1. Doucette, Jeffrey N. DNP, RN, CEN, NEA-BC, FACHE

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Mapping the future

Q My organization is asking leaders to develop succession plans as part of our evaluation process this year. What are some best practices for planning future leadership needs?

As organizations continue to grow in complexity and the role of the nurse leader becomes increasingly diverse, succession planning is more important than ever before. Organizational learning is a key nurse leader competency and should be a high-priority focus area. Although a relatively new concept in nursing literature, organizational learning has become a widely researched topic as the nursing workforce continues to age and nurse leader turnover rates steadily climb. This strategy consists of assessing and planning for future leadership needs, developing leadership competencies, identifying candidates with high leadership potential, and creating plans for growing and developing that talent.1

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One strategy for sustained organizational learning is the early identification of rising talent and the development of career maps. Research has indicated that nurse leaders often make assumptions that nurses are happy with their current roles and not interested in moving up.2 The use of career maps allows a structured approach to assisting with goal setting and removing personal barriers to growth and development. Typical career maps include some type of personality and/or leadership assessment, goal setting, and action items to assist the nurse in reaching the established goals.


Developing well-prepared leaders for practice is a key responsibility of nurse leaders. The active engagement in setting expectations around organizational learning, holding both mentors and mentees accountable, and sharing the plan for organizational learning with the appropriate audiences are all important aspects of the nurse leader's role that are enhanced using a strong succession planning process.



1. Redman RW. Leadership succession planning: an evidence-based approach for managing the future. J Nurs Adm. 2006;36(6):292-297. [Context Link]


2. Shermont H, Krepcio D, Murphy JM. Career mapping: developing nurse leaders, reinvigorating careers. J Nurs Adm. 2009;39(10):432-437. [Context Link]


Which certification is right for you?

Q I've noticed a recent proliferation of certification programs in nursing leadership and management. How do I choose the best certification program?

Choosing a certification program can be overwhelming given the number of choices currently available. First and foremost, you should examine your motivations for certification. Are you working toward a promotion or looking to expand your credentials for your current role?


If you want to build your professional portfolio for promotion opportunities, you should explore certifications designed for advanced leadership roles. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Nurse Executive, Advanced (NEA-BC) certification and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) offers the Certified Executive in Nursing Practice (CENP) certification.


If you wish to expand your knowledge base in your current role, you should look for certifications geared toward nurse managers, such as the Nurse Executive (NE-BC) certification offered by the ANCC or the Certified Nurse Managers and Leaders (CNML) certification offered jointly by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and the AONE.


In addition to certification in nursing leadership, I always suggest that managers and directors who lead clinical services obtain a clinical certification in their specialty area. One of the best ways to improve the percentage of board-certified nurses on your team is to set the example by holding these certifications yourself.


There are copious resources on the web to assist you in selecting the appropriate certification program, as well as resources to help you prepare to successfully pass the exam. Good luck!