Qualities of a Nurse Leader

I have been a nurse for over 30 years, and have had the good fortune to work with excellent nurse leaders in a variety of settings. One of my first clinical positions was in a busy Emergency/Trauma Department at a suburban hospital. Here I met someone who to me, was an exemplar of what a nurse leader should be. She was the Director of the department, who advocated for her staff and supported us in continuing education before it was a requirement for license renewal. My Director would roll her sleeves up and jump in to help us when we were overwhelmed with multiple traumas. Even though she was dressed as a businesswoman, in a dress or suit and white lab coat, she never hesitated to assist us in any way we needed, including with the most critical of patients, and difficult situations. She possessed many of the most cited qualities of nurse leaders, including a commitment to excellence, passion for her work, respectfulness, and a commitment to coach and mentor her staff. Not only was this a great way to begin my clinical nursing career in a supportive and positive environment, it also gave me a foundation for how I would seek to be a leader in my future career. 

Be prepared in your RN to BSN program to take coursework in nursing leadership, including perhaps a stand-alone theory course and clinical experience. Consider the importance of this content for your future professional nursing practice, and career goals. With a BSN degree from Widener University, there will be more leadership opportunities coming your way, from formal clinical nursing positions to positions in professional organizations. 

If you are a new nurse or experienced practitioner, seek out individuals who possess the following leadership qualities and allow them to mentor you. 

  • Advocate for their staff  
  • Supports continuing education 
  • Committed to excellence
  • Passionate about their work
  • Respectful
  • Coach and mentor 

Leaders can be empowering to all around them, and should focus on the greater good of the organization and their staff, not simply personal career gains. As a future leader, be prepared to be accountable for your actions, and learn to communicate your expectations.  There is no one person who knows the answer to every problem or challenge, as a leader you will also seek the opinion of others and recognize when you need help. The future of nursing is bright, there are changes coming that will impact your current and future practice. No matter where you choose to practice, you will be a leader at some point in your career in some way. 

Remember that good leaders do not work in isolation, and all nurses need to devote time to self-care to revitalize themselves to continue this important work. Be confident in your abilities, and strive to be a leader who can inspire others while being innovative and open-minded. Widener University’s online RN-BSN program can prepare you for a nurse leadership role. If you would like to learn more about our online program, request more information or contact a program manager today at 844-386-7321. 

About the Author

Dr. Nancy Laplante is an Associate Professor of Nursing. She is the Coordinator of the RN/BSN & RN/MSN program options and the Director of Online Programs for the School of Nursing. She earned her MSN degree in 2004 with a focus in community health nursing, and a PhD in Nursing in 2007. Dr. Laplante is a board certified advanced holistic nurse, and serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Holistic Nursing.

She believes that compassion and caring are essential components of nursing education, and she strives to engage students in respectful, meaningful dialogue. She is a regular contributor to fundamental nursing textbooks and has published in the areas of holistic nursing education, educational perspectives, healthcare applications for the Internet of Things (IoT), and Service-Learning. Additional research interests include the image of nursing, creating presence in online learning communities, and self-care practices for nursing students. In her spare time Dr. Laplante enjoys spending time with her family and being a volunteer for a local animal rescue to support pet adoption and education in the community.