How can I become a leader in the nursing profession?

Karen T. Harris, MSN, RN, WHNP-BCby Karen T. Harris

How can I become a leader in the nursing profession?

As the president of the Board of Directors at AWHONN, I am often asked about leadership in nursing – how can we encourage young nurses to be leaders, what skills do they need, what is holding them back?

What I have learned over my 27 years of nursing is that becoming a leader requires thinking of nursing as not just a set of clinical skills, but also as the business of nursing and training yourself for that.

My leadership journey started when a colleague tapped me on the shoulder in grad school and told me to join AHWONN. I joined, but I didn’t just become a member, I took every opportunity I could to challenge myself and learn new skills. From volunteering at section conferences, managing my chapter/section budget, to eventually doing executive-level consulting work, everything I did and learned was applicable to my future career success. I also looked at my career as a hobby and learned what I loved – don’t forget that leadership without passion for what you do is not successful or rewarding.

To become a leader, you will need to take on different skill sets that interest you and could be applicable down the road. When I applied to my first executive-level job, I was able to point to the finance experience I had with managing my chapter/section budget. It was finance on a different scale, but by leaning on these same core skills I picked up as a leader, I landed the position. Through the work I did as a fetal monitoring instructor, I was able to show how I could train and educate nurses at higher levels than myself. It also helped introduce me to a circle of networking throughout Southeast Michigan. Also, speaking on the Hill about public policy that you are passionate about will give you a voice, a strong voice, which will carry you forward.

Always look for challenges! AWHONN is a great place to start – apply to become an AWHONN Emerging Leader, speak out on the Hill, and even grow your writing skills by writing for this blog – AWHONN Connections. It is an empowering organization that provides you the opportunity and tools to grow as a person and as a nurse.

You can do anything you want to do – become a teacher, an executive, a clinical nurse specialist. Find where you fit and what you are passionate about, train for all the skills you need and succeed!

Karen T. Harris, MSN, RN, WHNP-BCKaren Harris is the President of AWHONN and Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

2 thoughts on “How can I become a leader in the nursing profession?

  1. Sue Walden says:

    Hi Karen,
    Think way back to St. Joes in Mt Clemens. I recall a discussion about whether you should apply for an Outreach Coordinator position, I think at St. John’s. You got it, and you did a fabulous job. So happy to see how you have followed your passion.
    Sue Walden. (LeGue)

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