The roles of nurse leaders are changing and developing as these wise and seasoned pros are expanding their responsibilities to both fellow professionals and patients. Nurse leaders are those individuals in nursing careers who are naturally take-charge people and those to whom the rest of the staff turn with questions and concerns. Though not necessarily nurse managers, as a rule, these nurse leaders are experts in policies, procedures, and patient care.
Often the administrators and those others in charge of hospitals and medical centers will recognize the leadership skills exampled by these nurse leaders. This frequently results in those with natural leadership abilities being promoted into areas of management that may or may not include the role of nurse manager. The trend seems to see these nurse leaders promoted into more administrative roles within the medical facility, including some high-level positions and executive roles not typically held by those in nursing.
Natural Evolution of Nurse Leaders
The complexity of healthcare in the modern world has given way to necessary changes. Nurses are more specialized than ever before and the need for more precision management has come into play. Enter the CNO, or Chief Nursing Officer.
This position is open to those RNs who possess the skillset and knowledge of a wide variety of patient population and care. From acute care to rehabilitation and neonatal to geriatric, the CNO needs to have “been there-done that” to some degree and carry a fair understanding of each specialty. Of course experience counts when you’re looking to promote to CNO, but there are some other attributes nurse leaders need to possess in order be successful a CNO.
Duties and Responsibilities of Nurse Leaders/CNO
The role of CNO is a supervisory one, as you might imagine. It carries with it the responsibility of overseeing the duties of nurse managers, helping to design and carry out patient care, finding strategies to improve patient services as well as efficient use of staff, maintaining satisfactory outcomes, achieving goals already established, and contributing to the organizations profitability.
Additionally, there are some specific responsibilities and duties particular to the position of Chief Nursing Officer. These include:
Nursing Duties: As nurse leaders the CNO is expected to maintain patient and clinical standards, ensuring patient safety and accessibility to the utmost in medical care. In order to carry out this particular duty the CNO needs to work closely with administrators so the right resources are obtained. Because of their “boots on the ground” status these nurse leaders are the ideal individuals to address the concerns of staff, for patients, with management. As CNO you have a voice and the respect of your administrative peers and therefore you can improve patient care and implement new strategies.
Leadership Roles: As nurse leaders first and foremost, CNOs must exhibit the highest standards of patient care. As CNO you will be responsible for inspiring and encouraging your fellow nurses to uphold the very best in practices when caring for patients. You will also need to find ways to create a healthy work environment for the staff, developing collaboration strategies when necessary. You may be asked to speak publicly at seminars and professional workshops, and review staff nurses certifications.
Administrative Roles: The CNO assumes the role of administrator and in this role must plan and oversee the duties of staff, exuding the daily activities of the medical facility run smoothly, and as planned. As CNO nurse leaders must organize and coordinate medical and health services and make sure they are in compliance with government and hospital board standards. Depending on the organization the CNO may have a hand in the hiring and onboarding of new nursing staff.
Advisory Roles: As nurse leaders this may be the highest honor afforded a CNO. You have the ear of all of those decision-makers who, while they don’t necessarily have the experience, implement policies and procedures that impact both staff matters and, more importantly, patient care. You will be able to provide research that backs up your stance, present reports on effective and efficient patient care procedures, and have a say in best practices to streamline operations. This is where your expertise will shine.
Liaison with Physicians: The working relationship between physicians, administrators and nurses can often be a tenuous one. As CNO you will serve as the closest link between the three. You can use your position to bring issues to the attention of those in charge, and even affect policy change to improve the relationship between physician and nurse, nurse and administrator.
Requirements and Qualifications
For nurse leaders to advance to Chief Nursing Officer there are a few requirements. First, you must have a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and many hospitals and medical centers require you to have completed, or be working on, your Masters of Science in Nursing. Though nurse leaders are not necessarily nurse managers, you may need to possess some degree of managerial experience, or leadership experience with increased responsibility. Experience in planning, budgeting, and supervising is also beneficial.