How Nursing Leaders Shape Organizational Policy

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There are different types of leaders and different styles of leadership. That’s true for all leadership positions, in all industries.

Take healthcare, for example.

A hospital’s CEO uses his or her vision – based on experience, education and, in some cases, instincts – to maneuver the organization into a stronger, more impactful position. The Chief Medical Officer helps define compensation strategies for the organization and prioritizes the Triple Aim approach of healthcare optimization for all staff and patients.

Doctors have unique brands of leadership. Administrators, too. How about nurses?

Nurse leadership, when it’s effective, is one of the most important types of leadership within a healthcare organization. Nurse leaders play many roles, depending on their environment, but their efforts all contribute to one central goal: the delivery of safe, effective and efficient patient care.

And that applies to nurses in any context. Some serve in hospitals, others in clinics, some practice in the field, and other nurses teach. The thing that unites them, however, is an abiding dedication to patient care.

Patients, Protocol, and Policy

Nurses are in a special position within a healthcare organization. They’re able to affect nearly all aspects of medical care, from hands-on interaction with patients to offering suggestions on broad organizational strategies. There’s a lot of ground to cover for quality nursing leaders, but according to American Nurse Today – the official journal of the American Nurses Association – all nursing leaders have a few things in common.

  • They build a culture based around service. At the end of the day, it’s about providing a healthy and meaningful experience for patients. And nursing leaders help facilitate this by encouraging staff to treat patients like family. They emphasize personalized care. They act as if they’re attendants in a five-star resort.
  • They prioritize the satisfaction of their team members. Nursing leaders routinely connect with employees, working hard to establish strong relationships with each member of the staff. They send birthday cards. They remember the names of team members’ kids and spouses. They communicate honestly and frequently.
  • They strive for individual accountability. They hold employees accountable, for both successes and failures. They make sure team members know their own strengths, weaknesses, areas of opportunities, and the potential obstacles they’ll have to overcome in the future. And nursing leaders keep detailed records of this information, so they can use it during performance discussions throughout the year.
  • They align their staff’s behaviors with the goals of the organization. They celebrate team members who advance the organization’s mission, and they coach team members who don’t. And, most importantly, they consistently model the behaviors they ask their teams to demonstrate.

Policy, however, is an often-overlooked aspect of nursing leadership. To deliver safe, effective and efficient patient care, nursing leaders need to utilize their knowledge of federal and state laws/regulations that might influence the quality of their patient care.

They are expected to understand concepts such as:

  • Tort reform. These are proposed changes to laws and regulations that change the procedural limits on a patient’s ability to file claims and collect an award for damages suffered from malpractice.
  • Malpractice/Negligence. Malpractice occurs when a hospital, doctor, or other healthcare professional acts negligently or carelessly and causes significant harm to a patient. There are very specific laws in place for these situations. For example, the law says that malpractice applies only when a patient suffered significant damage as a result of a violation of standard care.
  • Reimbursement. This is how providers get paid. It’s an extremely complicated system that transports money from the patient, through insurance companies, and into the checking accounts of hospital staff. And if it wasn’t already complex enough, the rules that govern this process change constantly.

To be effective leaders, nurses need the hands-on know-how and knowledge of laws and regulations. It’s a lot to ask, which is why nursing leadership is prized so highly in the industry.

The Magnet Recognition Program

Hospitals benefit in many ways from strong nursing leadership, and Magnet Recognition status represents the manifestation of that leadership.

Magnet Recognition is awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The Center awards it to “healthcare organizations who truly value their nursing talent.” The requirements for recognition are challenging, and only the top healthcare organizations that are absolutely driven by nursing leadership and committed to its continuous improvement are recognized by the ANCC.

In the Center’s words, “The Magnet Recognition Program designates organizations worldwide where nursing leaders successfully align their nursing strategic goals to improve the organization’s patient outcomes.”

Nurses might not have the same leadership style as the CEO or CMO, but as the ANCC realizes, nursing leaders are just as important to the health and wellbeing of their both patients and organizations.

Jacksonville University’s Keigwin School of Nursing offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Leadership in Healthcare Services. Students in this prestigious master’s program learn concepts of financial management in healthcare, budgeting processes, staffing fundamentals, forecasting techniques and marketing strategies.

This graduate-level nursing program and others at JU prepare healthcare workers to lead innovation and to shape organizational policy.

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