How to Become a Nurse Leader

How to Become a Nurse Leader

Shane Parker, RN
Co-founder and Chief Nursing Officer

Working as a nurse is a fulfilling career, which is why many people in this field choose to go a step further and assume leadership roles. Becoming a nurse leader does require steadfast ambition as well as perseverance. However, once a nurse has achieved a leadership role, they’ll be able to make even more of a difference in the lives of their patients.

By acquiring the following traits and experiences, nurses can get on the fast track to personal and professional success.

Seek Out Leadership Roles

Nurses won’t just fall into a leadership position. They’ll have to work up to it. Therefore, it’s important to always be on the lookout for new positions that will give them experience managing other people. Even if the role is a volunteer one, such as the leader of a staffing or safety committee, it can be a good stepping stone to future opportunities.

Keep Education Current

By law, nurses must take continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain their licenses. This ensures they are always up-to-date with the latest trends in medicine. Many nurses take these CEUs begrudgingly, finding the easiest classes to avoid spending too much time on them. When nurses do this, they risk losing out on important learning opportunities.

If a nurse focuses on the material presented in the CEUs, they’ll become a go-to person for certain specialties. Once existing nurse leadership sees how reliable and educated that particular nurse is, they’ll consider recommending them for, or promoting them to higher positions.

Exude Professionalism

Simply showing up to the job and taking care of patients isn’t good enough. A person could be the best technical nurse in the world, but if they aren’t professional, it won’t matter. It’s important to always dress the part, maintain a well-groomed appearance, and always be polite with patients and doctors alike.

When looking for new leaders, current leadership will be on the prowl for nurses that represent the organization well. As a general rule: dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

Go Back to School

As more and more nurses enter the field, competition for coveted positions becomes more fierce. To set themselves apart and show their dedication to the profession, nurses can choose to go back to school to earn their bachelor’s degree or get a master of science in nursing. These days, attending school isn’t as hard as it used to be, as there are plenty of online programs that can be done in a nurse’s spare time.

Having a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing sets these nurses apart from their peers and makes them the obvious choice for a leadership position.

Manage One’s Self

In order to be in charge of other nurses, a potential nurse leader should show that they can take care of themselves. If they are unable to manage their health and personal life with the stress of caring for patients, it seems unlikely they’ll be able to handle the increased responsibility of managing other nurses.

Nurses should always take some time to focus on their personal needs. While devoting themselves to the job is important, it shouldn’t be the only thing in their lives.

Find a Nursing Mentor

Becoming a nursing leader isn’t something a nurse has to do all on their own. It’s a good idea to find a mentor to help give advice and guide them on the right path. Nurses can look into joining the American Nurses Association, Sigma Theta Tau, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the National League for Nursing, and many other professional organizations. This will help them build a network and also give them access to various high-ranking nurse officials to shadow during their career.

Be Dependable

It’s important for potential leaders to show that they are reliable in any situation. Therefore, nurses should never flake on their commitments. Developing a reputation as unreliable employee will prevent senior nurses from considering them as a leadership candidate. Taking on extra responsibility will show that these nurses can handle anything thrown at them – a quality that leaders absolutely need to have.

Becoming a nursing leader isn’t something that will happen overnight. However, when it finally does, nurses will be able to take pride in the fact that they worked hard to achieve their promotion.