How to Stand Out as a Leader in Your Nursing Career

Nursing is a wonderful career that allows you to focus on what you are most passionate about. All nurses want to help, to care for others, but because of the breadth of the medical industry, you can work in hospitals, clinics, small-town doctor’s offices and even as an educator. You can take the role however you want to so that it suits your interests and the lifestyle that you want for yourself.

Nursing is diverse. It is rewarding. Even in times of crisis like the one we are in now, it is one of the noblest, fulfilling roles a person can enter. Being a leader means doing more for all patients, not just one or two. It also means advocating for nurses and working hard to provide them all with the support they need to continue doing their best.

Be more than just a nurse. Be a leader:


Always Work to Self-Improve

To be a leader, you need to first accept that you are not perfect and never will be, but you can always strive to improve. Working on self-improvement is excellent not just to make yourself into a better nurse and leader, but because it allows you to lead by example. There is no right or wrong way to be a leader – you need to find what works for your department and for your individual personality.

Don’t assume that you know how you need to improve, either. Ask for feedback and work on taking that feedback to heart. Others will see your faults a lot easier than you ever can and though it can be hard and in some cases even feel humiliating to address something others don’t like or believe needs to change, it will make you a stronger person.


Go In With a Skip to Your Step

If you want to be someone that is relied on, and trusted with leadership roles, then you need to be someone that loves their job. Go in with a skip in your step no matter how tired you are. Someone who gripes all day long and sounds like they hate their patients is not someone that is going to get far.

You need to love your job, and you need to love to help, both your patients and your other nurses. Only then will others naturally gravitate towards you and, more importantly, be happy to help out when you need it.


Acquire the Formal Qualifications Necessary

Having the right attitude and commitment to self-improvement will be for nothing if you don’t have the qualifications to back it up.



You can become a registered nurse through a Degree in Nursing, yes, but most MSN degrees require you have a BSN to even apply. Unless you want to stop your career as an RN – which would exclude you from many high-level leadership roles – going for the full BSN is a must.



You need to become a Nurse Practitioner next. This will require you to complete the relevant MSN. Most of these can be completed primarily online with just a few on-campus requirements. This means, like your BSN, you should be able to continue to work and learn at the same time.


Post-Graduate Degree

After your MSN, you can apply to leadership roles, but if you want to stand out and have the know-how on how to improve the department itself, you need to go beyond that. So far, you are a great nurse. You’ll be the one to go to for difficult or complex cases. You aren’t the person to help balance the books or negotiate for a pay raise for your nurses.

That is why those looking to become a Nurse Executive should work towards a DNP executive leadership degree. Entirely online, degrees like these are here to build business acumen on top of your nursing history so that you aren’t just top nurse, you are the head of nursing.


Know the Role You Want 

It always helps to have the role you want in mind. This will help direct your efforts and put things into perspective for you:

  1. Nurse Practitioner
  2. Nurse Manager or Supervisor
  3. Director of Nursing
  4. Chief Nursing Officer or Chief Nursing Executive

There are so many different pros and cons of each role. Know what they entail and what role suits you and your goals best and work towards it.


Pace Yourself

It will take time to become a nurse at an executive level. It’s not just experience, after all. You need to achieve at least an MSN in most cases if not a post-graduate degree after that to even be considered. In highly competitive hospitals or cities, you should consider a post-graduate diploma a must.

This takes time. More than that it takes a lot of effort and money. Pacing yourself is the best way to achieve all your goals without sacrificing your mental health or your social life. It is okay to not be the fastest at completing an online degree. The work you do while you study is equally important, and by pacing yourself, you can steadily move forward towards your goals.


Always Put Your Patients First

No matter what your ambition is, you must put your patients first. Don’t let your own ego mean a decrease in quality for patients, or for any nurses in your charge. You need to be a positive role model and a leader who can make the hard decisions, not a tyrant. Only then will you succeed in ways you have always hoped for.


Work Towards Leadership Roles in Your Level

You don’t have to wait until you are the Chief Nursing Officer to start standing out as a leader. Every single role in nursing will have leadership roles. Stand out from the start by being committed to improving yourself and helping others improve themselves. That sort of dedication to patients and to your fellow nurses won’t go unnoticed and help you be promoted to roles that you can use to secure high-level leadership positions in the future.


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