What Is Nursing Leadership?

A portrait of a multi ethnic group of healthcare professionals consisting of doctors and nurses at the hospital. A female nurse of African descent is standing in front of the team. Everyone is wearing a face mask and looking at the camera.

Leadership is important for all sorts of organizations — from major corporations to small businesses. It’s also important in the healthcare space. Why is leadership important in nursing?

In healthcare, nursing leadership can improve the quality of care, drive positive policy changes and maintain strong morale among nursing staff members.1 Let’s take a closer look at the importance of nursing leadership and how you could affect positive change within your healthcare organization.

In This Article:

Why Is Leadership Important in Nursing?

The healthcare landscape is continuously evolving, and nurses must adapt and change along with it. In addition, nurses can face considerable challenges every day — from difficult patient cases to long hours on their feet. When times get tough, nurse leaders can be there to uplift, empower and inspire their colleagues.

What is nursing leadership? Nursing leadership can be found in nurses who hold all types of positions; it isn’t exclusive to those in supervisory roles. A nurse leader can be described as someone who encourages collaboration, demonstrates unwavering professional ethics, and inspires others to live up to their true potential.

Effective nursing leadership is associated with:1

  • Better quality of patient care
  • Higher patient satisfaction
  • Enhanced staff morale and well-being
  • Reduced patient mortality rates

Nurse Leadership Skills

There are several nurse leadership skills that characterize healthcare professionals who strive to go above and beyond.

Ability To Inspire Other Leaders

Successful leaders are able to empower others to lead because they have the best interest of their organization in mind. They value the perspective of others and what they bring to the table. Nurse leaders understand the value of teamwork because they know they cannot accomplish all tasks on their own.

Today, nurses who want to pursue a management or administrative role can earn their MSN in leadership in healthcare systems. With this degree, nurses can prepare to lead others and manage resources to achieve organizational goals. They strive to develop a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare environment and the nurse leadership skills needed to meet ethical and professional standards. As a result, they may become frontrunners in the field and inspire others to do the same.

Strong Communication Skills

Those who pursue nursing leadership positions have the opportunity to communicate with all kinds of audiences. Within the organization in which they work, they communicate with employees they oversee, coworkers and other clinicians. It is important that in these interactions, nurse leaders are open and honest in order to earn the trust of others.

In addition, nurse leaders must be able to effectively communicate with their patients and individuals from other organizations. When it comes to working with patients, nurse leaders are able to identify their needs in order to determine the best treatment plan. They often go above and beyond to understand others and their perspective.

Problem-Solving Skills

With the satisfaction of patients at the forefront of their practice, those in nursing leadership positions possess problem-solving skills to create solutions in the healthcare field. They are able to define problems that must be addressed, often before they arise. Due to their extensive knowledge of the nursing industry, they can also propose solutions and effectively implement them.

Today, nurses can further their education by enrolling in a dual MBA and MSN degree program. With an emphasis in nursing leadership in healthcare systems, this degree is designed to help nurses develop cross-functional business management skills and leadership competencies in nursing. As a result, they can position themselves to address business problems in the field, potentially allowing them to take on leadership roles in healthcare organizations.

An Attitude of Service

Nurse leaders understand the value of service and often make it the focus of their practice. They place the needs of their patients as top priority and can encourage others in their organization to do the same.

For example, nurse leaders can create an organizational culture of service by treating patients and their families with great care and respect. This can lead to successful interactions, which sets an example for others. Ultimately, those in nursing leadership positions become role models by adopting a servant leader mindset.

Those who succeed in nursing are knowledgeable and passionate about their work. In addition, having strong nurse leadership skills can help nurses stand out and potentially advance in their position. Ultimately, nurse leaders have the opportunity to act as role models in the field, setting a high standard of excellence in their practice.

Explore the Business of Healthcare

Individuals who want to incorporate their passion for business into their nursing career can earn a dual MSN-MBA: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems. You’ll take courses that teach advanced management skills and can help you position yourself to grow healthcare organizations of all kinds.

With competencies in both healthcare and business, you may position yourself to potentially pursue a leadership position in healthcare organizations. Some nurses with business competencies might even decide to start their own healthcare-oriented business.

Become a Change Agent in Clinical Practice

In addition to a wide variety of MSN programs, GCU also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program for students who want to take their education further. The DNP’s goal is to prepare you to apply research to your current nursing practice. You have the opportunity to expand current theoretical and scientific foundations of healthcare practice in order to develop clinical solutions and make a positive impact in your field.

