Is Nursing Leadership Right for You?

Is Nursing Leadership Right for You? was originally published on HospitalRecruiting.

Characteristics of Successful Nurse Leaders
Cathy Yeulet/

The calling to go into nursing leadership is undeniable for many nurses. Others may feel the urge, but are hesitant or even doubt their ability to manage nursing staff, troubleshoot patient care concerns, and collaborate with the administration. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, deciding to become part of a nursing leadership team is a big one. It’s essential to remember that anyone can be a leader and that advancing your nursing career doesn’t always require more training.

Nursing leadership titles and job descriptions vary. Many leadership roles start close to the bedside. You can become a charge nurse or unit manager, which requires daily management of staff and patients. If you have your sights set a little higher, you can work towards executive-level leadership roles such as chief nursing officer or vice president of patient services.

No matter where you see yourself in the spectrum of nurse leadership, it’s critical that you understand a few of the qualities that successful nurse leaders possess. Here are a few characteristics of successful nurse leaders that will help you decide if nursing leadership may be a good fit.

Communication Skills

Being an excellent communicator is more than just knowing how to put together a few words or sentences. You must have a good understanding of how to actively listen to peers and staff. Good communicators also know that body language can communicate a powerful message, too.

If you’re not comfortable with your current communication skills, you may want to take a class or continuing education course on communication skills in healthcare management.

Sense of Mentorship

Being a good mentor is essential in healthcare. Mentorship requires you to quickly identify learning opportunities so that you can work with staff to better their clinical and non-clinical skills. Successful nurse leaders can show mentorship qualities by remembering that they were once in the staff nurse role and encouraging their team members to ask questions. These simple strategies can empower your nursing staff and guide them throughout their entire career journey.

Dedication to Healthcare Outcomes

Showing a commitment to reaching and exceeding healthcare outcomes is a critical part of the healthcare continuum. Nurse leaders must be dedicated to overseeing the nursing process to ensure patients meet their highest level of wellness. Patient outcomes dictate payments and regulatory milestones, which means that nurse leaders need to be aware of institutional goals and to work towards them at all times. Other healthcare outcomes that you’ll need to address in a leadership role are related to your staff. You must work on initiatives that decrease the rates of burnout for all staff under your leadership. Working on patient and staff outcomes will help you to achieve a high level of success as a nursing leader.

Critical Thinking

As a leader, you will be faced with many challenging decisions. You will probably continue to be involved with patient care decisions. You need to use critical thinking in other areas, too. A few examples include performing staff disciplinary action and overseeing facility or unit budgets.

Service-Oriented Outlook

Serving others is a key quality that many nurses possess. Nurse leaders serve others in a variety of ways. You may be mentoring a staff nurse or dealing with a patient or family member who is unhappy with their care. You must be eager to help others solve their problems and willing to work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team.


There will be times as a leader that you may feel lonely or even defeated. Staff won’t always like your answers, and patients won’t be completely satisfied with the care they received. However, working from a place of open, honest, and authentic communication can go a long way in easing the emotions of everyone involved.

Nurse leaders trust their intuition and ask for help when they need it. You’ll need to have a strong sense of who you are as a person, nurse, and leader. You will need to act on your personal beliefs and nursing concepts while also upholding the mission and vision of the facility.


Leaders must be able to understand and share the feelings of those around them. You must be able to relate to your nursing staff and remember what it’s like to be in their shoes. Using your understanding of your nurses’ situations to guide your communication and decisions will go a long way in improving nursing engagement on your unit or throughout your institution.

Becoming a Leader

Taking on the challenge of being a nursing leader is a significant decision. It’s one that you should take seriously, but also remember that leadership isn’t about perfectionism. You will have on-the-job training and many opportunities to learn as you go. The first step is deciding that you want to start on this career path and then aligning yourself with these characteristics needed for success.


By HospitalRecruiting
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