A unique set of skills are needed for leadership positions in healthcare. Leaders need the ability to work in a large system in which departments need to coordinate with each other. Leaders need to understand the complexity of the systems they operate in and manage the constant cycles of change. Effective leadership can result in good teamwork and quality patient care and benefit both staff and the organization.
A master’s degree in nursing prepares nurses for advanced practice and leadership roles. Master’s programs typically include studying nursing education, healthcare informatics, healthcare systems and policies, advanced nursing practice, and research. The programs have various specialized options that can lead to specific desired careers. There are options for specialized advanced practice programs in areas such as family, pediatrics, and mental health.
Graduates of a master’s program will have the knowledge and skills to become leaders and educators, provide advanced patient care, and participate in developing healthcare policies. They may be able to take certification exams in their specialty, leading to improved job opportunities and professional recognition. Studying at this level can bring opportunities to do respected and interesting work that is well-paid and leads to great personal satisfaction.
Texas Woman’s University has a wealth of reputable courses, for those who want to advance their careers, including the nurse practitioner clinical placement program. In this course, students will gain practical experience at clinical sites relevant to their future careers. Online courses offer flexibility and can be balanced with work and other responsibilities. Studying while working as a nurse can be beneficial as learning can be applied to work in the real world.
Many great healthcare leaders have brought innovation and enterprise to this industry. Some have dedicated themselves to fighting the pandemic, while others have tackled inequality, reformed healthcare systems, and found new ways to improve patient lives. Other examples of innovative leadership include using technology to improve access to medical care for underserved populations, developing a program for donating COVID-19 vaccines from the wealthiest countries to low- and medium-income countries, and creating a clinical management program to personalize treatment for heart failure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. These achievements demonstrate the difference effective leadership can make to the healthcare system.
Leaders in the healthcare industry are responsible for ensuring their team provides quality patient care. Leadership roles include nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, practice manager, hospital administrator, and chief nursing officer. Effective leaders can improve the workplace and ensure better patient outcomes. They can use their skills and qualities to manage their team, ensuring everyone understands their role and works together to reach their goals. Leaders use skills such as problem-solving to assess complex situations and develop effective strategies to effect resolution.
The healthcare industry is constantly evolving and changing, and healthcare leaders are at the forefront of innovation and change. They make decisions that will impact policy, patients, and providers for years. With new technologies and treatments being continually developed leaders must adapt to change. Demonstrating successful leadership involves assessing where organizations are currently, community needs, and identifying the changes required. Changes will relate to patient care and outcomes and create a positive work environment to retain healthcare staff.
Medical breakthroughs, such as the fast development of COVID-19 vaccines, public health concerns, such as access to healthcare for everyone, and an aging population, demonstrate the need for healthcare leadership. By preparing for possible challenges or advancements, leaders can ensure the provision of quality care, the effective management of resources, and the navigation of unforeseen difficulties. Leaders set the tone for the organization, determining its priorities and values. The success of an organization is dependent on the leadership team.
Leaders make decisions every day, and many of these decisions affect their staff. Resolving problems in a way that suits their staff is an example of effective decision-making in leadership. This is an important skill as healthcare leaders work in a high-consequence industry—leaders must be able to make hard decisions when required. In healthcare, emergencies can happen at any given time. From medical crises to natural disasters, strong leadership is needed to manage decision-making and ensure patients and staff are safe. Having a clear command chain and procedures for emergencies allows for effective decision-making and response.
Good decision-making skills also mean developing critical thinking skills to identify the problem and find a solution that benefits employees and the organization. Leaders must be fair when making decisions and communicate well with others. Leaders with strong decision-making skills will seek data to validate relevancy and accuracy, combine intuition, experience, and data to find the best solution, assess proposals, choices, ideas, and potential outcomes, and make timely decisions.
Leaders understand the strengths and weaknesses of their staff and can delegate according to who is best suited to the job. When tasks are appropriately assigned, the team can perform effectively. Team members can use their skills to contribute to the workplace and feel that their capabilities have been recognized. Delegation also allows leaders to concentrate on other important tasks.
Leaders should ensure they have given clear instructions and outlined the desired result when delegating tasks. They should agree on task completion dates, when phases of a task should be completed, and discuss how much time will be given to any given task. It’s important for leaders to check on progress to see if a staff member needs extra support or guidance, and they must trust in that person’s ability to complete the task. Authority should be delegated to the person so they can fully manage the project and make necessary decisions. A good leader should thank staff when tasks are completed. Delegation requires giving the right tasks to the right people while providing the authority and resources to complete a task. Effective delegation increases capacity, saves time, and motivates and develops staff.