The DNP-prepared nurse is expected to drive positive change in healthcare by applying evidence-based practice to their work. Nurses with advanced academic qualifications might pursue advanced care roles, or they might obtain board certification to become an APRN.3,4

Nursing Leadership Opportunities

If you aspire to demonstrate nurse leadership skills in your own career, consider the following nursing leadership opportunities.

Lead in Healthcare Systems

Today’s healthcare delivery systems are rapidly changing. Therefore, leaders are needed to manage people and resources to achieve organizational goals. Earning an MSN with an Emphasis in Leadership in Healthcare Systems provides opportunities to gain an in-depth understanding of the healthcare environment.

You’ll be able to practice the communication and interpersonal skills needed to meet ethical and professional standards. Graduates of this program will be taught to understand leadership and how organizations function.

Some leadership positions within healthcare systems include:

  • Charge nurse
  • Director of nursing
  • Chief nursing office
  • Vice president of nursing services

Become an Expert in Healthcare Informatics

For individuals who want to lead in nursing by applying data to decision-making in the field, earning an MSN with an Emphasis in Healthcare Informatics may be a great option. This degree program is intended to prepare you to address issues in professional practice and to propose and implement solutions that are backed by research.

In addition, you are taught to evaluate the outcomes of these solutions. As a nurse who specializes in informatics, you can work in many different settings and may take on the role of automating clinical care, building new operational data systems or training workers to use new technology.

Become a Nurse Educator

As the field of nursing continues to grow, leaders are needed to educate the nurses of tomorrow. An MSN with an Emphasis in Nursing Education may prepare you to educate the next generation of nurses.

This program walks you through relevant topics such as ethics, policy and finance in healthcare, pathophysiology, advanced health assessment and curriculum development. Completing this program may empower you to pursue a position in nursing education. You can work in a variety of different settings as a patient educator, or you may take on the role of an educator in clinical and academic settings.2

Drive Change in Public Health

GCU’s MSN with an Emphasis in Public Health Nursing is designed to prepare you to develop, plan, implement and evaluate health programs and services. By analyzing modern healthcare issues of today, you can work to reduce disease and illness through research, education and other solutions.

Graduates of this program may pursue a wide range of professional opportunities in public health and nursing. Work to effect change on a community-wide level as you advocate for the well-being of people in your area.

Provide Care for Older Adults

If you are interested in being a leader in direct patient care, still working in patient care, etc., consider GCU’s MSN with an Emphasis in Adult-Gerontology. This program’s goal is to prepare you to work with the growing adult and elderly population by providing them with quality care. You will have the opportunity to examine theories and practices related to all areas of direct acute care of gerontology patients in order to make a difference in the lives of the elderly.

As a nurse leader who specializes in working with the adult and elderly population, you may be equipped to assess physical, psychosocial, spiritual, risk and functional aspects in acute and chronically ill adults and seniors. Inspire your fellow nurses in these settings to embrace a compassionate approach blended with evidence-based practices.

Become a Family Nurse Practitioner

The MSN: Family Nurse Practitioner program at GCU is intended to prepare you to become a primary care provider for individuals, families, communities and populations. By exploring different levels of preventative care, including health promotion, illness prevention and diagnosis and management, you may be prepared to meet the needs of a wide variety of patients.

Graduates of this program can pursue board certification to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), who perform comprehensive health assessments, diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments to manage health problems.3 These APRNs can apply their knowledge in a variety of practice settings, and they can provide healthcare for patients across the human lifespan.

Enjoy the Convenience of an Online Program

Many graduate degrees in nursing are available in an online format, offering greater convenience and flexibility to nurse leaders who wish to further their education while continuing to work. This format can enable you to explore issues in-depth and practice what you’ve been taught in the field via field practicum hours.5

Grand Canyon University’s College of Nursing and Health Care Professions can prepare you to provide quality care to meet the unique needs of the populations you serve. Apply today for enrollment in the Master of Business Administration & Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Leadership in Health Care Systems degree program. To learn more about nursing degree programs available at GCU, fill out the form on this page.

1 Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses. (2021, July 21). The importance of leadership in nursing. Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses. Retrieved Nov.16, 2023. 

2 Gaines, K., MSN, RN, BA, CBC. (2023, Sept.18). How to become a nurse educator. Nurse.org. Retrieved Nov.16, 2023. 

3 Nursing License Map. (n.d.). How to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP). Retrieved Nov.16, 2023. 

4 Indeed. (2023, March 3). What is the role of the nurse executive? A career guide. Retrieved Nov.16, 2023. 

5 For more information on the accreditation of nursing programs and other university approvals, please visit our University Accreditation and Regulations page.

Approved by the associate dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on Jan. 8, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.