Nurses start out by obtaining a qualification through an accredited college or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. To learn more about the various educational programs and opportunities available, aspiring nurses can research reputable nursing schools and universities. Once they’ve obtained their degree, they apply for a license to practice as a registered nurse and find employment, preferably in a clinic or hospital environment, as this is where they are more likely to build up a good base of skills and knowledge.
Ideally, nurses should gain some experience before considering further studies. During this process, the nurse can assess which areas of nursing practice they enjoy, and then start planning for future studies in their chosen line of work. Nursing specialization means further study, and this can be done online while still gaining experience as a registered nurse.
Possibly the most important part of a nurse’s career is shaped in these first few years. When leaving college or university, nurses have a lot of theoretical knowledge, but up until this point, they may not have a lot of hands-on experience. A nurse entering the job market has all the theoretical knowledge they need to perform primary care functions, and some will do so with ease while others may be lacking in confidence.
At this early stage in their careers, junior nurses need mentoring and supervision so that they can gain confidence as they put into practice what they have learned in the classroom.
This is where the nurse leader’s training comes into play. Nursing leaders are experienced nurses who have taken it one step further, graduating with a master’s degree of science in nursing and specializing in leadership. Their role in the clinical environment is to implement policies, enforce quality control and safety measures and augment social factors, such as cultural and ethnic preferences of patients and staff. They are also responsible for staff recruitment and retention, ensuring that staff are properly trained and aware of the policies and procedures laid down by the management of the organization.
As a professional leader, the nurse leader is in the best position to facilitate training and mentorship for junior nursing staff, ensuring the organizational ethics and high standards are upheld and instilling values and professionalism for a successful future in nursing.
Five ways in which a nurse leader promotes professional development and career planning:
A nurse mentor is an experienced practitioner who provides guidance and shares knowledge and skills with a junior nurse so that they can learn to practice with confidence.
A preceptor welcomes and integrates a new employee into the organization and supports them in the process of translating their theoretical knowledge into practice.
- Formal training
Formally training the entire nursing staff with updates on the integration of new equipment into daily practice, new medications, new trends in the medical industry, new or updated policies and the introduction of new evidence-based methods of practice.
- Informal training
The exchange of experiences over a cup of coffee in an informal setting is a beneficial context in which to learn from fellow colleagues.
- Planning and guidance for further studies
As part of the nurses’ evaluation process, the nurse leader, or an appointed manager, should set aside time to discuss each nurse’s future study plans, their strengths and preferences. A study plan should be drawn up with attainable goals. Advice can be given regarding study options, educational institutions and finances.
In their roles as leaders and mentors, nurse leaders facilitate the mentorship and preceptorship programs. They schedule time and make available the necessary facilities for informal and formal training and arrange one-on-one sessions to discuss nurses’ progress and their ambitions for future study.
So, before you consider what can you do with a master’s in nursing leadership, it is important to understand the responsibilities that the role brings and the key skills you will need. The nurse leader is a manager and a mentor, innovative and caring, decisive and organized. That’s why a dedicated nursing leadership program, such as the one offered by Rockhurst University, will help you to combine your passion for patient care with the leadership skills that will enhance both your professional and personal life.
Why training is important in nursing
Nurses need to act with confidence to earn patients’ trust. Confidence is gained with practice, good supervision and training.
The practice of safe nursing methods is imperative for patient safety. The move toward evidence-based practice in healthcare organizations ensures that standards are met and that nursing interventions are carried out according to specific, documented procedures.
A graduate nurse has all the theory and some practical experience acquired in a clinical environment. However, the practical experience gained is limited to the actual cases that are presented while the student nurse is on duty.
Policies and procedures in use by one institution can differ from those in use by another. An informative induction program can help new staff familiarize themselves with the organization’s policies, people and environment, ensuring a more comfortable introduction to their new jobs.
Policies and procedures provide a framework for staff by outlining the standards regarding health and safety regulations, as well as legal requirements and implications in a high-risk environment, and as such, are an important part of a nurse’s knowledge base.
Nurses have access to patient records and treatments administered. Data security is of high importance, as leaks of personal details can result in legal action. A discussion around the confidentiality of data, as well as the organization’s social media policy, should take place from time to time.
Updates in technology, new medicines and improved practice methods need to be conveyed to all nursing staff in regular sessions, whether they be online or in person.
It’s up to the nurse leader to see that all of that happens. However, does this mean that nurse leaders are also trainers? Not necessarily, but it depends on the leader as to how far he or she would like to get involved in the training process. The organization may have the means to employ a nurse educator if the size of the organization warrants the extra headcount, or they can organize a mix of online courses and do some of the training in-house.
The nursing leader can upskill themselves to become an educator and be in a position to offer training. Keep in mind, however, that running a hospital is not exactly a part-time job, and emergencies do crop up, which could disrupt training sessions. If the nurse leader chooses to further their training as a mentor or preceptor, it is available through various institutions. As a professional working with various hierarchies and interprofessional groups within the organization, the nurse leader is well placed to instill a sense of professionalism in the junior learners, teaching them the various protocols when dealing with the different levels of professional staff.
The five types of education in a clinical setting
Mentorship: Nurse mentor programs are an essential part of education for newly qualified nurses.
Nurse mentors are experienced practitioners who guide new nurses while sharing their wisdom and expertise. They strive to instill confidence in the trainee while demonstrating professionalism and ethical practice when dealing with patients. Nurse mentors generously volunteer their time, knowledge and wisdom for the benefit of the new nurses and, ultimately, the organization. An important part of the mentorship is for the mentor and mentee (trainee) to build up a trusting relationship that is conducive to a good teaching and learning experience.
