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The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is working to forge nurse leaders who can provide leadership through their contribution to policy, practice and in the delivery of health care.

As part of its new strategic direction as the national organisation advancing nurse leadership, ACN has launched its Leadership@ACN program - a range of programs held in each of the states and territories, designed to shape nurse leaders at all stages of their careers.

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ACN chief executive officer Debra Thoms says equipping nurses with the skills and expertise to become effective nurse leaders is paramount for the delivery of health services.

“It’s not just that nurses are a large part of the workforce but nurses engage with the community right across the health system,” she says.

“You need good leadership in order to provide those nurses with the appropriate environment within which to work so that they can deliver the best care they can, and to effectively recruit and retain nurses.

“Going forward there are concerns about workforce shortages so we need to have nurse leaders who can build really supportive and appropriate environments for nurses to work in, in order to retain them and provide them with good working environments, so that we maximise the potential of the workforce for the future.”

The leadership initiative includes a Leadership Master one-day workshop series, targeting senior nurses, nurse executives and nurses aspiring to executive level roles.

The seminar highlights the adaptive challenges of leadership, assists nurses to lead in a politically charged environment and influence key public policy outcomes, and also covers how to leverage technology.

Former Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett, who studied leadership at Harvard University, has developed and is facilitating the program.

The Leadership First two-day workshop is designed for early to mid-career nurses and provides practical skills while inspiring nurses to think critically about leadership and their own career development.

The program focuses on harnessing the sciences of leadership and management theory, neuroscience, emotional and social intelligence, spiral dynamics, epigenetics and neuroleadership concepts.

Ilze Jaunberzins, of PowerMind Leadership, has developed and is facilitating the workshops that aim to provide insights into participants’ own leadership style and the realities of being a leader in a health care environment.

ACN also offers a Graduate Certificate in Leadership and Management for registered nurses and midwives that aims to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes relevant to clinical leadership and management, incorporating human resource management, financial management and quality processes. Course intakes are in February and July.

The programs add to the organisation’s renowned Emerging Nurse Leader (ENL) Program which identifies five outstanding pre-registration nursing students each year, supporting them through a three-year program of personal and professional development.

ACN has designed the programs to create and support nurse leaders from the ward right through to the board, ensuring that nurses can influence and steer decision-making spanning all health care settings.

Southern Cross University Online is another education provider that offers a flexible, 100% online Master of Healthcare Leadership, which is designed to equip nurses with the leadership skills they need to become a leader in the healthcare sector.

An Adjunct Professor at Sydney’s University of Technology and also at the University of Sydney, Professor Thoms says the programs are for nurses holding either formal leadership positions in management or informal nurse leaders.

“Leaders are not always in management roles and not all managers are leaders,” she says.

“I think that for any nurse that really wants to identify how you can drive change within your workplace or within an organisation then looking at these sorts of programs can start to give you some of those skills.

“So you can look at how you can bring about positive changes within your workplace that ultimately improve patient care.”

Professor Thoms says the leadership programs also aim to bring nurse leaders together.

“With our membership as well, we are looking for ways that we can help nurse leaders connect with each other so that they can share the knowledge and learnings that they get in their own work environment but also have an opportunity to meet with other colleagues who face similar issues to what they face in their day to day world.”

With Australia’s health care system facing mounting challenges, including an ageing population and increasing rates of chronic disease, the provision of high quality, innovative and cost-effective care is vital.

Professor Thoms say shaping more nurse leaders in the profession is integral to the nation’s ability to meet those challenges.

“I think that we will have a much more effective and efficient health system and we’ll also have a health system that probably better utilises the full scope of practice that nurses have in delivering health care.”

Professor Thoms says while the leadership initiative is still in its early stages, she hopes it will continue to evolve to become a hallmark of the organisation.

“We are looking at a number of years yet because these things do take time but I’d like to see the programs that ACN offers become to be seen as some of the flagship programs for aspiring nurse leaders,” she says.

“That they really see that these are an absolute value-add for them both as individuals, professionally and for their career.”

The ACN National Nursing Forum, being held in Brisbane from October 14-16, will focus on advancing nurse leadership.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords