Being a nurse leader is a highly pressurized yet thoroughly fulfilling career. You can do so much good in a role like this that all the hard work to get there and all the stress and difficult challenges you face daily will feel absolutely worth it. It’s no wonder many nurses choose to take this route to see their ultimate career – and life – goals come true.

However, there is more to being a nurse leader than just handing out tasks and instructions to other colleagues and overseeing their work. You need to be an inspiration and a motivator. You need to help your team do their best work so that your patients get the best care. This is not something that comes naturally to some, but with plenty of experience, knowledge, and the right qualifications, it’s not something that is entirely out of reach.

If you want to be a nurse leader or are one already, and you need to know more about motivating your nursing team to ensure they work at their best, read on. Here are some tips that will help you, which in turn helps your nurses and, of course, their patients.

Communicate Your Core Values

As a nurse leader, you will have worked in nursing for many years, and over that time, you will have gained a valuable perspective on healthcare and on life. This will lead you to have some important care values and principles that you adhere to daily. This will include how to behave, be professional, be organized, communicate (with patients, your team, and anyone else you need to speak to and with), and so on. Each element of what you need to do will have its own values attached, and you’ll automatically be able to tell whether something is right. If not, you’ll know how to fix it to align with your ethics.

This is all very good, and it’s something that all nurse leaders must understand and have in place. However, it won’t help as much as it could if your team isn’t aware of your core values. They need to know what you expect so they can work the way you want them to, which will help the patient the most. Not only that, but when you communicate your core values, the team will get a better understanding of what nursing is really about.

You can use these values to remind your team why they have chosen to be nurses and why they are working to help people. This will help to keep them motivated and ensure they always have something to work towards. They will be proud of what they are doing, knowing they are delivering on the goals you set out for them.

Have Team Meetings

If you are in charge of a nursing team, you’ll need to know how they are doing and what kind of work they are capable of. However, if you truly want to motivate that team, you’ll need them to know how they are doing as well. This is why regular – ideally weekly – team meetings are important.

During these meetings, you can talk about how the department is doing as a whole. You can discuss situations that arose and how they were handled. You can talk about future plans. You can, crucially, ask for feedback regarding the working environment and your leadership ideas.

Even if what you have to talk about might be negative in nature, the fact that you are talking about and coming up with ways (as a team, if possible) to make sure mistakes don’t happen again is important. Plus, when good things happen, taking the time to mention them and praising those involved is also worthwhile. Both of these elements will be motivating for different reasons.

During these meetings, you can also discuss how your nurses can progress. Let them know about the different career and personal development opportunities that exist, such as degrees that develop many of the essential nurse practitioner skills, for example, and help them do what is needed to apply and work towards new qualifications if that is something they are interested in. All of this will help keep them moving forward and stay motivated and interested in the work you need them to do.

Encourage Connections

Good teamwork is one of the most important elements of successful nursing. Even if a nurse is working one to one with a patient, they should still understand there is a whole team there to back them up and help them if required. Plus, of course, in a different situation where many nurses are needed – and doctors and other medical staff as well – your team has to know how to work together to help the patient most smoothly and efficiently and not get in each other’s way to prevent that good medical work from happening. Teamwork is a crucial element of the job, and as a nurse leader or manager, you need to ensure it is taking place.

This is why you should encourage your team to build connections and get to know one another better. The more they understand how each individual works, the easier it will be to forget about the individual and become a well-oiled machine when it is necessary.

Although you can’t force people to interact with one another, you can certainly help when a new nurse joins your team, for example. Make it a habit to introduce them to everyone and to even set up a meeting so that they aren’t getting to know people initially in the hospital department when it can be busy and hectic. In this way, you can help the new starter get ahead and connect with people before they have to rely on them in an emergency situation. This will motivate them much better than just throwing them in at the deep end and hoping for the best.

Create A Positive Work Environment

Nursing is a hard job. It takes a lot of mental, emotional, and physical stamina to work through a long shift of twelve or more hours, and there are a few things that will help ensure your team can do this and remain professional and alert at all times. One is the team they are working in, and as we’ve mentioned above, this is vital to the success of your department. Make sure everyone is able to work together and deal with any issues immediately, as soon as you spot them or they are brought to your attention.

