The rate at which nurses leave their positions every year in the United States is concerning. Even with a nursing shortage plaguing the profession for decades, recent research shows that approximately 15.9% of nurses quit their jobs annually. Among the most common reasons nurses leave work are remuneration, relocation, personal advancement, and personal issues. However, the relationship between nurses and their immediate managers is another reason that stands out.
Nursing leadership is one of the most crucial aspects of any healthcare facility. As such, it influences nurses’ retention, shapes healthcare facility culture, and impacts patients’ overall care. In other words, effective and supportive nurse leadership directly impacts how nurses treat their patients.
So, what is supportive leadership in nursing, and how does it impact staff and patients? Keep reading to find out.
Leadership in Nursing
While there is no universally accepted definition or theory concerning nurse leadership, most healthcare authorities agree on the most common leadership traits a nurse leader should possess. One key ethos for nurse leaders is to inspire, influence, and motivate other staff in a healthcare facility. This is so the organization can achieve its highest potential and collective goals.
A competent nurse leader should have the following qualities:
● Excellent interpersonal skills
● Enthusiasm to achieve excellence
● Top-notch creativity and innovation
● Ability to foster a culture that leads to high reliability
● Wisdom to manage a team
● Collaboration skills
While it is not mandatory, nurses who have undergone master’s degree programs from accredited institutions have an edge as the dynamics of healthcare are fast evolving – hence, the need to acquire advanced skills and knowledge.
Nurse Leadership Styles
Below are some of the different leadership styles that impact staff and patients in a healthcare facility:
This leadership style involves rewards for positive behavior and punishments for bad behavior. Essentially, this leadership style focuses on results and is effective during emergencies.
As the term suggests, transformational leadership involves providing mentorship and building a community to find long-term solutions with team members. The main limitation of this leadership style is that it lacks daily efficiency.
Autocratic Style of Leadership
Autocratic or authoritarian leaders are those who have ultimate power and authority over others. Autocratic nursing leaders make decisions based on their individual ideas without listening to or seeking advice from their teams.
This leadership style is efficient during crises or emergencies as nurse leaders base their decisions on their own experience rather than the input of other team members. However, the main limitation of this leadership style is that it fosters resentment among staff.
Typically known as a “hands-off” technique, laissez-faire nursing leaders have a culture of reliance and trust in their employees. They do not micromanage or become overly involved, and they do not provide excessive instruction or guidance.
Instead, these leaders allow their employees to use their experience, resources, and creativity to help them reach their objectives.
Since nurses interact more with patients and their families, nurse leaders often listen to them before making decisions. However, participative leadership is inappropriate during emergencies as listening to everyone can be time-consuming.
The Impact of Supportive Leadership on Staff and Patients
Supportive nursing leaders provide their teams with resources and tools until they have the skills to function independently. Let’s look at some of the impacts of supportive leadership on staff and patients:
Increased Staff Retention
Employees who feel valued, appreciated, and supported will likely remain in their positions longer. The same applies to nurses in the nursing profession. As such, supportive leadership in the healthcare sector has the most significant influence on nurse retention.
As you may know, the nursing profession is demanding; more often than not, nurses experience burnout and physical and mental challenges daily. Therefore, it only makes sense for nurse leaders to create an environment that supports and promotes the well-being of nurses. This way, nurses are less likely to become disillusioned, leading to turnover.
Additionally, a supportive working culture that encourages open communication and collaboration among its staff members enhances coordination, leading to better problem-solving techniques.
Failure to provide supportive leadership may lead to expensive costs and a surge in staff loss. For instance, the US average cost of replacing a single nurse is approximately $45,000, as shown in the 2023 NSI National Heath Care Retention and RN Staffing Report.
By extension, if a healthcare facility experiences high turnover rates, it may also experience detrimental effects like decreased patient care and loss of valuable institutional expertise. On the other hand, employee retention increases employee loyalty and collaboration among staff members, fostering a stronger work environment.
To increase the rate of nurse retention, nurse leaders should do the following:
● Enhance the onboarding process
● Adapt to contemporary work conditions, including offering incentives for working overtime
● Establish effective lines of communication.
● Assign duties evenly among nurses
● Minimize mandatory overtime for nurses
● Ensure reasonable nurse-to-patient staffing ratios
Professional Growth Among Staff
Professional growth is a key component in the nursing profession. It brings nurses up to date on the latest data, technology, and techniques to give patients the best care possible.
Supportive leadership empowers their staff to join nursing organizations to forge relationships with colleagues, enhance their skill sets, and explore further education possibilities. As a result, they develop interprofessional collaboration, encourage camaraderie, and raise morale in the workplace.
Gaining more skills, having more ideas, and implementing evidence-based practices aid nurses in enhancing patient outcomes and designing health systems that are vital to the collective goal of a healthcare facility. Continuous professional growth also enables nurses to improve their effectiveness at work and make more significant contributions to their team.
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Reduced Medical Errors
Medical errors are a public health concern because any patient is vulnerable to medical errors; by extension, 15% of expenses in healthcare facilities are attributed to medical errors. Typically, medical errors include healthcare technology, devices and equipment, systems failures, falls, surgical infections, and diagnostic problems.
Leadership dynamics and how nurse leaders manage their teams within a healthcare facility can significantly impact the overall occurrence of these errors. However, supportive leadership can help mitigate medical errors in a healthcare facility due to the non-punitive approach to error reporting.
Supportive leadership encourages the reporting of errors by creating an environment where nurses can comfortably report noticeable mistakes without fear of punishment. Fundamentally, when medical errors are reported promptly, collective measures to analyze them are undertaken to prevent them from occurring in the future.
Improved Patients Outcomes
When nurse leaders prioritize the well-being and development of their staff, they aid in creating a positive work environment related to lower patient mortality. Supportive leadership provides encouragement, transparent and open communication, constructive and positive feedback, and individual consideration, leading to staff work engagement and positive practice settings.
More often than not, experienced nurses are empowered to make decisions within their scope of practice, thanks to supportive leadership in their healthcare facility. As a result, they can conduct timely and appropriate interventions for patients as this kind of empowerment fosters critical thinking and problem-solving techniques among healthcare professionals.
The critical role of nursing leadership in addressing the alarming nurse turnover rate cannot be overstated. Supportive leadership, which encourages employee empowerment, supports professional development, and fosters open communication, not only increases nurse retention and lowers medical errors but it also considerably improves patient outcomes.
While healthcare executives are the key decision-makers in a healthcare facility, nurses spend most of their time with patients and make up the most significant part of the workforce. Only with supportive and effective nursing leadership can nurses continue to grow and shape healthcare’s future.