Nursing has never been simple profession and it is not an easy task to quantify the contributions nurses have made in shaping healthcare. Modern nursing is complex, ever changing and multi focused; requiring nurses to evolve personally and professionally as leaders in healthcare. What is leadership? Leadership is defined by what it is, as much as what it is not. Leadership has nothing to do with titles, age, seniority, education or status, but rather associated with the characteristics that define a leader. Per Forbes Magazine (April, 2013) “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. An effective leader must inspire the group to follow in their lead, to guide them to accomplish a mutual goal.” Florence Nightingale, the innovative leader and pioneer of modern nursing, is the person I selected as the leader I most admire and one who continues to inspire me to continue to grow professionally.
Nightingale, who lived from 1820-1910 was a visionary, healer, reformer, environmentalist, feminist, practitioner, scientist, politician and global citizen. Her achievements are astounding considering the Victorian era, and the submissive role of women in her time. Her contributions to nursing theory, research, statistics, public health, and health care reform are invaluable and inspirational. Florence Nightingale demonstrated the characteristics of leadership such as, mission conscious, tenacity, solution oriented and commitment by her ability to establish nursing as professional practice, separate from medicine, while practicing in a male dominated world. Secondly, she was intentional and focused in her efforts as an advocate for the advancement of nursing into leadership positions and not one of just servitude, by fostering an environment of continued education and training for nurses. She formalized an educational program and founded the first nursing school in England that helped to formulate standards of practice evident in nursing care today.
Florence far reaching visionary concepts of nurses contribution to healthcare ,leadership and the transformational aspects of nursing has continued to propel nurses into the forefront of modern healthcare . According to, Selanders & Crane, (2012) “Today ANA states that high quality practice includes advocacy as an integral component of patient safety. Advocacy is now identified both as a component of ethical nursing practice and as a philosophical principle underpinning the nursing profession and helping to assure the rights and safety of the patient.” If the true test of leadership is measured by the outcomes, Florence is a proven leader.
It has been my experience that nursing is a transformational experience, it shapes you as much as your values and philosophies shape your practice. Florence Nightingale herself was a true visionary, who was also transformed into a leader by her courage, advocacy, focus and intentional pursuits, in advancing the practice of nursing. Her leadership style is aligned with that of a transformational leader, integrated with some democratic and authoritarian leadership styles of her time. Per Selander & Crane (2012) “Nightingale understood the value of and the methods for achieving visionary leadership. She repetitively utilized techniques which have been developed as the stair step leadership development model.
This paradigm blends the ideas of Nightingale with the current leadership terminology of Burns (1978, 2003), who identified the relative merit of leadership outcomes, with the ‘novice-to-expert’ concept of Benner (2000) which focuses on the necessity of building leadership skills. “Her ability to empower and inspire others to follow in her path, is the ultimate pinnacle of success for a leader. Florence Nightingale embodies the true characteristics and spirit of leadership, one that has proven the test of time and continues to evolve with time, as nurses forge a path in the 21 century healthcare.
Selanders. L, Crane.P, (2012), 17(1).The voice of Florence Nightingale on Advocacy. Online J.of Nursing Issues Kruse. (April, 2013).The Definition of Leadership in the 21 Century, Forbes Magazine.www.forbesmagazine.com