Best Skills Nurse Leaders Need for Overcoming Medical Obstacles

Healthcare systems in every country face many multifaceted and complex challenges in providing safe, high-quality, and cost-effective care as we go into the future. The ever-changing systems, high patient disease acuity, and rising healthcare costs are some of the sector’s problems. Therefore, improving and sustaining the quality of care is a priority, which might lead to a shift in healthcare delivery and the role that healthcare professionals play.

Leaders in the healthcare sector, especially nurse leaders, are crucial in the continuum of care era. These individuals are challenged daily with problems that need to be solved with critical thinking. They have to make decisions that may have consequences that impact patients’ lives. Thus, nurse leaders must be equipped with the skills necessary to overcome every obstacle.

What is nurse leadership?

There are different types of leaders, from community leaders to corporate leaders to government leaders. No matter the setting, a leader is at the helm, and the nursing profession is no exception.

Nursing leadership is influencing, motivating, and inspiring healthcare professionals as they work together to reach their goals. Today, leaders in the nursing sector are influencing healthcare organizations at every level and in every discipline and setting. And while the role of nursing leadership might be considered relatively new, its impact and influence have been well documented throughout history.

Who is a nurse leader?

It is worth noting that nurse leaders are typically defined by their actions rather than their position of authority. Leaders in nursing inspire others to reach their full potential. They utilize applied leadership in nursing by drawing upon critical thinking skills to lead a team.

Leaders in nursing take a broad view of how daily tasks impact the goals of a healthcare organization. They communicate their expectations to their team and encourage the team members to achieve predetermined goals. These nurses can lead from different organizational areas if they have the necessary qualities to influence others.

How to become a nurse leader

Becoming a nurse leader requires education, experience, and leadership skills. Here are the steps you can take to become a nurse leader:

  • Enroll in an accredited nursing program – To become a nurse, you must pursue a nursing degree by enrolling in an accredited nursing program. You can settle for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). A BSN is generally preferred for leadership roles since it has a comprehensive curriculum and focuses on leadership, research, and management.
  • Get your nursing license – You must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered RN.
  • Gain clinical experience – After getting your license, you can start your nursing career by working in a clinical setting such as a clinic, hospital, or nursing home. You must gain experience in different nursing specialties to broaden your skills and knowledge.
  • Pursue higher education – The next step to advance in nursing leadership and open further nursing doctorate careers is pursuing higher education. You can opt for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Programs such as those available at Marymount University prepare aspiring leaders by teaching evidence-based practice methods and the qualities needed to align with the clinical nurse leaders role.
  • Choose a nursing-related specialty – There are various specialties within nursing leadership. These include nurse managers, administrators, educators, and informaticists. Determine the area that interests you the most and aligns with your skills.
  • Gain leadership experience – Seek out leadership opportunities within your nursing organization. Volunteer for committees, take leadership roles in projects, or become a charge nurse to gain leadership experience.
  • Stay ahead of current best practices – Ensure you are updated with the latest advancements in healthcare and nursing. Participate in continuing education, attend workshops, and read relevant publications to stay informed on current practices.

The role of a nurse leader

In a typical day, a nurse leader will solve problems such as patient safety, bedside care, staffing shortages, and budget constraints. Balancing the various daily challenges and performing well under pressure are crucial to playing this role effectively.

Nurse leaders also analyze dashboards and reports and must focus on their people. Without a motivated and supported team, the leader and organization experience negative consequences. An excellent nurse leader will use a healthy balance of managing processes and people. They will ensure that staff is recognized for quality improvements, physical presence is maintained to show appreciation and support, and feedback is encouraged to promote continued success in improving patient care.

Leadership styles in nursing

Successful nursing leadership recognizes that nursing staff and patients benefit from a cohesive healthcare team. Nurse leaders must understand different leadership styles to optimize patient outcomes and maximize staff potential.

Some nursing leadership styles include:

Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership management style focuses on motivating others. Leaders who use this approach teach people to think critically instead of providing a detailed list of tasks. This style ultimately results in internal innovation and motivation. Leaders in this category consistently lead by example but are available for support and consultation.

Democratic leadership

Nurse leaders who use this approach emphasize personal relationships. These leaders encourage communication among team members, allowing them to feel comfortable voicing ideas, concerns, and opinions. They also listen to feedback and try to incorporate it while making decisions.

Laissez-faire leadership

Also known as “hands-off” leadership, the laissez-faire leadership style is often seen in new nurse leaders. These leaders avoid micromanagement and trust that team members will approach them with concerns and questions. While this leadership style does not involve strong decision-making, it can be effective in an environment with high skill levels among the staff.

Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership contrasts laissez-faire leadership in that it focuses on decision-making. These decisions are often arrived at without the input of staff. The leaders make firm decisions that they stick by and do not welcome feedback. This leadership style has little tolerance for mistakes, and it is useful in emergencies.

