The Essence of Nursing Leadership: Inspire, Innovate, Influence

By Rhonda Collins, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer, Vocera; a HIMSS Individual Member

Something I hear a lot from nurses is, “I don’t have much power because I just work at the bedside.”

That is simply untrue. Leadership is power and we are all leaders in nursing. Some nurses lead in more seemingly obvious ways such as overseeing other nurses, setting policy for a unit, or setting the vision and strategy for patient care in a hospital system.

Some lead in quieter ways, independently making decisions that have bearing on the health and well-being of our patients. Sometimes a patient’s life is in our hands. That is leadership.

Lead by Inspiring

A t-shirt I like to wear says, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” Being kind is the essence of inspiration in nursing. We inspire people just by seeing the value in humanity and giving of ourselves.

Whether you’re a leader from the bedside inspiring those around you to provide extraordinary patient care, or a leader inspiring those who make policy, it’s your vision and drive that move people forward.


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Lead by Innovating

I always say, if you want to see innovation, give a nurse a roll of tape and some bandage scissors!

Nurses are masters of workarounds. We’ll do whatever is needed to ensure our patients are cared for. We make sure they get the treatment, medications and care they need, at the time of need.

Additionally, technology and innovation in nursing are inextricably connected. When making decisions about technology in the patient care environment, keep the clinical perspective at the forefront and the patient at the center. Make sure a clinical expert is at the table for every discussion about technology nurses will use.

Lead by Influencing

For the 16th year in a row, nurses were ranked number one in a Gallup poll of honesty and ethical standards in professions. This in and of itself demonstrates the influence nurses have.

As a nurse leader, one of my goals is to elevate nurses’ voices so they can tell their own stories. I want to show the influence they have in their communities as the backbone of healthcare.

We nurse the communities we live in, whether we’re coaching a ball team, driving a van full of cheerleaders, co-leading a scout troop, or helping people who are suffering. Whatever it is we do, we’re often on the front line of contributing to our community’s health and well-being and ensuring people have healthy places to go and healthy activities to do.

All Nurses Are Leaders

Each of us can inspire, innovate and influence. It doesn’t matter what position you hold.

Each of us has a story to tell and each of us leads in nursing.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates.


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Originally published May 4, 2018, updated December 6, 2018