Build power, lead change. Health care continues to change in both incremental and significant ways. Now, registered nurses have even greater opportunities to be leaders in all aspects of health care ─ be it at the bedside, within their health care facilities and other workplaces where they practice, in the community, within their professional associations, or in the halls of Congress. All nurses can play a greater role to ensure their nursing practice is forward-thinking, evidence-based, leadership-rich, central to health care decision-making, and always in the middle of the "action."
Demonstrate collaborative nurse leadership. Nursing is about growing and adapting to meet the public's needs. Now is the time for all nurses to fully embrace and provide a new, even stronger level of leadership, partnering with physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals to direct and manage care effectively. It is through collaboration and partnerships that nurses will model collaborative leadership and lead health care systems in focusing on patient needs and creating delivery models that will ensure the best outcomes for patients and their families.
Mentor. Consider the skills and knowledge it takes to be a nurse leader on a unit or in other settings: critical thinking, creativity, assessment, prioritization, and communication, to name a few. Now more than ever the profession needs nurse leaders who can mentor, educate, and inspire. Nurse faculty, preceptors, and mentors can help shape future leaders by instilling in them the value of consensus-building, partnership, and collaboration, as well as the importance of respect.
Drive the future health care system. Nurses have built upon an innate passion and caregiving skills to assume their role as leaders with a unique scope of practice. Now nurse leaders must manage more than the individual patient case. They must direct and reshape care environments to gain the most effective use of nursing and other resources, with the least number of obstacles for the patient and the family. They must recommend and persuade other decision-makers regarding new approaches, models of preventive and acute care, use of scarce resources, and outcome measures. Nurse leaders can drive the paradigm shift that will represent the health care system for the future.
Manage the system. Because of both the complexity of care and current health care policies, even the best nurses may feel as though they are being managed by the system, instead of managing the system. Nurses are skilled at seeing needs, finding solutions, and cutting through red tape. However to bring out the best in innovative thinking and bold action, nurses need the support of their nurse colleagues in all practice settings and roles. This support for staff engagement builds confidence, and in turn, enhances leadership skills to better manage the system.
Respect for diversity. To build strength and unity to better manage their practice settings, nurses must appreciate the contributions and perspectives they each bring to the workplace and be willing to learn from each other — whether they are seasoned or new to the profession, younger or older. And nurses will need additional skills to better understand health care systems and communicate the unique contributions that they bring to health care and outcomes.
Focus on quality, patient-centered care. Nurses have frequently led the way as early adopters of quality improvement, setting the example for other disciplines and often with focus on what matters most: the health of the patient and the public. Nurses have led in the development, implementation, and evaluation of key measures, such as pain scales and pressure ulcer management. Given the ongoing need for demonstrated quality initiatives, nurses must become even more sophisticated and collaborative in expanding the health care quality platform.
Advocate for health policy. On the health policy front, nurses have shown their prominence, power, and strength. They have contributed in meaningful ways and offered solutions for health system reform, quality improvement, workplace standards, and environmental issues. Enhancing the impact in future health policy decisions is a crucial component of nurse leadership.
Now is the time. Nurses have a strong history of fulfilling leadership roles within their workplaces, professional organizations, communities, and in legislative arenas and governmental agencies. Now is the time for every nurse to be more engaged ─ whether it is at their work level or beyond. The more nurses are engaged and take action to build and enhance their leadership skills, the more influence nursing and its values will have on health care over the next decade. Nurses know what their patients want and need, they are life-long learners and seek knowledge and sound solutions. That's the power of nursing.