DNP Nursing Leadership Role and Skills

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Educated nurse leaders are essential to health care organizations, because they are able to adeptly apply their knowledge of holistic medicine and health care management. They demonstrate their leadership skills in coordinating teams of nurses who assume clinical responsibilities such as prescribing and administering treatments, handling patient admissions and discharges, diagnosing illnesses, and providing patients and their families with medical advice.

While a registered nurse (RN) with moderate experience and education may be proficient in the clinical aspects of nursing, effectively leading an interdisciplinary team of nurses requires supplementing that practical clinical knowledge with a more advanced skill set. Industry research shows that nursing professionals who have earned their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can deliver quality of care on par with doctors. Through a BSN-DNP program, registered nurses can develop DNP nursing leadership skills.

The Importance of Leadership in Nursing

Being an effective health care leader often hinges on the ability to evaluate the current state of a system, program, or policy, and lead the process of innovative improvement or reform. With their extensive knowledge of health care system leadership and clinical practice, advanced practice nurses are well equipped to guide health care institutions and care for the patients who fill them.

Through their leadership efforts, advanced practice nurses work to comprehensively improve quality, safety, and patient satisfaction. By sharpening their leadership proficiency through a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, nurse professionals can choose to influence health care in various ways. They can prepare themselves to impact primary care or enter into nursing leadership roles such as nurse executive, nurse administrator, nurse supervisor, or health care policy advocate.

Advanced practice nurses are trained to effectively administer primary care treatments in place of physicians. This level of practice responsibility is not available to registered nurses, as only advanced practice nurses have the level of clinical expertise required to administer treatments without the direct supervision of a physician. With such extensive qualifications, DNP nurses have the ability to maximize the efficiency of health care delivery. By evaluating patients, diagnosing illnesses, and managing treatments without direct collaboration with a doctor, nurse leaders can free up resources and streamline operations in a health care organization.

7 Nursing Leadership Skills

By completing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program, a nurse practitioner can acquire a working comprehension of the following DNP nursing leadership competencies, each of which are vital to career advancement into leadership positions:

1. Analyzing and Interpreting Clinical Outcomes

To improve the level of care within a hospital, nurse leaders must learn from previous clinical outcomes. This requires promoting the careful recording, analysis, and interpretation of patient data. To do so, nurse leaders must develop their ability to identify which clinical data can be used to improve quality care. Then, they must design a plan of action to efficiently obtain that information. To maximize the accuracy of the collected data, nurse leaders should focus on designing research protocols that are flexible, while also using their administrative skill set to ensure that nursing staff consistently comply with the plan.

2. Creating and Fostering a Clear Health Care Vision

Nurses who are in leadership positions should consistently and outwardly convey confidence in their ability to provide quality care. This helps gain the trust and respect of their subordinates, who look to them for guidance. Nurse leaders should also be equipped with the ability to clearly communicate their vision, to ensure their employees understand the task at hand. For example, if a hospital is facing an unwarranted increase in patient complaints, an effective leader will respond with a well-thought-out plan. That may include making sure to highlight the root cause of the issue, and then acting to solve it by articulating a well-defined strategy for exactly how the facility can improve patient experiences.

3. Building and Managing Strong Health Care Teams

If a hospital has a shortage of skilled nurses, especially during times of peak medical need, the quality of care that is delivered is likely to be diminished. This in turn will likely result in a drop in patient satisfaction. To prevent this, nurse executives should be skilled at determining the status and needs of their health care team. If there is a lack of proper staffing, the nurse executive should provide all key information and help lead the human resources team toward finding and hiring suitable candidates. Apart from hiring new talent, nurse leaders can also fill workforce needs by facilitating educational classes, workshops, and hands-on training that would qualify current team members to take on new responsibilities.

4. Managing Conflict

As with any large workforce, conflicts between colleagues are never entirely avoidable. In medicine, this behavior is especially problematic, because it may adversely impact the quality of care being administered. Therefore, the responsibility lies with a skilled nurse leader who has DNP nursing leadership skills to prevent and mitigate employee conflicts. To effectively manage employees, a nurse leader should be able to clearly promote a code of ethics that defines the attitudes and behaviors that are appropriate for hospital staff. A competent nurse leader should also be capable of implementing a system of policies that encourages positive behavior and penalizes negative actions.

5. Understanding Health Care Business

In the health care industry, the services offered often greatly impact the health, happiness, and very lives of patients. This makes ensuring top quality services and programs critically important. An effective administrative strategy enables providers to adapt to new trends and embrace advancements in the health care industry. To spearhead or manage these strategies, nurse executives must understand the complexities of the health care business, such as how insurance companies interact with health care businesses, and how big data can be used to improve health care techniques.

6. Leading Discussions and Improving Patient Outcomes

Conversations with patients represent an excellent method for discovering and identifying problems that may exist within a health care organization. The data that is collected can enable nurse executives to adjust their operational strategy and offer patients a better experience in the future. Through creativity and administrative control, nurse leaders can gather this data in highly effective ways. They may implement surveys for measuring patient satisfaction, or use social media to directly connect with patients and encourage them to provide constructive feedback about their experience.

7. Leading and Mentoring Nurses

Nurse executives play a pivotal role in the success of their respective health care organizations. They are often the driving force behind diverse teams of nurses who thrive through clear direction, mentorship, and motivation. Providing this level of guidance demands a personal leadership style based on proven leadership abilities.

How Nurse Leaders Solve Health Care Problems

With the strain on health care systems increasing, health care professionals must be able to perform at levels beyond the standards of the past. In rural communities especially, the physician shortage continues to grow. Doctors often have few incentives to choose rural locations over urban communities that often offer more diverse work opportunities. Therefore, trained nurses are in high demand in these rural areas — even more so if they are academically and professionally qualified to provide primary care.

Beyond providing patient care, advanced practice nurses can also influence the growth of the nursing profession. Their expertise qualifies them to teach future generations the fundamentals of nursing care. This education helps nurses excel in their medical specialty, while also helping them understand how to promote health as a whole to their patients.

Health care institutions need to bridge the gap in primary care and executive leadership that is currently restricting their capacity. Nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing are encouraged to take their mastery to the next level by pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice. With the knowledge gained through this degree program, nurses can optimize their ability to perform clinical tasks. On a larger scale, they can acquire the DNP nursing leadership capabilities to be true agents of change not only in nursing but in the modern delivery of patient care as well.

Advance Your Nursing Career

Health care is seeing an industrywide demand for advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level due to the changing landscape, a drive for improved patient outcomes, and a shortage of qualified nurses. If you’re an RN with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a nurse practitioner with a master’s degree in nursing and ready to take your career to a higher level, Regis College’s online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program can help you develop DNP nursing leadership skills for advanced nursing practice.

Recommended Readings
Careers in Care Leadership: What Is a Nurse Mentor?
What Is a Doctor of Nursing Practice? Examining an Advanced Degree
What Is Patient-Centered Care? A Key Component for Advanced Nursing Care

HealthStream, “How Leadership Styles in Healthcare Impact a Staff”
Mas Medical Staffing, “7 Types of Leadership Styles in Nursing (Which One Are You?)”
Nursing Management, “The Mentoring Relationship: Advantages for Both”
Oncology Nursing News, “Nurse Mentors: We Rise by Lifting Others”
Relias, “Nursing Leadership: What Is It and Why Is It Important?”
Relias, “5 Leadership Styles in Nursing”