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Nurse Leaders: The Next Generation

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, October 19, 2010

One of the speakers at last month's Nursing Management Congress in Texas conducted a quick, informal poll among attendees to see which age brackets were represented. Overwhelmingly, one group stood out: those who were less than 15 years from retirement. The speaker's aim was to illustrate the point that our nurse manager workforce is aging and we face a succession planning crisis in the near future.

Despite this, many hospitals place little emphasis on developing formal nurse succession plans or offer leadership development classes to groom the next generation of leaders. I met new nurse managers at the conference who were there on their own dime, eager to develop their skills, learn how to become better managers, and increase their usefulness to their organizations and staff.

Several of these nurse managers credited their desire to progress their career and take management positions to coaches or mentors who provided career advice and development opportunities. Without these coaches, they said, they might never have thought management was an option for them or been interested in pursuing it.

Senior leadership should encourage these mentoring and coaching relationships in their organizations.

"You shouldn't wait until a leader leaves to start thinking 'who are we going to move in there?'" says Patty Kubus, president of Leadership Potential International, and a former nurse manager who now teaches leadership development and consults with hospitals on issues such as succession planning. "You should be constantly looking to identify leadership potential in staff, and focused on building leadership skills, so they are ready and waiting to fill open positions."

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3 comments on "Nurse Leaders: The Next Generation"


Daria Byrne, MSN, RN (10/26/2010 at 2:29 PM)
Evaluating and educating nursing leaders needs to continue past the bedside and into the academic arena as well. In today's curriculum, specifically ADN programs, there is very little leadership theory taught. Because of this, it needs to be the responsibility of the organization to identify nurses who exemplify the desire and the will to advance their career in a leadership capacity, all the while keeping in mind that those who may desire to be a leader, may not be the best person to drive the organization into the future.

Betty Noyes (10/25/2010 at 1:22 PM)
This is certainly a fact. But the same need for succession planning at the manager levels holds true for EVERY department. Nursing is not unique in this issue of concern!

Donald Wood (10/22/2010 at 6:38 PM)
Any organization worthy of the name needs to be continually grooming people to move up in the ranks of responsibility. Nursing has long looked at people to see how well they are doing in their current job (bedside nurse for example) and then promote them to a job with the need for a different skill set. Result - a person who struggles with the new position and becomes overwhelmed and request to go back to their previous assignment. Being a nurse for 37 years, I have seen this countless times. We need to start teaching practical leadership to all nurses. They can hone their skills by leading patients and families to better health. It becomes a win-win situation for everyone.