Important skills for nurse leaders and how to develop them

Every healthcare institution needs a nurse leader. They are tasked with overseeing the nursing staff and play a significant role in shaping healthcare delivery. Whether in a big city hospital, a nursing home, or a rural clinic, the nurse is often the first contact a patient has with medical staff. Should they be admitted, they have more contact with nurses than any other medical professional.

The nurse leader’s role is to ensure that all nurses are properly trained to deliver the highest quality of healthcare. They must follow institutional and state guidelines while remaining humane and sympathetic to every patient they care for.

The job of the nurse manager is to ensure that nurses are equipped to work toward positive outcomes for all patients.

Some nurse leaders come into the position because they have experience and natural leadership qualities. However, more and more institutions are looking for nurse leaders that have the proper qualifications.

Rather than wait for experience to qualify you for the position, you can enroll in an executive nursing course to gain the necessary qualifications. Nurse leadership professional development courses teach management and communication styles, interdepartmental communication, advocacy for nurses, policy development, and how to influence executives. You also learn business strategy, quality and safety within healthcare facilities, and how to implement healthcare models.

To be a good nurse leader, you need more than paper qualifications. The best nurse leaders can be identified by a certain set of skills they use every day to carry out their roles.

Some people are lucky enough to develop these skills naturally. The rest of us have to learn them. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have the skills that are discussed here. So long as you know what they are, you can work to develop them and become exceptional in your role.

What are the most important skills for nurse leaders?

Good decision-making

Nurses have to make decisions all the time. Whether you practice in a big city hospital or a small country clinic, you need to be a clear thinker who is pragmatic and logical when under pressure. Not only do you have to make decisions for yourself, but you also have responsibility for the nurses you supervise.

All of us are decision-makers; from the time we get up in the morning until we go to bed at night, we make hundreds of decisions.

In nursing, you take this to a new level. The decisions you make can mean life or death, so they must be well thought through.

You must also learn when to defer decisions to superiors. There are instances when you will need the guidance of those who are older and more experienced.


If you think back to some of the people who mentored you in the past, they may not have had any kind of training. It seemed to come naturally to them. As a nurse leader, you will be charged with guiding nurses and helping them provide the best healthcare they can to patients.

Mentorship involves learning about those you want to mentor. You should understand their particular circumstances and the obstacles they face as they go about their work. You must also set a good example to all so they are willing to emulate you. Encourage open communication so your nurses can talk to you freely and openly.

Conflict resolution

How good are you at resolving conflicts between your colleagues? When you assume your role as nurse manager, you will be tasked with ensuring a good working environment, and that involves making sure that nurses cooperate with other professionals in the hospital.

If you are not very good at conflict resolution, there is plenty of material online to help get you started, or you can enroll in a conflict resolution course.

Good communication

This is essential for all nurses, not just nurse leaders. As a nurse, you need good communication with patients, but when you assume a management role, you’ll be communicating with teams, management, providers, and other stakeholders.

Learning how to communicate well isn’t easy but there is plenty of material available online. If you would like to go even further, you can enroll in a short communication course for healthcare managers.


Nurse leaders are in charge of teams of nurses, and they must be team players themselves to provide the right kind of leadership. You should be open to ideas from others, communicate well, and participate in activities that promote a good work environment.

Be a lifelong learner

Nursing is evolving all the time. Every year, there are new technologies, new best practices, new drugs, and improved industry standards. If you want to be an effective nurse leader, you must commit yourself to taking on new ideas.

Enroll in seminars, workshops, and short courses to keep up to date with your industry. When you come across new ideas, explore them to see whether they can be helpful within your institution.

Practice flexibility

Your managerial role will take you to different parts of the hospital, and you are expected to be effective wherever you are. Be adaptable to new situations and practice flexibility so you can do your job properly.

Be a good time manager

You will be busier than ever after you become a nurse leader. You are expected to do paperwork, supervise nurses, coordinate with different departments, interact with patients, and help doctors whenever needed.

Your skills as a time manager will be tested. Learn to put every minute of the workday to good use.

But don’t forget that a work-life balance for nurses is important; have enough rest and take frequent breaks to avoid burning out.


If becoming a nurse leader is the next step in your career, you can get there by enrolling in an executive nursing course. Apart from that, you need to develop important skills if you are going to be successful at your job.

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