Leaders use their knowledge and skills to solve problems in the workplace. They apply their problem-solving skills to make decisions under pressure. Particularly in healthcare, leaders must stay calm during crises to think creatively and take decisive action. Leaders make decisions that determine the service offered by their facility, and they apply their analytical skills to solve health problems for patients. Leaders use problem-solving skills to develop strategies, analyze data, address challenges, and apply solutions. Hospital administrators solve problems such as managing a budget properly, and practitioners solve issues related to patient care.
The constant change in healthcare means that leaders are required to solve new problems daily. There are numerous techniques for solving problems that leaders can utilize; gap analysis can be used to compare current performance with desired or expected performance and help leaders decide on how to adjust expectations or use resources differently while ‘The Five Whys’ can be used when the problem is clear, but the causes are not. ‘The Five Whys’ is a method in which a person will ask “Why?” five times; it allows a thorough consideration of a problem, and ensures that the final answer can indicate the root of a problem and maybe reveal a solution. The Gemba Walk is a method that derives from a Japanese word meaning “the real place.” This technique shows leaders what works and what does not so they can focus on the process, identify the value stream, and decide which areas need improvement. Another option is SWOT analysis, which is a common strategic planning tool that helps organizations identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Leaders need to have effective communication skills. They need to express their ideas clearly so that their perspective and goals are understood. They also need to understand the attitudes, objectives, and needs of those around them. Leaders use communication skills to work effectively with their teams, patients, and other professionals—communicating well across departments ensures everyone is working toward the same goals. Leaders must discuss their vision and perceptions with their team to build a productive workplace. Collaborating with the team involves making decisions, having new ideas, and resolving problems. Leaders also need to communicate with stakeholders to hear about any issues they have, and so they can contribute to decision-making.
Leaders also need the ability to listen actively to their team and receive feedback from colleagues. Hearing other viewpoints and experiences can increase understanding of the people they work with. Active listening involves paying absolute attention to what is said. Here are the five steps of active listening:
- Pay attention (do not interrupt).
- Use body language to show you are listening.
- Give feedback.
- Defer judgment and respond appropriately.
Leaders affect the working environment. They need the skills to give feedback, motivate their team, delegate effectively, and run effective meetings. They can use these skills to ensure their staff experience learning and development. Effective leaders learn continually and support their staff to do the same. They are role models for learning and sharing their knowledge, contributing to increased staff retention.
When leaders support staff professional development, they are investing in their organization. Employees who are committed to their careers are more likely to feel loyal to their manager and organization. Leaders can encourage team development by giving feedback on performance, clear performance criteria, and providing incentives and resources to staff who prioritize learning. When development is a priority, employees will adopt best practices and understand industry trends. Leaders can make a difference by ensuring their staff can access learning opportunities.
Teams with greater skills and knowledge tend to deliver an enhanced service to internal and external customers. They are well-informed and have a better understanding of customer needs. Continuous learning also makes staff more confident in carrying out work tasks. Confident staff are more inclined to take on extra responsibility, which means their manager can delegate to them effectively. When teams work well together, managers can focus on leading and spend less time dealing with problems and complaints.
The pandemic demonstrated that organizations need to adapt in difficult times. Personal development helps staff maintain best practices and deal with change and upheaval, and supplies the tools needed to develop creative ideas and try new things.
Advances in healthcare technology and its part in improving patient outcomes mean that healthcare leaders must understand data analysis. Whenever a patient receives medical care, data is generated. This data can be collected and analyzed, and the results can determine research into new treatments, improve medical services, and deliver the right services. Data analysis can find ways to develop financial strategies and improve administrative operations.
Healthcare data analysis involves analyzing past and current data to upgrade patient outreach, predict trends, and manage the spread of disease. Leaders can use this information to give actionable insights and support decisions. It can indicate ways to improve diagnosis, patient care, and business management. Leaders can apply data analysis to operations management and patient care.
Healthcare operations generate vast amounts of data, and healthcare leaders can use data analysis in clinical settings to improve staffing and scheduling, give patients more choices in scheduling appointments, and reduce patient waiting times.
Quality dashboards are data management tools that collect data from various systems in an organization and present it as key performance indicators. The dashboard gives a visual representation of critical information that shows an organization’s performance in important areas. Performance data and critical quality measures are displayed on a computer screen to aid reporting and quality management analysis. This allows leaders to identify problems, set improvement goals, and evaluate department performance.
The healthcare industry is continually evolving and changing and requires strong leadership to work effectively. Effective leaders can build productive teams and ensure the delivery of quality patient care. They need many skills to perform this role, including team management, data analysis, and decision-making. Leaders make a critical contribution to the successful running of healthcare organizations and ensure their teams meet patient needs.