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7 steps to acquiring a leadership role in nursing

by Melissa Bell
5 minutes read

Nurse leaders act as the bridge between nursing staff and hospital management. They oversee a team of nurses and make critical decisions for them. Nurse leaders are also responsible for directing patient care initiatives in the healthcare setting. Moreover, nurse leaders use their knowledge, skills, and expertise to evaluate each situation and use available resources to provide high-quality patient care. For this reason, nurse leaders need advanced clinical knowledge to take initiatives that improve patient health outcomes.

We can say that becoming a nurse leader is the next step for registered nurses in their career path. When they become a nurse leader, they find themselves in a position to influence others and improve the quality of healthcare. However, nurse leaders are not confined to administrative or managerial tasks. In fact, nurse leaders actively participate in clinical care along with their team of nurses.

nurse tablet

Hence, if you aim to progress in your career as a nurse, your next goal should be to become a nurse leader. Here, we have enlisted a few steps you need to take if you wish to acquire a leadership role in nursing.

1. Be professional 

Nursing leadership extends beyond the work commitments of a simple nurse. Nurse leaders commit themselves to guide, advise, and direct their team through complex situations to achieve the best possible patient outcomes. They have to commit to achieving excellence and motivate their team to have similar spirits. Moreover, nurse leaders must inspire their team by displaying integrity, courage, patience, empathy, strong decision-making, and the ability to inspire. These aspects contribute to the professional upstanding of a nurse leader. Hence, they are crucial attributes if you aspire to work in this position.

2. Find a mentor 

Mentorship is an integral part of nursing leadership. A good mentor can help you advance in your career. Therefore, any nurse who wants to take the next step and become a nurse leader must have a mentor. For this purpose, find someone that you admire in the professional setting. Any person you choose must-have qualities that match your own so that you have something relatable. If you find someone like that, request them to take you under their wing and guide you through the professional terrains of becoming a nurse leader.

hospital nurse clean

3. Draft a plan 

The more you enhance your skills and abilities, the more you will progress in your career. Therefore, if you aim to become a nurse leader, you must understand your strengths and weaknesses. The purpose is to work on overcoming your weaknesses while building on your strengths. Moreover, think about your long-term goals and find out the missing pieces you must fill in to achieve them. For example, if you aim to become a nurse leader, you may need higher education such as a master’s degree to help you progress, which brings us to our next point.

4. Invest in yourself 

Investing in yourself is the surest way to progress in your career. You can invest in yourself by pursuing higher education, going for a specialization, taking workshops and seminars, or signing up for special courses. The main idea is to keep all the qualities, attributes, skills, and expertise of a nurse leader in your mind and work to acquire those skills and expertise. Once you reach the criteria needed for the job, it won’t be long before you find yourself in the position of a nurse leader.

5. Volunteer for leadership positions 

What better way to acquire leadership skills than actually taking on the role? You can achieve that by volunteering for leadership positions. The reason is that nurse leaders have to connect with their team and the healthcare facility’s management. In addition, they have to set standards for nurses in their team and lead them to achieve the best results possible. So when you volunteer for leadership positions such as mentorship of new nurses, leading discussion, or taking over a case, you increase your experience. Moreover, volunteering for leadership positions also helps develop the skills you need to become a nurse leader. Lastly, it enables you to expand your connections and network giving you newer insights into your career goals.

6. Be authentic 

To thrive in a leadership position, you must first learn to be true to yourself. It would be best if you learned to carry out your work with integrity and complete honesty. Therefore, you must first learn to be honest with yourself about your setbacks and weaknesses. Once you realize the weak links in your chain, you can work to make them stronger. Moreover, you don’t have to mimic anyone else’s demeanor or methods to become successful, even if they are your mentor. Your inspirations should come from your abilities and insights. And that is only possible if you learn to be authentic.

7. Give back to others 

While you pursue nurse leadership, you will learn many new skills, methods, and expertise to help you along the path. However, your goals to become a nurse leader are only genuine if you help others achieve the same purpose. Try to have the same enthusiasm and support for others as your nurse leader and mentor had for you. It won’t be incorrect to say that mentorship and leadership go hand in hand. Therefore, you must learn to pass on your knowledge and insight to the people willing to learn from you. For example, you can mentor fresh nurses and teach them aspects of nursing that they are not yet familiar with. These minor aspects will prepare you for nursing leadership.


Nurse leadership is hard work. It requires utmost dedication and determination. So if you are determined to become a nurse leader, start by incorporating the same skills and qualities expected for the job. But first, you need to prepare yourself for a lot of hard work. After all, progress in your career is only possible if you progress as a professional. So if you are aiming to become a nurse leader, you must first commit yourself to progress academically while learning essential skills along the way.

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