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Mastering the 3 Key Elements of a Nurse Leader Development Program

Kim-Cyphers-headshot
by 
Kim Cyphers
on January 31, 2018

In healthcare settings where nurse staffing is the backbone of a productive operation, too many organizations today suffer from the lack of an adequate leadership pipeline. In a recent global survey, DDI found that only about 75 percent of organizations have a program to identify and develop nurses with high potential to be emerging leaders—often just 10–15% of their workforce. But training a few “high potentials” to become leaders may not satisfy the leadership gap.

To eliminate this gap, healthcare organizations must develop a talent management strategy that is strongly linked to leadership development and that creates leadership talent pools. Unfortunately many hospitals and healthcare organizations have not historically prioritized the training and development of nurse leaders as a way to drive business outcomes.

Nurses with strong clinical skills often find themselves hastily appointed to the role of nurse manager without proper training and skill development needed to thrive in the role. New nurse leaders often lack competencies in various non-clinical aspects of the role—such as managing staff and employees and budgeting, as well as understanding productivity and utilization reporting.

The question facing healthcare organizations is this: How are you training nurses across all aspects of future leadership roles—including clinical, non-clinical, and strategic organizational responsibilities?

Healthcare executives are now realizing the importance of taking a strategic approach to creating talent pools of emerging and future nurse leaders and designing comprehensive development programs.

By making this a talent management priority, healthcare organizations can ensure that potential nurse leaders develop the skills they need to extend their impact from patient outcomes—all the way to the organization’s bottom line. Providing targeted experiential education modules along with a collaborative learning environment gives participants in such development programs a better understanding of financial issues, such as expense forecasting and cost-benefit analysis.

These development programs also help hospitals and healthcare systems better address succession planning and facilitate knowledge transfer from seasoned nurse leaders to new nurse leaders.

Here are best practices to help you define three key elements of a successful nurse leader development program:

Create Communities of Practice

Prepare your next generation of leaders to work without boundaries. When creating a community of practice for your leaders, consider the following items for a successful approach:

  • Set guidelines based on mutual learning and support.
  • Consider the number of people and diversity of participants in each group.
  • Allow participants to take ownership of the group by identifying the objectives, format, and frequency of meetings that meet their interest.
  • Encourage communication and collaboration between participants outside of formal meetings.

Understand the Population You’re Cultivating

Create and nurture multiple talent pools at various levels of the organization. Here’s how:

  • Create linkages between succession planning, assessments, and development for future leaders.
  • Provide ongoing feedback and measurement of outcomes derived from talent activities.
  • Monitor the diversity of talent pools to meet organizational diversity goals.

Train and Coach New Leaders Continuously – On the Job

Assess high-potential talent through coaching, mentoring, and portfolio-based career progression programs. Some tips:

  • Complete rigorous and repeated assessments on all high-potential talent.
  • Give potential nurse leaders stretch assignments to develop skills through new experiences.
  • Customize individual development plans for each participant.

Across all elements of your development program, it’s critical to use multiple sources of data—talent assessments, candidate interviews, and feedback—to gauge candidate potential and readiness to participate. By monitoring the pool of selected candidates and identifying a specific succession path for each individual, your organization can build a healthy bench of future leaders with the skills and experience to drive continued success.

Learn more: Growing Nurse Leaders: Their Perspectives on Nursing Leadership and Today’s Practice Environment in OJIN: The Online Journal if Issues in Nursing.

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