Distinguishing yourself as a leader can prove to be rather challenging when you are one of over 3.8 million registered nurses in the nation. That being said, a sizeable consensus exists that there is a shortage of actively practicing nurses. As a result, there is a pressing need for leaders in nursing to step up and help to affect real change and to lead the next (hopefully larger) generation of nurses.
If you are among those nurses who hope to fill any empty leadership roles out there, here are four concrete steps you can take to achieving that ambition.
1) Develop Your Leadership Skills
While this sounds like an obvious step to take, it is something that can get lost in the shuffle of a day-to-day workload, especially if that workload is as heavy as the one belonging to a nurse. It is a necessary step to take, though, if you hope to gain a more permanent role as a leader in nursing.
In order to be seen as a leader in your place of work, you must find the time to develop the skills that it takes to be a leader. Things like self-confidence and self-awareness aren’t always the attributes that come naturally to everyone. The ability to discover your weaknesses and develop your strengths is critical if you wish to be seen with the respect that leadership roles demand.
Sometimes it might be necessary to seek out occasions to work on your leadership skills. For example, whenever positions for leadership on a committee come up, don’t hesitate to volunteer. Also, if a situation arises that you are fully willing and able to handle, don’t wait to be proactive in doing so.
2) Earn a DNP
A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree is a particular degree that was designed with the specific intention of providing nurses with an education that is geared towards preparing them for leadership roles. For that very reason, a DNP executive leadership degree should be near the top of your list of things to consider doing.
The first DNP program was begun back in 2001 in an effort to bridge the gap between actively working patient-care RNs and the legislation and policy changes that affect those RNs and their patients. With a DNP, a nurse becomes equipped with the tools that they need to be a part of the greater conversation surrounding healthcare and the ways in which it can best be improved.
Essentially, if during your time working as a nurse you have found yourself with the drive to take your knowledge to a level where you can help address the issues in healthcare that relate to the field of nursing, then a DNP is a great place to start.
From a personal career standpoint, there are even more benefits to earning a DNP. For starters, on average, RNs who have a DNP earn higher salaries than those who don’t. Furthermore, the opportunities for career advancement increase exponentially when you have a doctorate in nursing.
3) Enlist the Help of a Mentor
If you are looking to become a leader, it is a good idea to enlist the help of someone who is already in a leadership role. A mentor can help you learn how a leader operates while on the job. They can also serve to help you figure out the skills you need to work on and improve in order to reach your personal goals.
Finding the right mentor who is the right fit not only for your professional goals but also your personal learning style might sound like a difficult task. However, the healthcare facility that you work for might already have a mentorship program in place. If this is the case, make inquiries as soon as possible so as to be matched with the right mentor without losing any time.
If your place of work doesn’t have a program of this nature, it is perfectly ok for you to take matters into your own hands. Finding a mentor in a more informal way is common practice in the world of medicine. If you have someone that you work with who has the right experience and who exhibits the attributes that you hope to hone into yourself, then don’t shy away from asking them if they will act as your mentor.
If no such person immediately comes to mind, then start by observing the nurses around you who have the most experience. Chances are you will soon find someone who would be happy to take you under their wing and help you to achieve your professional goals.
4) Join a Professional Organization
Professional organizations are a good idea for every RN for a number of reasons. That being said, those with aspirations of being leaders in the world of nursing should absolutely go ahead and join.
For starters, professional organizations are the main way that RNs across the country are able to network. They serve the purposes of advocacy in government in regards to healthcare policy and continuing education for RNs who are members. It is through professional organizations, that nurses can gain access to certification opportunities and educational conferences.
In regards to developing as a leader, professional organizations can help you network with others in the same profession, which can lead to opportunities for advancement. Networking is an extremely valuable tool for those looking to climb the ladder in any profession, and nurses are no exception.
While there are some large-scale organizations that have members of every specialization and education level, there are some that are geared towards specific areas of practice. A few of the larger organizations to join are:
- The American Nurses Association
- The National League for Nursing
- The American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- The Society of Pediatric Nurses
- The National Association of Orthopedic Nurses
Joining a community of peers like a professional organization should be a top priority for all nurses looking to make their way as leaders in healthcare.