Servant leadership

The servant leadership style is focused on motivating and influencing others by building relationships and developing their skills. In nursing, servant leadership is seen in individuals who care about every team member and try to provide them with the resources and tools they require to succeed.

What are the obstacles that nurse leaders face?

While nursing leadership is an exciting and satisfying field, nurses in these positions often face obstacles on the job. Some of these challenges include:


If you speak to any experienced nurse leader about the obstacles they face, odds are staffing is near the top of the list. Solving staffing problems can be intricate, taking away a tremendous amount of a nurse leader’s time. Even when the staff is self-scheduled, the leaders are still responsible for staffing ratios.

Nurses in leadership schedule shifts and must make careful calculations to ensure safe staffing. The leaders must account for overtime potential and prevent it as much as possible.

Leaders also need to consider special scheduling requests. These include staff taking personal time off or those on special duty assignments for staff recovering from illness.

In addition, nurses in leadership must also consider the availability of part-time, travel, or pro re nata staff. They must ensure enough staff to accommodate the added workload when there is an influx of patients.


Nurse leaders must adhere to a budget and ensure their staff does so as well. Nursing budgets are usually taken up by staff payroll and medical supplies. Therefore, nurse leaders must walk a tight line to manage the use of supplies and staff to provide efficient and safe care within tough financial constraints.

Those in leadership often face the challenge of doing more with less. This can be challenging whenever staff turnover is high and staffing resources fall short.

Boosting morale

We have all heard of nurses who are unhappy and are forced to accomplish so much with so little. High burnout and low morale are counterproductive to patient care and can lead to poor retention of good employees.

Nurse leaders are required to boost morale and help staff avoid burnout, which can be challenging. They must work to forge relationships with nursing team members, acknowledge and address their concerns, and reward them when they succeed.

Staff retention

Nurse retention is another challenge facing the medical field. Common reasons for high nurse turnover include long hours, stress, and high patient-to-nurse ratios. Many current nurses are also retiring. The challenge is that few nurses fill these positions, and nurse leaders must deal with understaffing.

Multi-generational teams

Nurses today are from multiple generations. As a result, nurse leaders need to know how to manage people with varying experience levels, attitudes, work habits, and communication styles. They must also ensure that nurses from different generations understand each other and what is expected of them. Teaching nurses to interact appropriately will go a long way in minimizing conflicts and misunderstandings.

Skills nurse leaders need to overcome these challenges

Due to the different challenges, working in the healthcare sector – especially as a nurse leader – can be challenging. But with the right skills, you can address these obstacles and lead your team to success. Here are some of the best skills that nurse leaders can use to overcome medical hurdles:

Effective communication

Nurse leaders must communicate medical issues to patients and family members in an informative yet caring way. They must also regularly communicate with other nurses, healthcare professionals, and hospital executives. Communication will ensure teams operate better, staff members feel valued, and patients feel cared for.

Excellent decision making

Nursing leaders face various daily challenges, from resource allocation to staffing to critical patient care decisions. Strong decision-making skills allow nurse leaders to approach problems methodically. Nurses with these skills can break down manageable components and identify potential solutions. This leads to more effective and sustainable outcomes.

Dedication to excellence

Every nurse should strive to provide high-quality care, but leaders must go above and beyond. Nursing leaders must be committed to excellence in every area of their role since they directly impact the overall quality of care patients receive.

Emotional intelligence

Nurse leaders must possess the emotional intelligence to handle challenges faced in healthcare settings. This skill allows them to provide support in difficult times to assist the staff from getting emotionally exhausted or burned out.

Emotional intelligence is also valuable when nurses are interacting with patients. Skilled leaders can discuss medical complications, conditions, and treatments with patients compassionately and tactfully. The good thing is that this is a skill most nurses develop over time, both in school and while working.


Leadership in nursing encompasses delegating responsibilities and tasks to others. Nurses in leadership positions must delegate to ensure the smooth running of their organization. Doing this goes a long way in ensuring a facility provides high-quality care.

Empowering others

The healthcare sector is demanding and full of challenges. Nurses will often feel unmotivated and exhausted. As a nurse leader, one has to empower others through leadership. This leads to high-quality care, better health outcomes, and lower turnover as nurses’ morale is boosted.

Conflict resolution

Nurse leaders have to manage conflicts, especially in multi-generational settings. They must be active listeners and good mediators to find common ground. By addressing conflicts promptly, leaders prevent issues from escalating. Therefore, the work environment remains harmonious, and collaboration thrives.

Crisis management

It is common to have crises and emergencies in medical settings. Nurse leaders must take charge during such times to ensure the safety of patients and staff. They must coordinate resources and communicate effectively with involved parties. By managing crises effectively, they instill confidence in their team and foster a sense of stability and security.

Improving the quality of care and patient safety through nursing leadership

Effective nursing leadership is linked to major contributions to the healthcare industry. As the US redesigns its healthcare, nurses must be included as full partners with physicians and other healthcare professionals. This will lead to a culture of safety that includes positive patient outcomes and a high-quality work environment in the medical sector.