How an Increasingly Complex Healthcare System is Reshaping What it Means to Be a Nurse Leader

View all blog posts under Doctor of Nursing Practice | View all blog posts under Infographics

Today’s health care system is more developed and technically equipped than ever before. However, it also faces an unprecedented set of challenges. These issues include ever-increasing high costs, suboptimal health incomes, substantial health disparities in the population, and inadequate access for many would-be patients. This translates to increasingly chaotic complex times in the health care management industry. Yet there is hope: Nurses are well-positioned within the healthcare industry to be leaders of change needed as institutions strive to achieve better outcomes.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Regis College’s Online Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Add This Infographic to Your Site

<p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="" style="max-width:100%;" /></a></p><p style="clear:both;margin-bottom:20px;"><a href="" rel="noreferrer" target="_blank">Regis College Online </a></p>

The Health Care Transformation Landscape

The U.S. health care industry’s estimated worth is $1 trillion. This figure helps provide employment to over 5.4 million people.

It is an industry that finds itself in a state of transformation due to several factors. Health care fragmentation is resulting in lapses in care quality and higher healthcare costs for chronically ill patients. Unsustainable costs are driving up the cost of health care per person – a cost that was $9,523 per person In 2014.

Suboptimal outcomes like hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) have also contributed to the transformation. These conditions can include surgery on the wrong patient or body part, and even patient death or disability stemming from receipt of incomparable blood.

Health disparities amongst racial and ethnic minorities such as higher rates of chronic disease and premature death further fuel the transformation. So does chronic illnesses, which account for 86 percent of the health care expenditures in the U.S. This translates to $2.7 trillion.

How Nurses Can Help Lead the Way

Nurses can help guide the health care industry in various ways. They can focus on wellness and prevention, an element that should be equal in importance to treating illness. For example, they could promote awareness of and support for workplace programs aimed to prevent back and other musculoskeletal diseases and disabilities.

Nurses can also adopt a population health management approach, one that aims to maximize a population’s health as it minimizes expenses by preventing costly interventions. For instance, they could rely on community resources to encourage individuals to adopt a health lifestyle as they engage in healthy behaviors.

Additionally, nurses can partner and collaborate with other health care practitioners. This is a necessary process that ensures follow-through and consistency across multiple levels of a health care organization. An example of this would be to communicate inefficiencies across care delivery to senior staff and physicians in order to drive change.

Adopting Complex Adaptive Systems in Health Care

A Health Foundation report defines complex adaptive systems, or CAS, as an approach that challenges simple cause-and-effect assumptions, and views care delivery as a dynamic process.

CAS in Health Care and its Applications


Individuals in a leadership role should recognize the importance of connectivity and recursive feedback. They should also view leadership as an activity as opposed to a position of authority.

Organizational Development

In light of CAS, individuals involved in leading change should recognize that the health care macrosystem consists of several microsystems; therefore, change begins with the staff.

Service Delivery

In treating, for instance, chronic illness, CAS views chronicity as a journey consisting of simple and complicated phases affecting patients, their families, and their communities.

Behavior Change

No longer a linear cause and effect, CAS views behavior change as being comprised of multiple components, the results of which is greater than the sum of their parts.

The Advantages of Adopting CAS

There are several positive aspects that come with adopting the CAS model. It contains applications that can be spread across many different contexts. It focuses on relationships as opposed to linear cause and effect. It also provides a more complete picture of the factors influencing change. Additionally, CAS offers new possibilities or opportunities for change. Finally, the model challenges common preconceptions or assumptions.

How Nurses of the Future Will Lead

To fully realize the total potential of CAS, nurse leaders must accept and embrace their new responsibilities. This will require a specialized education, a desire to lead change, and the willingness to learn from experienced nurses.

These nurse leaders will have several key responsibilities. They will apply their research findings in the health care setting. They will incorporate nursing education into practice and policy. They will also identify problems and inefficiencies. Additionally, they will propose and implement a plan for improvement. They’ll also be charged with tracking the progress of an improvement plan. Finally, they will adjust as necessary to meet goals.

In order to meet these responsibilities, nurse leaders should adopt a new perspective and role. They should shape and develop policy, rather than just accepting it as something that happens to them. They should be ready to collaborate and communicate with other health care leaders.

They should also understand and speak the language of policy to effectively engage in promoting change. Additionally, they should serve on advisory boards, commissions, and committees. Finally, they should build partnerships with business owners, philanthropists, government officials, other clinicians, and the public in order to implement improvements.

Three Key Steps to Developing Nurse Leaders

The first essential step in the development of nurse leaders is education. Cultivating this acumen starts in school and continues in the workplace, with faculty embracing their obligation to encourage career advancement.

The second step involves community initiatives. This step can be led by students, and can offer nurse leaders relevant, quality experience prior to them entering the workforce.

The third step is built upon mentoring. This element is especially crucial, because it shares nursing experience with the next generation of nurse leaders.

While the first step toward becoming an effective nurse leader is obtaining an education, students must recognize the need for education and experience beyond classroom walls. This is provided via community organizations and mentoring relationships. Following these steps will lead to a brighter future in health care, which will mean a healthier future for Americans across the United States.