What does it mean to be a nursing leader?

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Tara Goode, MSML, BA, BSN, RN

Some say you must earn accolades for your accom­plish­ments, be highly educated or hold a formal title. I disagree with all the above being a require­ment to call yourself a leader. I say it matters more what you do.

Leaders lead. They don’t wait for someone else to acknowl­edge their value or tell them how to get things done. They identify a need, plan and work toward a goal. Leaders are vision­aries. They rarely stay the course, instead opting to expand the norm and push boundaries.

Leaders question that status quo. Leaders believe there is better to be had. Leaders are doers.

Leaders have followers. Someone somewhere believes in them enough to show support for their vision. Maybe they work closely with them to solve problems. Maybe they simply stay out of the way or work to remove obsta­cles in the way of progress. Leaders empower and engage. Leaders inspire.

In nursing, you find leaders at all levels of the profes­sion. The new graduate who believes in the impos­sible or brings ideas and experi­ence from a previous career path. The experi­enced nurse who still loves what they do and chooses to mentor their colleagues to be their best. The admin­is­trator who fights for funding and staffing so their employees have the best oppor­tu­nity to provide the best care. Nurses in govern­ment who support laws that create oppor­tu­nity for diver­sity in the profes­sion and inclu­sive practices putting nurses at the table where decisions are being made about policy. Faculty who work every day to prepare students for the known and unknown challenges they will face. Retirees who never really left the profes­sion but find ways to engage in their commu­ni­ties to share their skills to raise up their friends and neigh­bors. Nursing leaders are everywhere.

The question I put to all nurses reading this article is this: What kind of leader will you be? Will you join with other leaders and work to leave a legacy of profes­sion­alism and empow­er­ment? Diver­sity and inclu­sion? Intel­li­gent cutting-edge thinking? Every nurse I’ve ever met has the power to be a leader. Whether you’re shy or outgoing, new or experi­enced, clinical or admin­is­tra­tive, I challenge each of you to never stop evolving. Find your path to lead and jump into the challenge with all you are. Don’t wait. The profes­sion needs you now.

To access oppor­tu­ni­ties to become an effec­tive nursing leader in Washington state, contact WSNA today and tell us what’s impor­tant to you. WSNA has a place for you. Will you join us?

Visit wsna​.org/​membership or call 1 – 800-231‑8482 and ask to speak to an organizer.