A nurse leader points at a chart to other nurses
A nurse leader points at a chart to other nurses

The Top 9 Qualities of a Nurse Leader

Every team requires leadership to function at a high level. This is true across different industries and professions, and it’s certainly true when it comes to nursing. To ensure the highest standards of patient care and clinical efficiency, nursing teams need effective leaders who can use their skills to motivate team members and set clear strategic goals.

There are several essential qualities of a nurse leader that help build a foundation for a successful career in leading nursing teams. One of the best ways to cultivate these qualities is by pursuing an advanced nursing degree, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

What Is Nurse Leadership? 

Leadership in nursing is primarily about creating motivated, coherent and strategic teams of nursing professionals, equipped to provide the highest standards of patient safety, comfort and care. Nurse leaders are passionate about hands-on care and professional development opportunities for the individuals on their teams. Additionally, effective nurse leaders are driven by a passion for the nursing profession itself, desiring not just to see their team excel but to advance the field of nursing more broadly.

Sound nurse leadership may result in improved retention and morale among nursing professionals, who often find the most satisfaction in their work when they are well-managed by a more senior nurse. Additionally, good nurse leadership has been linked with better patient outcomes and fewer medical errors.

What Are the Qualities of a Good Nurse Leader?

There are several qualities of a good nurse leader, and a combination of these qualities can be essential for winning the trust of team members as well as patients. Consider just a few of the top qualities of a nurse leader.

1. Empathy

Nurse leaders usually spend at least some time in patient care, something that calls for a compassionate bedside manner. Moreover, nurse leaders must be able to empathize with team members, particularly novice nurses who may feel overwhelmed, burned out, frustrated by their own errors or consumed by the emotional nature of their work.

2. Critical Thinking

Nurses often have to make fast, informed decisions about what’s best for their patients and nurse leaders are not exempt. Additionally, nurse leaders may have to apply critical thinking skills to help their teams during times of crisis or change.

3. Communication 

Clear communication is among the most essential qualities of a good nurse leader. Nurse leaders must communicate treatment information to patients and their family members, and they also need to convey patient details to attending physicians and other providers. Additionally, nurse leaders must communicate goals, strategies and expectations to the nurses on their team.

4. Team Building 

One of a nurse leader’s most important tasks is developing a strong, coherent team. This might involve building trust and rapport between nurses, developing a framework for conflict resolution or simply creating unity around shared goals.

5. Delegation

Even the most capable nurse leader cannot do it all. Success in this demanding role means knowing when and how to delegate and matching team members’ competencies and abilities with the patient-care tasks that must be attended to.

6. Patient-Care Skills

While nurse leaders require many of the soft skills involved with team building and mentorship, they also need the hard skills associated with patient care. Nurse leaders must earn the respect of their team members, which means demonstrating their clinical acumen and their ability to administer treatments effectively. 

7. Technical Skills

Nursing teams benefit from using advanced clinical technologies, including electronic health records (EHR). Nurse leaders need to have a high level of familiarity with these technologies and an aptitude to keep up with new technologies as they are introduced to the health care setting.

8. Mentorship

A huge part of being a successful nurse leader is training the next generation of nursing professionals, endowing them with skill and with confidence. The ability to mentor individual nurses is one of the core qualities of a good nurse leader.

9. Cultural Competence

Nurses must be able to communicate well with a wide range of people, including patients and other nurses who represent different racial, religious or social backgrounds. Cultural competence is what allows a nurse to provide sensitive and patient-centered care even to those who inhabit a very different social context. 

Develop the Skills of Effective Nurse Leadership

Nurse leaders play an invaluable role in optimizing teams, supporting health organizations and ensuring the best outcomes for patients. Those who are interested in managing other nurses may wish to develop the qualities of a nurse leader, something that can be done through a combination of hands-on experience and classroom learning.

One way to hone vital skills is through an advanced education, such as in Walsh University Online’s DNP programs. Whether building on a BSN or an MSN, experienced nurses can use this program to develop the skills needed to become empowered nurse leaders. Find out how Walsh University Online can help you become a nurse leader.

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