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Why Executive Leadership Skills Are Critical for Registered Nurses Who Want to Become Leaders


Healthcare faces many challenges. Most of these, including dwindling insurance reimbursement and staffing shortages, were prominent concerns before the COVID-19 pandemic. Others, like the depth and breadth of public health issues, are more recent developments.

Transforming a struggling healthcare system into a thriving equitable care model will take new leadership with innovative ideas and strategies. As the demand for nursing administrators rises, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting job growth up to 32% through 2030, RNs are the ideal candidates for the job.  

Why Should RNs Consider Leadership Roles?

RNs have a range of tangible experiences that translate well to leadership roles, as they

  • understand the complex socioeconomic and cultural factors affecting patient care and outcomes
  • recognize the importance of patient-centered care and its connection to community and global health
  • possess strong interpersonal skills that facilitate communication across demographics

While these skill sets provide a solid foundation, nurses interested in moving beyond patient care and into executive roles, like nursing director or practice administrator, benefit from an advanced degree. The fully accredited Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Executive online program at Northwest Missouri State University builds upon this knowledge and explores:

  • actionable strategies to facilitate industry change
  • evidence-based practice and research
  • healthcare policy development
  • moral and ethical considerations
  • organizational structure
  • regulatory systems
  • fiduciary responsibility
  • workplace culture and collaboration

How Can Nurse Executives Transform Healthcare?   

The nurse executive role is emerging with exciting growth potential. Nurse executives are at the forefront of healthcare in a decision-making role with insight into the perspectives of both C-suite and staff nurses. Here are some ways nurse executives can transform healthcare:

Nurse executives model and implement quality assurance policies.

Quality of care affects patient satisfaction scores, reimbursement and facility reputation. It also influences workplace culture and staff morale. Employees can consistently deliver top-of-the-line care when given the necessary tools and resources without the hindrance of restrictive or redundant policies. Nurse executives have the advantage of high-level oversight, making it possible to develop policies that benefit all parties.

Nurse executives optimize patient care by investing in cultural competency.

Patient populations are more diverse than ever, and successful nurse leaders recognize that "cultural competence must be a strategic priority," says the Journal of Nursing Administration. Nurse leaders who understand how healthcare disparities and biases impact care can target interventions to address inequities.   

Nurse executives balance technological innovations with patient care.

Between EHRs and clinical decision support tools, technology represents a core part of nursing duties. The drive for continuous improvement means that new technological innovations will drive a greater reliance on robotics, artificial intelligence, telehealth services and remote monitoring. However, nurse executives must strike a balance between fully embracing technology and acknowledging its limitations. Nurse leaders must "[drive] conversations with key stakeholders to understand how technologic tools impact communication, patient interactions and workflow efficiencies," says the journal Nursing Management.

Nurse executives boost staff's career satisfaction and expand advancement opportunities.

The drawn-out battle with COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on staffing and morale. As a result, many nurses are experiencing burnout and compassion fatigue. Although a challenging situation, says a recent Wolters Kluwer report, nurse administrators can use this time to foster an environment that focuses on workplace safety as well as "nurses' well-being from biological, psychological, social and emotional perspectives." By offering educational and mental health programs, for example, and creating interprofessional teams, administrators can provide critical support while encouraging collaboration and new skill development, which naturally lends itself to advancement opportunities.  

Nurse executives play a central role in transforming today's healthcare system. They promote change and advocate for nursing staff and vulnerable populations. RNs who move into administrator positions can leverage their leadership skills to improve patient outcomes and boost employee morale and retention.   

Learn more about Northwest's online MSN – Nurse Executive program.


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