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Strategies for empowering a team as a nurse leader

by Angelina

Excellent nurses require impeccable training and leadership. Nurse leaders are critically important to public health and can be the difference between happy and successful professionals and a career change. Let’s take a look at how nurse leaders can build strong teams and empower their nurses to grow to their maximum potential.

Choose the right course

A student wanting to become a nursing executive can find some tips here to put to the test. The journey is a rewarding one and worth the time, and the best advice we can give is to pick a well-established university with a history of producing successful nurses. For example, Baylor University offers degrees such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) designed to train tomorrow’s nursing leaders and help them get started on their career paths. By undertaking a course such as a DNP, students will acquire a strong knowledge of nursing skills, gain practical experience and develop a professional network.

Emphasize self-awareness

Because nurses are in charge of tending to ill and vulnerable people, they must be able to sort through their own emotions in order to best support their patients. This is true whether the stressor is in the room or is something occurring outside of work entirely. Being honest and methodically working through emotions that might otherwise cloud their judgment is crucial to being an effective nurse.

Nurse leaders have the opportunity to create an environment cultivating self-awareness. They should encourage their team to take some time to understand their own emotions and motivations and learn to work around them, not deny them until the stress and frustration become too much. There are a few additional areas where nurses should focus their self-awareness efforts, although they might vary somewhat from nurse to nurse:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Areas for improvement
  • Sensitivity to the trauma around them

The last of the above might be more important to nurses working in the emergency department or ICU, although it is likely that most nurses interacting directly with patients will see unfortunate and potentially difficult scenarios. Being self-aware allows nurses to accept those emotions and work through them in a healthy way.

Acknowledge the team’s experience

Another team-building and empowering strategy to keep in mind as a nurse leader is acknowledging their team’s experience and expertise. The best leaders work with their team’s strengths, not against them, and don’t hesitate to shift their participation mode to ‘follower’ in certain situations.

If one is dealing with a project surrounding child welfare, for example, and a team member has a wealth of professional experience in the area — more than the nurse leader does — they should not hesitate to assign that person a leadership role and learn from their expertise.

Allowing team members to shine is an excellent way to empower them. Taking the back seat every now and then can do a lot to foster strong and healthy team dynamics.

Reward excellent work and growth

In addition to allowing team members to shine, nurse leaders should not hesitate to reward their team for their hard work. If someone has completed additional training or education to improve their skills on the floor, for example, celebrate that milestone. If a nurse ends up pulling an all-nighter to help with a patient crisis, appreciate that and acknowledge their hard work.

There is nothing worse than giving one’s all for a manager who just does not care about the time and effort spent trying to be a model employee. On the flip side, employees who know that while the work might be difficult and time-consuming, their bosses see and appreciate their sacrifices, make the job in question incredibly rewarding.

A team will be more willing to step up in difficult situations and adapt to changes as needed when they are happy with how their career is going, too. Simply acknowledging their effort can foster an environment that encourages each member of the team to contribute to the fullest extent of their potential.

Focus on evidence-based care

Nursing is not always easy. This is especially true when one begins working outside of the best practices defined by the industry. When nurses end up guessing which answer is the right one instead of making decisions based on the ethical and legal standards and requirements of the professional, their stress rises and the overall effectiveness of the team will begin to fall.

This does not take into account the harm this kind of nursing can do to patient care standards in the workplace. Sometimes doing something outside of set best practices is faster than making the decision to follow them, however, and time is something nurses can always use more of.

The solution here is to demonstrate the importance of always doing things by the book, even if it takes a little longer. Nurse leaders should encourage team members to closely adhere to the legal and professional standards governing their jobs. Perhaps most importantly, they should be understanding if team members end up behind on their work because they made the choice to do things properly.

This adherence to a strict code of ethics, when shared among the entirety of the team, can also do a lot to bond team members, and empower them to make the hard choices even if it costs them some time and productivity.

Prioritize open communication

As mentioned above, nurses could always use some extra time in their day. Because the workplace can be busy in the healthcare industry, it is unfortunately easy for managers and other leaders to put communication on the back burner unless an emergency arises. This can lower group morale and satisfaction.

The good news is that nurses can always prioritize open and honest communication about different topics, including soliciting and receiving feedback. Do not make communication something that only occurs when an emergency hits — work on building a team that trusts each other enough to reach out with concerns as they encounter them.

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