Secrets of Effective Nurse Leaders: COLLABORATION

Nurses are well educated in clinical skills and in the principles of nursing practice. Yet during their education, nurses often receive no training in leadership skills (in contrast, leadership principles are routinely taught in business schools and other types of vocational programs). Even so, many nurses leave the bedside and rise to positions at the management or executive level. How do they do it? This series will explore some of the secrets of effective nurse leaders.

Today’s emphasis on multi-disciplinary care teams means that nurse leaders have contact with nearly every department in the hospital. They are the liaison between staff nurses and upper management, and they coordinate activities having to do with clinical practices, patient safety, ethics, finance, human resources, supply management and more.

The nurse leaders who can make this all run smoothly have mastered the concept of collaboration. They are able to bridge the gaps between disparate departments that have traditionally worked independently of each other. They’re able to gain access to the resources they need and influence those department heads that can further their own vision.

Research has validated the benefits of collaboration. In the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, an article titled “Ten Lessons in Collaboration” by Deborah B. Gardner Ph.D., RN, CS reviews the literature, listing the benefits of collaboration as improved patient outcomes, reduced lengths of stay, cost savings, increased nursing job satisfaction, and increased staff retention.

In addition, nurse leaders are in a pivotal position to elevate nursing practice by creating a hospital environment where nurse-physician collaboration is the expected norm. They must communicate this vision of collaboration, and practice as a role model of collaboration. The recent focus on nurse-physician collaboration is likely to improve the quality of patient care, increase efficiency in care delivery, and create satisfying new roles for staff nurses. Both doctors and nurses have information about their patient that the other needs, in order to provide holistic care. Education also comes into play here, as the key to gaining respect across all disciplines. In its landmark report, “The Future of Nursing,” the Institute of Medicine (IOM) discusses the importance of nurses and nurse leaders having more educational parity with other members of the healthcare team – including physicians, pharmacists, social workers, physical therapists, etc., who are typically educated at the graduate or post-graduate level. Educational parity can help to strengthen collaborative efforts.

Collaborative efforts also involve the following skills:

  • The ability to value and understand diversity
  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Clinical excellence
  • The ability to delegate effectively
  • The ability to balance autonomy with collaboration, depending on the situation

American Sentinel’s online MSN, Management and Organizational Leadership degree is designed for experienced nurse professional who seek to develop both management and leadership skills. Through case studies and hands-on course work, nurses examine the various human resource challenges facing an organization as well as the dynamic nature of the strategic planning and management processes. Courses cover long-range planning, including budgeting, analysis and reporting.

Read the other parts of this four-part series to learn the other secrets of effective nurse leaders!