HomeHealth AwarenessNurses leading the way to health

Nurses leading the way to health

National Nursing Week is May 6 to 12 and we’re in a festive mood. After all, there’s so much to celebrate.

Here in Alberta, we have approximately 36,000 nurses who make a difference in the lives of patients and families every day. They include nurse practitioners, registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, licensed practical nurses, clinical nurse specialists, clinical nurse educators and nurse clinicians. Many are leaders on their units, and I would wager they don’t even know it.

In my own personal and academic journey to better understand leadership, I stumbled upon a TED Talk by leadership educator Drew Dudley. He talks about how “we have all changed someone’s life—usually without even realizing it.”

After delivering life-changing care every day of our careers, we nurses sometimes forget the impact of our actions. And, as Dudley says in his talk, we don’t even remember the actions we’ve taken that others appreciate so much.

Nurses lead in so many ways. There are various definitions of leadership, but for nurses whose primary role is to serve the needs of others, servant leadership applies. According to the Forbes Coaches Council, servant leadership means:

  • Letting others see you serve and encouraging them to join you
  • Making sure they know that you care
  • Investing in your people
  • Never placing restrictions on your willingness to serve.

You can see how servant leadership aligns with everyday nursing care, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a nurse who identifies as a leader outside a formal leadership position. We can start to better understand our leadership abilities as nurses when we stop to reflect on the impact we have on our patients’ experiences.

Nurses are the first to provide care in the doctor’s office, the hospital and the public health clinic. We mentor new staff and students, drive quality improvement, support best-practice patient care, facilitate team collaboration, and offer moral support and education to patients and families. We carry those around us toward emotional, physical, spiritual and developmental health, and are the key support during the most difficult times in peoples’ lives.

When nursing care intersects with opportunity, that’s where nurses really excel. We don’t have to go looking for moments of leadership in the course of the day; those moments are everywhere and we as nurses take advantage of them all the time.

Nurses act in formal leadership roles as managers, directors and practice consultants, offering advice on nursing professional practice and supporting professional growth, evidence-based practice and accountability. Nurses also lead in the workplace as RN prescribers, and through leading quality councils and Rapid Rounds. We model collaboration, innovation and life-long learning.

During National Nursing Week, AHS is formally celebrating nurses and leadership in nursing. I’d like to challenge nurses everywhere to celebrate each other, as well.

Let’s recognize our colleagues for their significant acts of leadership and caring by visiting Thanks for Caring and posting a note of gratitude to a nurse who has made an impact, or by sharing examples in the comments below.