Expanding Nurse Leadership in Colorado

Colorado is working to expand nursing leadership

Nurse leaders assume many roles, including floor supervisors, clinical nurse leaders, chief nursing officers and board members. The National Academy of Medicine recommends in The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health that nurses, nursing education programs and nursing associations should prepare nurses for leadership positions at all levels. “Accessible, high-quality care cannot be achieved without exceptional nursing care and leadership,” according to the IOM.

The report goes on to state that, “All nurses — from students, to bedside and community nurses, to chief nursing officers and members of nursing organizations, to researchers — must take responsibility for their personal and professional growth by developing leadership competencies.”

Nurse Leadership in Colorado

An important initiative that promotes nurse leadership is The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. Backed by the AARP, the AARP Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the initiative seeks to improve America’s health through nursing. The initiative has an Action Coalition in every state and Washington, D.C.

The Colorado Action Coalition includes a group of 30 nursing and healthcare-related leaders, and they are continually growing. The co-leaders of the coalition are the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence and the Colorado Hospital Association.

The Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence offers a variety of leadership courses for all levels of nurses and students. The center also works with more than 175 clinical and educational partners from Colorado’s healthcare workforce. Other center initiatives include the following:

  • The annual 40 Under 40 Conference supports young nursing leaders with leadership development.
  • Building Skills for Effective Teams is a one-year program of workshops and professional coaching that improves the functionality of teams and their leaders to better respond to new healthcare challenges.
  • The Powerful Presentations Workshop is a three-day seminar that teaches the skills to lead meetings and make presentations.

The center is also part of the Alliance for Clinical Education (ACE). ACE consists of representatives from Colorado healthcare organizations, educational institutions and regulatory agencies. The ACE group meets quarterly to address clinical education issues.

Other organizations supporting nurses in Colorado include the Colorado Nurses Association and Colorado Student Nurses Association.

Nursing schools are also doing their part. For example, Colorado Mesa University offers an online RN to BSN program that includes a course dedicated to nurse leadership. The program covers leadership and management theory to develop nurse leaders as change agents to shape the future of healthcare.

Nurses on Boards

According to AMN Healthcare, few hospital boards include nurses. However, nurses understand how hospitals work from the ground up, and they can offer clinical nursing knowledge to help boards make decisions that support nurses and patients.

For example, an article at Campaign for Action titled, The Importance of Nurse Leadership: Increasing Nurses in the Boardroom, cites a board that wanted to save money by buying a new type of IV needle for infants. A nurse explained to the board how much time it would take to learn to use a new type of IV needle on infants due to their small blood vessels. New needles would increase the risk of bad needle sticks, potentially leading to higher infection rates and costing the hospital more money. Without nurse leaders on boards, healthcare facilities run the risk of making budgeting mistakes that result in poor patient outcomes.

Another article describes how a nurse stopped a board from following through on a proposal to close rapid response teams. She explained the importance of these teams in getting necessary resources to patients who develop life-threatening complications.

Qualities of Nurse Leadership

According to an article at American Nurse Today, the key qualities nurses look for in their leaders include the following:

  • Accessibility.
  • Strategic focus.
  • Commitment to developing their staff.
  • Commitment to excellence.
  • Empathy.
  • Passion.
  • Respectfulness.
  • Trustworthiness.

The article goes on to say that nurses today look for leaders with a transformational leadership style. Transformational leadership “inspires others to develop and implement effective leadership characteristics,” according to Mary Atkinson Smith in Are you a transformational leader? “The ultimate goal of transformational leadership is for the leader and the follower to discover meaning and purpose in relation to their work, in addition to growth and maturity.”

Although this leadership style is significantly different from the “Do as I say” model that formerly dominated nursing practice in the United States, transformational leadership is now a major part of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet® model.

As the healthcare system in the United States continues to change, transformational nurse leadership can play an important role in creating a system that works. Nurses must take responsibility for developing the necessary leadership skills and making themselves available for leadership positions.

Learn more about Colorado Mesa University online RN to BSN program.


Colorado Makes the Connection for Nurse Leadership. (2013, October 9). Campaign for Action

The Importance of Nurse Leadership: Increasing Nurses in the Boardroom. (2014, May 1). Campaign For Action

Nurse Leaders Bring Knowledge of Clinical Care and Other Skills to Board Rooms. (2014, December 22). Campaign for Action

Colorado Action Coalition. (n.d.). Campaign for Action

The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. (2010). The National Academies of Sciences

Sherman, R. O. (2012). What Followers Want in Their Nurse Leaders. America Nurse Today

Smith, M. A. (2011, September). Are you a transformational leader? Nursing Management

Wood, D. (2013, June 14). Time for Nurses to Claim Greater Leadership Roles, Experts Say. AMN Healthcare

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