Nurses lead in many ways: 

1. They lead by example, being role models and demonstrating the values and behaviours expected of them as registered nurses.

2. They lead care, ensuring that patients and their families receive high quality, evidence-based, patient-centred care.

3. They lead teams – planning, managing and co-ordinating the nursing team and the multi-professional team to ensure that the right care is delivered by the right people, with the right skills, achieving the best outcomes.

4. They lead change and practice development across all health care areas, at local and national levels, to promote and enable the highest levels of nursing practice.

As NRNs, you are expected to lead by example and to lead the care of your patients. You have demonstrated the knowledge, understanding, skills and competencies to do this as part of your studentship. Now you are putting into practice those knowledge based skills and competencies, taking responsibility and being accountable for the nursing care your patients receive. During this time as an NRN, you will develop the confidence to provide nursing care that meets your patients’ needs, but also to question and constructively challenge, to advocate for your patients and their families, and for your profession to promote excellence in practice.

In order to develop as a leader, you will need to engage in activities that support and promote the skills and values of effective leadership. An effective way of doing this is to recognise and embrace the importance of followership.

Followership can be very simply defined as a person who supports and admires a particular person or set of ideas. In health, as in other organisations, there is a growing recognition of the importance of followership in contributing to the goals and outcomes of the organisation at a macro and micro level. For example, at a hospital or NHS Trust, department level or ward, team or individual level, leadership and followership may be demonstrated through the more senior nurse’s critical thinking, influencing and engagement with the work to be achieved.

As an NRN, you have the opportunity not only to be a responsible and engaged follower within your work environment, but to learn and develop the skills and attributes of leadership that you will need as you progress in your career.

  • Identify role models in your team leaders and reflect on how their skills, knowledge, approaches, responses to situations all combine to create positive team engagement and good outcomes for patients
  • Access learning opportunities that focus on team work and reflect on how you can utilise the knowledge and skills from the learning activity
  • Engage in reviewing activities that monitor and evaluate care; handover, audits, reviewing standards and practices.

To plan you career have a look at the RCN careers resources.

6 top tips for managing and leading yourself

Document1. Do what fulfils you.

2. Build your networks - within your work area and externally, for example RCN forums.

3. Invest in yourself.

4. Face your fears.

5. Try something new.

6. Be kind and generous.