You love your job as an RN. You return home each day feeling satisfied and fulfilled to have spent your workday making a difference in patients’ lives. But even though your nursing career is a great fit, you often wonder what your career advancement could look like in years to come.
You’re beginning to crave more responsibility—the ability to make an even greater impact on your patients with an advanced nursing career. How can you make these dreams a reality? By taking initiative and demonstrating your leadership skills in your nursing career today.
You may not have “manager” in your job title, but you can still step up as a leader in your current position. We spoke with experts who revealed some practical ways to display your leadership in nursing. Give them a try to prepare yourself for your advanced nursing career!
5 ways to show your leadership skills as a nurse
You don’t have to wait until you’re promoted to prove you’re willing and able to take on more responsibility. Start demonstrating your leadership in nursing today to stand out in your current role. You’ll not only gain respect, but also valuable experience tackling more important responsibilities you’ll encounter in an advanced nursing career.
1. Be proactive
“If you have a problem and you can solve it, do so without waiting for management to tell you to do so,” suggests Tina Baxter, nurse practitioner and CEO of Baxter Professional Services. Healthcare managers have plenty of work on their plates, so anyone who takes initiative to solve problems will stand out in a good way.
If a patient complains of an uncomfortable bed contributing to his pain, investigate and request a new bed from maintenance. If a patient is at an increased risk of falling, take proactive steps to prevent a fall by offering frequent support when the patient is standing or walking and by keeping the space free of clutter.
Strong leaders take positive action, which is exactly what you’ll be demonstrating to your managers when you are proactive about resolving issues you encounter on the floor.
2. Respond first in a crisis
Nurses are used to being on the frontlines in crisis situations. How are you supposed to stand out when everyone in your workplace is trained to respond to emergencies? You can make a big difference in a crisis by being one of the very first to step up and help out—especially during an inconvenient situation.
Maybe a raging blizzard descends on your town, and your short-staffed hospital is desperately calling for nurses to cover shifts. You could ignore the call, but instead you answer and say you’ll be there in ten.
This kind of dedication shows that you truly value your patients’ safety and are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. This is the mark of a true leader in nursing.
3. Know how to delegate
You might think being a strong leader means doing everything yourself, but that’s not the case, according to Baxter. The best managers understand they can’t handle everything on their own. Instead, they surround themselves with a skilled support team and delegate tasks to others.
You may not yet work in management, but you can still practice delegation throughout your workday. If you’re struggling to start an IV in a patient, ask a fellow RN who’s famous on the floor for her venipuncture skills to take over. If you have a full patient load with one patient at risk for bedsores who requires frequent turning, assign an LPN to ensure the patient is turned on schedule.
Even the best nurses can’t do it all on their own. And if you try, you could jeopardize patient safety. Knowing when to ask for help is a key factor in good leadership.
4. Volunteer for a committee
Hospitals often need nurses to serve on volunteer committees or advisory boards. Baxter recommends becoming a volunteer as an additional way to demonstrate leadership initiative. By offering your time, you’re proving to upper management that you truly care about helping your healthcare facility be the best it can be.
Baxter offers the example that perhaps your hospital is implementing a new electronic health record (EHR) system, and they need nurses to provide input. She suggests raising your hand to become part of the solution for problems you and your fellow nurses may be facing with the new system.
Not only can serving on a committee demonstrate your leadership potential, it also offers you an opportunity to play an active role in contributing to positive change in your workplace.
5. Further your education
Earning your Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) could be the key to opening up a world of leadership opportunities in your nursing career, such as becoming a manager or coordinator, according to Nurse Journal. Not only will your MSN courses help you sharpen your leadership skills and acquire qualifications for more advanced positions, MSN degrees often offer areas of specialization you can pursue.
Even before you attain your actual degree, simply enrolling in an MSN could help pave the way for new leadership opportunities in your current position. This signifies to your superiors that you’re committed to your professional development and career advancement. So next time they’re in need of someone to lead a team of RNs on a project or head up a meeting for a nursing committee, your name may be top of mind.
Take the next step
You now have some practical ideas of how you can display leadership in nursing in your current position. Perhaps you’re already doing some of these things, or you’re ready to take on a bigger challenge.
Furthering your education is one of the best ways to prepare yourself for an advanced nursing career. Visit our MSN Nursing Leadership and Administration page to learn how we can help equip you to take that next step in your career.