Why the Healthcare Sector Needs Great Leadership
Healthcare in the 21st century is an ever-changing and fast-paced industry that is now, more than ever, in need of great leadership and great leaders.
While traditionally, healthcare has always attracted “people people” who have, at their heart, always been driven by a deep-seated need to advance medical knowledge for the good of patients, leadership is at the heart of making the people feel included and safe in their working environment.
The need for great leadership has become so important in the healthcare sector that new degree courses, such as the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree program, have put a great focus on teaching students about the importance of leadership and change within the healthcare sector.
Without great leaders, there is little motivation to improve the way medicine is accessed and how patients are treated and cared for, which can lead to demoralization for all involved. A desire to want to develop and create change in the healthcare field is something that candidates of a DNP course should feel that they possess.
Leadership in Healthcare Nursing
Nursing, in particular, has seen a great shift in attitudes over the last few decades.
As more people take on higher-level nursing roles across healthcare facilities, the need for better-qualified nursing professionals with doctorate-level degrees, such as the DNP, has never been so great.
As with many things in healthcare and in any other industry, being a great leader of people requires a good understanding of how the role itself works and the particular difficulties faced by professionals doing specific roles on the ground every day; this is especially true for nurses.
In healthcare facilities, DNP qualified nurses are the backbone of the staff, providing healthcare solutions on the ground and on the front lines. Now, thanks to a bigger focus on leadership within nursing, nursing itself is seen as a highly professionalized career path that requires a highly professional approach.
There are not many roles within the healthcare sector that are so demanding as in nursing. While there are many roles that require lots of skills and expertise and qualifications, nursing has a particular role to play in everyday healthcare and can sometimes go unrecognized.
Due to this under-recognition of nursing staff, the turnover of nurses within hospitals and other healthcare facilities, and the relatively low pay in comparison to other roles, is so high.
Professional nursing leaders, such as those who have taken a doctor of nursing practice DNP degree course and gone on to specialize in nursing planning and organizational structures, will know only too well how much nurses are in need of people who understand exactly what they will be going through on a daily basis.
The DNP degree focuses on what requirements will make their working lives a lot easier and happier. DNP nurses and non-DNP nurses who are happier and more comfortable in their role are more likely to give much better patient care and team support.
Change Within the Healthcare Sector
Healthcare is traditionally an industry where hierarchical leadership is very strong, with many people in management positions who have never spent time on the ground working in direct patient care.
It’s for this reason that leaders in the healthcare industry need to have strong communication skills in order to really listen to and understand what their staff and teams are going through.
The medical profession can attract people who have big egos. In some cases, this is needed, those people who have big egos are generally more willing to take risks and have the confidence to perform the more difficult but high return procedures, but these people can be difficult to work with and difficult to work under.
This means liaison services, such as managers, are desperately needed to ensure that the people who are assisting in providing patient care on a day-to-day basis without the promise of great rewards feel thoroughly valued and needed.
As medicine pushes on and becomes more scientific and patients more litigious, there is a great need for better teamwork and a better approach to work-life balance across the healthcare industry.
Ears on the Ground
Leaders within healthcare need to understand people from both an employee and employer perspective, as well as from an outside contractor and patient perspective.
This is not an easy thing to do, and healthcare leaders need to be very patient and have thick skin in order to deal with the high stakes/high return way that medicine works.
Creating a culture of teamwork and good leadership within healthcare facilities, be that hospitals or individual private practices and family medicine clinics, is paramount if you want your staff to feel confident at work.
Being humble and understanding the need for improvements to your own knowledge and experience is a skill that great leaders should always possess.
In many sectors, it is easy to get a job, work at it for a number of years, improve your experience, and move up the ranks to a better-paid role with more responsibility. However, in healthcare, it’s every healthcare professional’s responsibility to improve their own continued learning and continued professional development.
This need for constant learning can be exhausting for everyone involved, especially when it means changing the way you do things on a sometimes regular basis or even admitting that the way things were done in the past (the way you learned in school) may actually be wrong.
It takes a very strong person to be in a high-level leadership position and to also be able to admit to not knowing the answers straight away. In medicine, this is something that will happen regularly, and great leaders within healthcare need to be aware of this and promote a culture of learning and development within both their team and the teams they look after.
