative restrictions sometimes prevent advanced nurses from using their additional training and experience to perform duties reserved for other health care professionals. Additional leadership opportunities to provide patient care could help alleviate some strain on existing physicians and technicians. Creating nursing residency programs could contribute to the evolution of nursing leadership by creating more formalized opportunities for advanced practice and mentorship. Nurses can opt into professional development opportunities and training to further develop their practice.