The healthcare industry represents a vast network of independent systems. Nurse administrators and leaders are in a unique position to increase efficiency and prevent miscommunication between systems by advocating for employees, patients and the industry itself.
The University of Southern Maine (USM) Registered Nurse (RN) to Master of Science (MS) in Nursing – Nursing Administration and Leadership online program equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to advocate for the people and systems that impact quality healthcare.
One of the biggest advantages nurse administrators and leaders have is their real-world, bedside experience. Given their hands-on practice in direct patient care, they understand how to care for patients at their most dire times. With this knowledge, they can continue to advocate for patients at a higher level in a leadership position. For example, nurse administrators and leaders offer crucial insights along the care continuum, including the following:
Patient Safety. From the time a patient is admitted to discharge, nurse administrators and leaders provide key guidance. This process involves double-checking for errors in medication administration or other care directives. They also coordinate with case managers or social workers to ensure patients go home with every tool they need to move forward successfully.
Education and Empowerment. Health-related information is complex and can be confusing, making patients feel like they lack agency and a voice in their care. Nurse administrators support patients by educating and supporting the nurses that provide care. Nurses advocate for patients by helping them understand exactly what physicians and other healthcare professionals communicate and advising on healthy habits such as diet, exercise and stress reduction. However, nurses need support from nurse administrators and leaders in the form of “decision-making to distribute resources and strategic planning to research practices that improve patient outcomes,” among other assistance. With this support from administrators, nurses can ensure that no patient feels “less than” or powerless in their health decisions.
Health Equity. Various factors keep every individual from receiving the care they deserve. Race, ethnicity, cultural differences, financial status, language, age and even one’s weight all create social barriers that hinder access to care. Nurse administrators and leaders can advocate for each patient with cultural competence, no matter the patient’s demographics or health history. Oftentimes, this means educating nurses, physicians, specialists and upper management.
Protecting Staff Well-Being
Patient advocacy is of utmost importance. Yet, it would be nearly impossible to make that happen without advocating for those who actually care for those patients. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, nurse burnout was a troublesome issue. Long hours, stressful environments, exhaustion, lack of support and the emotional strain placed on nurses all contribute to industry burnout and turnover rates. These factors also contribute to reduced quality of care and higher mortality rates.
Nurse administrators and leaders can establish staff-forward initiatives that prioritize staff well-being. For example, they can structure schedules to make sure nurses get needed breaks. They can serve as a sounding board, allowing nurses to voice their concerns without judgment. Nurses in leadership positions can also instruct upon various coping mechanisms — or offer resources to do the same.
Finally, they can be the liaison between staff and upper management. Nurse leaders must possess the skills to help management understand the importance of caring for the healthcare professionals in their charge.
Impacting Health Policy
Nurse administrators and leaders offer a unique perspective regarding health policy. With their previous experience caring for patients on the hospital floor, they have the opportunity to impact the legislature. Who better to advise government officials than nurses with professional experience?
Such advocacy also encompasses inter-organizational operations. Nurse leaders have the ear of the C-suite and can champion changes within their healthcare facility. For instance, they can implement the staff-friendly modifications mentioned above or ensure patients have financial options they can afford. There are multiple ways nurses in leadership positions can effect change for the better of all parties in the system.
The Opportunities of an Advanced Education
Nurses don’t have to rise to these advocacy responsibilities on their own. Educational opportunities like the RN to MS in Nursing – Nursing Administration and Leadership online program at USM guide nurses every step of the way. This online program has two major benefits:
- Nursing professionals gain the advanced, thorough knowledge necessary to progress their careers and pursue leadership roles.
- Students develop the skills to be effective advocates in their field.
Coursework encompasses various tracts that all lead to excellence in nursing leadership. For example, the Leadership, Health Policy, and Role course explores socio-political, economic and ethical issues embedded in public policy decisions.
In the Leadership in Advanced Nursing Practice course, nurses focus on the “knowledge, skills, attitudes, and competencies required of an effective interprofessional leader working in complex health care environments.” This framework helps support a healthcare culture that allows vision, innovation, integrity, mutual respect and patient-first care.
Students can complete the program in as few as 24 months, and graduates will have the knowledge and skills to pursue careers such as director of nursing, nurse manager, clinical manager, chief nursing officer and nurse supervisor. In these nurse administrator roles, individuals can impact patients, healthcare professionals and the industry for the better.