Nurse mentors use various strategies, such as teaching, coaching and counseling. They offer support and advice and encourage critical analysis, listening and problem-solving skills. Mentors offer advice on further study and introduce mentees to other members of the staff and different areas of the facility.
Mentorships can be formal or informal, however, they work best when there is some structure to them. The nurse mentor should be organized, documenting the training that has taken place, spending time after sessions with the patient to enforce the learning that has taken place and taking time to discuss various topics and answer questions. In addition to all that, the mentor has to balance their own clinical obligations with time spent mentoring.
A mentorship can last for months and forge friendships along the way. Following a formal mentorship, the mentor should still check in to see how the former mentee is coping and whether additional support is needed, be it in the workplace, or with other issues, such as adapting to the new environment or issues around long working hours.
By spending time with a nurse mentor, the student nurse not only learns valuable practice methods but also builds up analytical, communication and leadership skills that will serve them well in their professional lives. A nurse mentor imparts compassion and caring, qualities that are invaluable when dealing with patients.
Preceptorship: A preceptor is an experienced practitioner who facilitates the transformation of theory into practice by providing supervision during practical sessions of patient care. The time a preceptor spends with a student is predetermined, and they handle specific tasks, enabling the trainee nurse to practice safe and ethical methods with confidence.
The role of the preceptor can be very rewarding as they watch their students grow as professionals. It also helps them get to know the new nursing staff and places them in a situation where they have to be up to date with the latest technology and developments in clinical practice. Preceptors undergo training to develop their leadership skills.
Formal training: This can take the form of seminars and conferences or be done in-house by accredited nurse educators.
The installation of new equipment requires nurses to learn how to operate it as well as understand what it does and how to analyze the output.
Breakthroughs in medication or new evidence-based practices introduced into the system require thorough training to eliminate the possibility of incorrect administration and resulting lawsuits.
Updated policies can be communicated via training or simply emailed to all staff.
Video training courses are available from various institutions, from refresher courses to updates on new developments in the healthcare sector.
Informal training: In response to the sudden onset of COVID-19, medical staff in institutions across the world had to suddenly adapt to new situations and basically learn from media sources and each other about symptoms, treatments, isolating patients and much more.
An article published by Phys.org mentions that research done by a team in a hospital setting in Catalonia, Spain, revealed that, contrary to what organizations and various people believe, a great part of learning happens during informal interactions between people, more so than in formal learning activities.
The research indicated that the informal sessions in a context of unconditional cooperation produced brilliant results. The exchange of experiences between colleagues or watching a fellow nurse or doctor in practice provides an invaluable learning experience, and, when delivered in a casual, relaxed setting with people who are able to relate in terms of similar expertise, it is an excellent way of remembering information.
Planning and guidance for further studies: As previously mentioned, it would be wise for the junior nurse to work for a few years before deciding how to progress. The nurse leader can be instrumental in the decision-making process by rotating nurses into different areas of the hospital or clinic so that they can gain a wider insight into the different disciplines of healthcare while learning the various methods and procedures in use throughout the organization.
There should be regular performance appraisals in place that enable the nurse, nurse leader and the nurse’s immediate superior to sit down and discuss progress made and possible transfers into different areas. This is also a good time to discuss future study plans, either within the organization or through external, online options.
Once the junior nurse has obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing, the options are endless. They can go on and achieve a master’s degree in nursing science with a number of specializations.
Other options for the professional development of nursing staff
For many years now, professional development as a specialty of nursing practice has been a focus of specific organizations, with a view to advancing healthcare to levels of excellence.
In 1989, the Nursing Staff Development Organization was founded by a small group of “staff development educators”. This body has evolved into what is now known as the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) and was established in 2012. The mission of the ANPD is to promote advanced quality healthcare by defining nursing professional development (NPD) as a specialty of nursing practice. Based on research, the standards of NPD are critical to quality outcomes, both from a patient and organizational perspective.
A nursing professional can specialize as a Nursing Professional Development Specialist (NPDS), becoming a leader and educator in professional development for the nursing staff of medical institutions.
NPD specialists facilitate evidence-based practice in the organization by translating and evaluating research through education, practical experience and consultations with staff members. They put forward suggestions for new procedures based on the research. Implementation of new evidence-based practice gives nursing staff confidence to practice and, if followed correctly, reduces incorrect practice procedures.
The nurse leader may have the budget to employ an ANPD-accredited NPD specialist, or, alternatively, allocate a member of staff to become certified as an NPDS.
Prerequisites for the NPD certification include:
- Must be the holder of a current, active RSN license.
- Must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, or higher qualification, in nursing.
- Must have at least 4,000 hours of clinical practice in nursing professional development in the last five years.
- Must have practiced full-time for two years as a registered nurse.
- Must have completed 30 hours of continuing education in nursing professional development within the last three years.
To start with, the nurse leader may not be able to find someone in the organization who qualifies for an ANPD certification; however, membership with the organization would offer various training options and is worth looking into. Having someone on the staff with a higher interest in professional practice could be of benefit to the entire nursing staff.
Organizations currently face complex challenges and demands. One such challenge is the high turnover of nursing staff. High stress levels encourage nurses to look elsewhere, and the shortage of nursing staff means that they don’t need to look very far to find a position elsewhere. It makes sense, then, to do everything possible to retain good people. Working in an environment that encourages professionalism instills a sense of pride and loyalty in staff. Showing an interest in their professional careers encouraging healthy debate and informal learning should also go a long way to keeping staff engaged and happy in what they are doing. With a dynamic nurse leader at the helm, all of this is likely to become a reality.