IACN Looks Forward: The Future of Nursing Leadership

What is leadership in nursing and how will it change? It’s a difficult question to answer because to everyone, it is different. To Tina Decker, Chair of the Department of Nursing at Trinity Christian College, “Leadership looks like applying the nursing process (through assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementing, and evaluating) at a macro level with patient centered care being at the center.”

To Holly Farley, Chair of the School of Nursing and Assistant Professor at Eastern Illinois University, “Leadership can be described as ‘facilitating.’ Leaders determine goals with input from followers and facilitate the path to meeting those goals.”

The Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing knows that leadership — and the ways that it is changing — is an important topic for all nurses, both those currently practicing and incoming student nurses.

Nursing Leadership in 50 Years

Like everything in the healthcare field, nursing leadership is rapidly changing. 

“Nurses need to become the voice of the future of healthcare,” said Tina Decker. “Nurses are so used to advocating for patients on an individual level. The future of healthcare requires for nurses to become more versed at advocating for the vocation of nursing and nurses themselves. This will directly impact patient outcomes as the nursing workforce is the largest of any healthcare profession in our country. Nurses need to be a significant voice at the table where healthcare decisions are being made. This includes all levels from acute care settings, to community planning to national legislation.”

While some ways in which nursing leadership will evolve seem clear, others are not so obvious. 

“I know it will be different, but I do not know that the changes will be,” said Holly Farley. “Thirty years ago I could not have imagined the technological changes that we would be experiencing and the fast paced advances. I think nurses will continue to take on more responsibility in patient care and coordination.”

Becoming a Nurse Leader

Although nursing leadership will look different in 50 years, IACN’s members believe the path to leadership will remain similar. 

“New nurses need to get involved with professional organizations and research,” said Lea Monahan, Director and Professor of the School of Nursing at Western Illinois University

Holly Farley instructs students hoping to become nursing leaders to “Embrace change at every level and take every opportunity to be a part of it,” and Tina Decker similarly advises students to “Opt in. Participate. Assess what changes are needed and don’t be afraid to look for solutions!”

Qualities of a Nursing Leader

Students and nurses alike can work towards becoming future nursing leaders, but there are some qualities that are absolute necessities. 

“As cliche as it may sound, leaders need to know themselves pretty well before they lead others. They need to know their strengths and weaknesses, their triggers, the things that inspire them. They need to be self-aware before attempting to help others be their best selves in the workplace,” said Tiffany Greer Associate Dean of the School of Nursing at Olivet Nazarene University. “I think it can be as easy as taking a few personality tests, talking with some honest colleagues, and maybe doing some reflective journaling. Then find a great mentor who can cheer you on in the tough moments and stretch you in the good times. The bottom line is that we need good leaders who are willing to serve others, encourage them to be their best, and humbly lead change.”

IACN Encourages Leadership

At the Illinois Association of Colleges of Nursing, we encourage all nurses who have the desire to work towards leadership positions, whether at the bedside, organizational, state, or national level. While the process can be long and difficult, it begins with the first step! For nurses wishing to work towards leadership positions, IACN recommends taking the advice of many of our members and getting involved in the nursing community. For advice on how to become involved in the community, as well as for general advice about nursing leadership, feel free to contact us here

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