The Importance of Leadership Skills in Nursing as the Industry Evolves

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A nurse leader meets with the medical team outdoors.Americans depend on skilled doctors and nurses to keep them healthy and well. Over the next several years, however, a serious chance exists that there won’t be enough healthcare providers to treat the increasing number of patients.

A shortage of healthcare providers is nothing to take lightly, yet the situation does have a silver lining. Skilled nurse leaders may be uniquely poised to minimize the impact of the shortage and bridge gaps in patient care. Many benefits and advantages await nurses who pursue the skills and knowledge to be recognized as nurse leaders.

One of the best ways to cultivate leadership skills in nursing is to enroll in online education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing program, that teaches advanced nursing skills. This type of program provides students with the opportunity to sharpen their understanding of their field, develop relationships with mentors and peers, and advance their careers. 

The Need for Nurse Leaders

Many experts agree that a scarcity of doctors is likely; indeed, the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts the U.S. will see a shortage of 46,900 to 121,900 physicians by 2032. This shortage includes doctors in both primary and specialty care.

In addition to the predicted physician shortage, a scarcity of qualified nurses is also anticipated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects nearly 176,000 openings for registered nurses annually through 2029.

A number of reasons exist as to why doctors and nurses are in increasingly short supply, but much of it can be attributed to the simple reality of an aging population. The baby boomer generation, in particular, is aging and in need of more regular and consistent medical care. Also, many medical and nursing schools are struggling to expand their capacity accordingly.

Opportunities for Nurse Leaders

More nurse leaders than ever are needed to deliver high-quality care, serve as resources to doctors and other nurses alike and provide flexibility to an industry in flux. Due to the impending nurse shortage, the projected job outlook for nurse leaders is robust. According to the BLS, the job market for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives is expected to grow by 45% between 2019 and 2029. This is much more than the projected average growth for all jobs.

Those who demonstrate leadership skills in nursing will be well-positioned both to help patients and move their careers forward. With the right leadership skills, nurses can be key decision-makers within a medical team, helping implement and change patient care plans as needed.

Developing Leadership Skills in Nursing

Education can play a major role in helping nursing professionals cultivate the knowledge and skills to be effective leaders in their field. Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program features six concentrations that enable students to pursue focused advanced practitioner roles.

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management
  • Forensic Nursing
  • Nurse Education and Faculty Role

The following provides details on some select courses students may consider.

Historical and Contemporary Foundations for Advanced Nursing Practice

This course uses the analysis of nursing history and practice innovation to demonstrate the role of the advanced practice nurse. Students in this course examine case study models to explain the role’s foundational elements and its innovation, as well as the role of statistical literacy and technical writing.

Evidence-Based Nursing Practice and Policy Development

Students enrolled in this course learn about evidence-based practice and policy development and how it can be used to cultivate culturally-responsive strategies for care delivery. The course explores topics regarding the importance of evidence-based practice (EBP), systematic EBP and ethical issues in nursing, ultimately preparing students to understand project implementation and policy recommendation.

Healthcare Ethics in Practice and Policy

This course provides a comprehensive overview of ethics in advanced nursing. It details core issues, prevailing views and laws in clinical ethics related to nursing. It also examines key issues relating to the nurse-patient dynamic, such as informed consent, confidentiality, autonomy and surrogate decision making.

Clinical Prevention and Population-Based Health Promotion

Students in this course have the opportunity to concentrate on community-based health promotion and disease prevention across numerous demographics. The course aims to strengthen students’ knowledge of health indicators, community-driven health determinants and other communal health metrics. They will study various population health concepts regarding health behaviors, health disparity and environmental health. 

Physical Assessment for Advanced Practice Nursing

This course focuses on theories of physical assessment throughout an individual’s lifetime. It discusses how this level of scrutiny can help nurses cultivate a robust patient database in the context of primary healthcare. It also examines theories addressing resiliency, vulnerability and stability.

A Look at Trends in Nursing

Even with a provider shortage looming, the day-to-day application of medical care is changing at a rapid rate, both due to evolving technologies and an increased emphasis on specialized care.

New Technology

The evolution of healthcare technology is a crucially important trend in nursing. Innovations such as informatics and artificial intelligence (AI) have transformed the practice of nursing, providing new ways for nurses to analyze data and manage patient care plans.

Specialized Care

Another important healthcare trend is the increased demand for specialization. More and more patients have begun seeking physicians with subject matter expertise in particular conditions, chronic illnesses or focused forms of care, opting for specialists over more generalized providers.

Changing Demographics

The very nature of a changing population, with the average patient getting older and needing more care, has also presented challenges for providers who realize they must adapt their care models in kind.

Those who possess leadership skills in nursing will be well equipped to guide other nurses through healthcare’s ongoing changes, lending a sense of stability even in an industry that is in transition.

Developing Leadership Skills in Nursing

Opportunity abounds for those who pursue the skills and credentials to be nurse leaders. One avenue to explore is an online degree program, where students can more sharply develop their leadership skills.

Duquesne University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program provides this opportunity. Learn more about the program today.

Recommended Readings

Business Acumen for Nurse Leaders

Working as a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Benefits of a Nurse Mentorship: Why Nurse Educators Matter 


American Association of Medical Colleges, New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage

American Nurse Today, Emerging Trends in Nursing

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Pulse, What the Nursing Shortage Means for Healthcare

CNBC, America’s Aging Population is Leading To a Doctor Shortage Crisis

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release: Table 8. Occupations with the largest projected number of job openings due to growth and replacement needs, 2012 and projected 2022