Adaptability to New Situations
Hot on the heels for the need for a good education in healthcare is the need for leaders and professionals within the sector to have a high level of flexibility and adaptability to new situations.
This is actually something that most people in the medical profession are very good at. The very nature of medicine is one of change and adaptability, with medical professionals needing to be ready at all times to assess the situation and to work to the best of their abilities for a good patient outcome.
While many qualified doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals will be used to working under pressure and working in a flexible environment, this is not always true for those in leadership positions, especially those who have never been involved in direct patient care.
A delicate balance must be struck between what is economically feasible and good PR, what is in the patient’s best interests, and in the patient’s family and care support system’s best interests.
Working with families and support systems for patients is a very difficult task. It can be very taxing on everyone involved’s mental health, especially those working in direct access positions.
Leaders in this situation need to be aware of the mental health effects of the role on the more junior members of staff, and they need to mitigate the negative effects while working with staff to ensure they are mentally resilient in what can be a very challenging situation.
This is not a skill that comes easy to many leaders, even leaders in other very high stakes, high power, and high-stress industries. By learning to adapt to situations and react calmly, however, great leaders will be able to show restraint and humility when it comes to making decisions; and great leaders will also be able to demonstrate empathy where it’s needed most.
Improving Healthcare Outcomes
For anyone who is taking leadership seriously, for example, students taking the DNP degree program where whole sections are devoted to being a good leader, there will be a focus on how to have a clear vision and how to plan for the vision.
The difficulty within the healthcare sector is that things can change very rapidly, and sometimes biology is out of our control.
This can make some leaders feel demotivated and disheartened because no matter how much they wanted to change things, some things are completely out of their control.
Being a good leader in this situation is perhaps one of the hardest things to do, especially when it means putting your own thoughts, feelings, and fears aside to support your team through a difficult time.
That being said, this is perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of being in a leadership position in a healthcare setting, supporting your staff and those you are leading in times of adversity.
In the world of nursing, having effective plans and a clear vision for your team’s future, both in the short-term and the long-term, can help support team members across seniority levels and across hierarchies. This can also help to promote interprofessional collaborations to ensure that communication both professionally and on the emotional level is always held in the highest regard.
For some DNP nursing practitioners, goal planning and time management are some of the most critical aspects of great leadership. Nursing teams who fall under great leaders are generally more efficient and more economical, providing better patient care.
The Need for Empathy
The healthcare sector in the US is worth billions of dollars, and for some people, this may make them feel uncomfortable, especially if they went into healthcare with the sole purpose of helping people to get well.
Suppose you are considering taking a leadership position in healthcare, especially in nursing. In that case, a grounding in empathy will raise your standing within your team and help to improve your leadership credentials.
Being a great leader is not about bossing people around and telling them where to be at what time, but using your own interpersonal skills and empathy to encourage and improve people.
People who feel like they are supported and encouraged, no matter what industry they are in, are more likely to work harder and produce better results, and this is especially important in industries where the lives of people in your hands.
How to Be a Great Healthcare Leader
Great leaders can show their commitment to their cause in a variety of different ways.
One of the most important ways to show no that you are committed to the cause of leadership is to model the behavior you wish to see from your team.
If you want to see an open and collaborative environment in your team, then being willing to listen and learn from your team is the very first step that you should take along this pass.
This could manifest itself in all kinds of different ways, including things such as regular team meetings and one to ones where the rule is that honesty is the best policy; allowing employees of all seniority levels to get their thoughts and feelings across in an environment where they feel safe and that their job is not on the line.
Taking the time to really listen to your employees will mean that you’re in a better position to make their working lives easier by taking on their worries, and perhaps complaints, and working on our way to improve them.
This is really important not just for employees and their working lives but also for patient care. For leaders who are not in direct contact with patients on a daily basis, it will be vital to understand from your team exactly what is going on and to make recommendations on how to improve patient care output.
Many great leaders understand that listening to those who are lower on the hierarchy is one of the most important things you can do.
Degree courses such as the DNP have a focus on good leadership and organizational change, and nursing practitioners who have qualified with a DNP degree have a clearer understanding of how this can affect health care teams now and in the future.