Changing patient populations influence transformations in health care systems, and currently the industry is in flux. To be able to keep up and accommodate patient care, the nature of how health care organizations grow and adapt must also evolve. Given that nurses are engaged in so many aspects of health care, their input and leadership will be necessary to address the needs of patients.
Health Care Leadership
One of the greatest issues facing the health care industry is the number of aging patients suffering chronic ailments. Coupled with the fact that nearly 20 percent are readmitted for treatment within 30 days of release from hospitalization, there are clearly discrepancies in the health care industry. In response to these growing numbers and inconsistencies within the health care system, steps are being undertaken to address and mitigate those problems.
For example, nurse-led innovations in health care, such as the transitional care model (TCM), can help address some of the needs of those patients with chronic ailments. TCM provides care in a hospital setting followed by a long-term plan for at-home care for those eligible. Not only do patients have greater access to care, they also have more comfortable accommodations and the cost of patient care is reduced. Transitional leaders in this evolving system must be savvy about the business aspects of health care as well as the personal side.
Patient care and advocacy is a priority for nurses. However, they are many vital roles that go beyond the bedside care. Nurses are also:
- Educators who explain information to patients, encourage healthy lifestyles and teach administrative officials about the needs of patients.
- Counselors who provide services that facilitate psychological well-being to patients as well as physical.
- Managers who are cognizant of and capable of coordinating an organization in terms of staff and finances.
- Researchers who are invested in the discovery of new tools and methodologies that can further improve patient care.
- Leaders who advocate for change within a system and organization.
Nurse Leaders Promoting Change
As previously mentioned, nurses are on the forefront of patient health care, so it is only logical that nurses be considered for transitional leadership roles integral to shaping the future of health care. The industry is facing considerable change due to government-led implementations such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. These new laws may result in various challenges and opportunities for nurses. For example, increases in the number of patients seeking treatment will lead to an increased dependence on nurse-leaders and nurse-based programs. This means that nurses will need to pursue higher training and qualifications to address the issues raised by a larger population of patients who have the ability to seek health care services.
As per the Institute of Medicine, nurses practicing in today’s changing health care climate should take full advantage of pursuing higher levels of education. Having an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), is often required for nurses who wish to be able to enact change within an organization. Master’s prepared nurses are able to elevate into administrative roles, become nurse practitioners and hold board positions. These are the types of roles through which transitional leadership skills are best able to shine.
Nurse Leadership Skills
Nurse leaders in complex health care settings should be adaptable. They should be capable of anticipating individual and organizational needs and understand how to address them. Many skills possessed by nurse leaders are learned in practical settings. Thus, either through experience or education, nurse leaders have knowledge and dexterity in the following areas:
- Health Care Delivery and Performance: Leaders are able to assess customer satisfaction alongside financial and employee performance, and they are able to evaluate success based on those measures. Furthermore, nurse leaders have the skills necessary to anticipate the needs of a community and deliver accordingly.
- Business and Finance: They can guide long-term development plans, revenue sources and payment systems.
- Human Resources: Nurse Leaders are capable of ensuring that all work functions, reward strategies and developmental plans are in alignment with one another and promote healthy work environments.
Professional skills are important, but transitional leaders should also have a myriad of relevant personal skills, such as being:
- Achievement Oriented: Leaders set high standards and establish and communicate clear goals.
- Collaborative: These individuals work to break down barriers while building positive relationships and effective strategies for conflict resolution. This includes being community oriented and capable of working across the health care system.
- Aware and Innovative: They not only understand the expectations, priorities and concerns of an organization’s stakeholders (including patients and families), they are also capable of creating new approaches for addressing issues.
- A Mentor: Leaders do more than direct, they guide colleagues and have a genuine interest in promoting the career, happiness and needs of those with whom they interact.
- Solid Communicator: Nurse Leaders are able to clearly articulate goals and priorities to those within an organization in a manner that is genuinely well-received.
Nurse Leaders who have these necessary critical and strategic thinking skills are most capable of encouraging positive change and growth in a health care setting.
Implementing Change to Improve Care
Application of leadership skills promotes changes in terms of patient and overall health care. Impacting one area means influencing another. Some areas in which nurse leaders can enact change are:
- Innovation: As mentioned earlier, certain innovations like the Transitional Care Model provide more economical access to health care for chronically ill patients. As time progresses, patient-needs will likely dictate future changes.
- Implementation of Technology: Given the volume of patients and their access to health care, accessibility is and will continue to be an issue. The Technology Drill Downs program, for example, helps nurses determine which technology solutions will best improve patient care.
- Becoming Part of the Boardroom: Nurses are heavily engaged in almost all areas of health care, yet they are underrepresented in the boardroom. Only 6 percent of hospital board members are nurses. Given that nurses play such a key role in quality care, their presence in board settings is crucial.
- Promote Workforce Diversification: Thirty-three percent of the population belongs to a minority group. As a means to reduce disparities, greater attention should be paid to training and hiring a diverse workforce.
By ensuring various ethnic groups are adequately represented, promoting quality communication, encouraging use of innovative approaches and technologies, and fostering robust organizational relations, transitional leaders will be able to stay ahead of changes already coming down the health care pike. Because nurses have a ubiquitous presence in nearly all areas of the industry and those holding advanced degrees are qualified to provide general care, nurses are capable of providing useful insight.
Benedictine University has offered quality, cutting edge programs to aspiring and working nurses for more than 25 years. With accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, the University prepares students for health care in the 21st century. Build on your expertise and impact the future generation of nurses, visit the Benedictine University website to learn more about the Online MSN degree program.