As the scope and technological advancements of our healthcare industry have increased, so too have the costs. Much of the focus recently has been on ways to reduce costs and make healthcare more affordable, as evidenced by the Affordable Care Act (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, n.d.). In response to pressure to reduce costs, many hospitals have increased the workload of their nurses. For many years, nurses have been stating their staff to patient ratios are becoming too high, and patient safety is being compromised. This paper explores the role of nursing leaders and managers in response to this crisis, and ways each of those roles can affect positive change.
While many times used synonymously, leadership and management are very different functions. According to John Kotter, professor of leadership at Harvard University, “Management is a set of processes that keep an organization functioning” (Ratcliffe, 2013). For nursing this looks like planning which nurse gets which patients, budgeting, hiring, clarifying jobs and roles, measuring performance, and resolving problems as they arise. On the other hand, Kotter defines leadership as “…aligning people to the vision, that means buy-in and communication, motivation, and inspiration” (Ratcliffe, 2013). Nursing leaders show this buy defining broad goals and vision for the department, inspire their employees to grow and become better, caring for employees as people, and creating a team that sees itself as family. As organizations have traditionally defined roles they have called people in positions that manage and lead as “managers”, while they should be fulfilling both of those roles.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found a link between nurse staffing levels and patient mortality (Needleman et al., 2011). They found for each 8-hour shift that was understaffed patient mortality increased by 2%. Not only is this a tragic loss, but it also increases costs for hospitals. Another...