1. Section Editor(s): Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN

Article Content

Happy National Nurses Week! Each year in May, we nurses step back to reflect on our professional achievements and to celebrate our colleagues. This year, Nurses Week focuses on the role of the nurse leader and opportunities for leadership in the changing health care environment. The Infusion Nurses Society (INS) is also highlighting the rewards and challenges of leading in the nursing profession.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

To lead means to guide or direct on a course. There are a number of ways to lead in our profession:


Lead others. First and foremost, we look to lead our colleagues toward better patient-centered care. As we work together, our leadership can help to advance their practice and professional development. Patients, too, can benefit from our leadership as they learn from us to take responsibility for their health. Our skill in educating patients about their treatment, with their involvement, creates positive outcomes. Student nurses also need mentoring and leadership. Leading by example is the simplest and most effective model for new nurses to gain. Your competence and attitude will have an enormous impact on a young nurse who is just learning the ropes.


Lead yourself. Keep yourself motivated to succeed and climb the ladder of responsibility in your organization. Commit to lifelong learning to improve your skills and knowledge base. Learn to be a better communicator or to manage risk in an organization. Attend INS meetings, enroll in an advanced-degree program, regularly schedule time to participate in webinars and online programs, and network with other health care professionals. You'll be pleasantly surprised how much you can learn from your colleagues, even in informal settings.


Lead in the workplace. When you lead by example, you become a role model to your colleagues. Even in smaller work environments-your unit, your office, or your classroom-your quiet leadership can have a significant positive impact.


Lead in a professional organization. Professional organizations, such as INS, need strong leaders to help guide them. Local chapters need officers to plan and execute activities. National boards of directors need leaders to steer organizations into the future. Whether you have financial experience, writing abilities, facilitating skills, an aptitude for raising funds, or just a passion for your profession, you will be welcome on local or national boards.


Our position at the front lines of health care makes it possible for us to see the big picture, able to respond to patient needs as well as institutional demands. Our influence can be seen in improved patient-centered care; workplace policies, including patient and health care worker safety measures; research; and implementation of evidence-based practice.


Nurses lead the way in health care by excelling in providing high-quality care to patients, in our case, the infusion therapy that is a vital component of most patient care. We are also expert in identifying problems, implementing solutions, and shaping health care policy. Because nurses had a prominent place at the table during the creation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the law provided an expanded leadership role for nurses in all practice settings and in higher education.


In fact, the broader leadership roles for nurses embedded in the ACA are in sync with the recommendations put forward in the Institute of Medicine's 2010 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. The report envisioned a future health care delivery system that takes full advantage of nurses' skills and expertise to obtain better outcomes. Its recommendations included 4 main points:


1. Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.


2. Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.


3. Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.


4. Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and an improved information infrastructure.1



As the ACA is fully implemented, we will see these recommendations come to fruition. Nurses will lead the way in the unit, in the health care organization, on the Board of Directors, and in the classroom. While we publicly acknowledge nurses and their contributions during National Nurses Week, let's not stop there. It's the passion, commitment, and leadership sustained throughout the year that is advancing our profession and addressing our patients' needs.


Mary Alexander




1. Institute of Medicine. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Published 2010. Accessed February 24, 2014. [Context Link]