Another potential issue, however, is the work environment itself. If this is unpleasant, a long shift will feel even harder than it normally would. Nurses won’t be motivated to do additional hours or stay for longer than they really have to. They’ll do whatever they have to do and then leave. This could be an issue in terms of staffing, but it’s also problematic in terms of staff morale; everyone needs a positive workplace to go to each day.

As a manager, it’s down to you to create a positive working environment. One way to do this is to show respect to your team and to listen to them if they have a problem. An ‘open door policy can work well here, as it shows you are willing to communicate and that you are interested in any issues – or positive points – that need to be made.

However, it’s not just about how people feel in a workplace; it’s the workplace that must be taken care of. If the department is messy and disorganized, it will be hard for your nursing team to do their job well. For example, they might not feel they are being taken seriously or that their patients’ health is not a priority. Plus, they’ll be so busy that once the workplace starts to deteriorate, it will be hard to put it back straight again. This is why it’s so important to implement rules about how to keep the hospital or clinic department clean, tidy, and safe for everyone, including your nurses. In this way, everyone will have a role to play, and the environment will be a much better one, leading to increased motivation from your team.

Clearly Define Roles

Someone who doesn’t work in nursing might assume that nurses all do the same job – general patient care – and that it doesn’t matter what their actual role is. As a nurse manager, you’ll know this is not accurate. Every nurse will have different strengths and weaknesses, and once you understand what you are, you can much more clearly define each individual’s role within the team, ensuring that every aspect of patient care is covered competently.

Nurses might feel stressed or even intimidated if they don’t know what is expected of them in their workplace. They’ll know what to do on a practical level, but what are the targets they are meant to reach (or exceed)? What are the rules? How can they progress? By detailing all of these things and checking in to make sure everyone is happy and able to do what has been asked of them, you can make a much more positive and motivating place to work and a job to fulfill.

When you take the time to specifically speak to each person and carefully and clearly define their roles within the greater team, they will be happier to do their job and surer of themselves in the process. This is hugely motivating.

Recognize Achievements

Nurses work incredibly hard every day. They must keep working hard even when they are tired, even when a patient has been unpleasant, and even when they don’t feel motivated.

As a manager, you need to understand this, and it’s highly likely you will; after all, you were once in their position, and you will have gone through the same things they are going through now. Perhaps you still are; many nurse leaders don’t stay away from the patients and carry on their work as they always did, treating and caring for people in their team, with the added task of managing it at the same time.

Knowing what your team is going through and how hard they are working is crucial because it means you can recognize achievements much more easily. Even if this only consists of praising someone verbally for a job well done, it’s a big part of keeping them motivated and ensuring they continue to work hard. No one wants their efforts to go unnoticed, and the more you notice what people are doing and let them know you’re pleased with the results, the harder they will work and the more motivated they will be.

As well as telling people they are doing a good job, you might also want to come up with a rewards system. This could include determining a ‘nurse of the month’ or taking someone out to lunch if they have done an outstanding job. It might be offering them an additional day off. You’ll need to work out what is best for you, your team, and your patients, but you must recognize your nurses’ achievements if you want them to stay motivated.

Offer Emotional Support

As we’ve said, nursing is challenging, and it can take a toll on a nurse in many ways, from physically being exhausting to causing mental health problems due to the emotional strain they might be under. No manager wants this to happen. Not only is it bad for the nurse, but it will also mean they might need to stop working, putting extra pressure on the department and patient care. Although this shouldn’t be your first thought – your nurses’ well-being is paramount – it can’t be ignored either, especially when you are in charge of the department.

This is why it’s a good idea to offer emotional support to those who need it. Being someone they can come and talk to about their problems and unburden themselves can just be what is needed, and in terms of motivation, it could be the perfect way to help. What you need to remember, however, is that by taking on your team’s burdens, you may also need some support, and therefore speaking to a hospital therapist could be something you need to consider. The last thing your team will want is for you to become unwell when you’re just trying to help them.