How nurse leaders create positive workplace culture

23rd August 2021
A team of smiling nurses stands together.
A team of smiling nurses stands together.
A team of smiling nurses stands together.

Nurses and midwives work at the coalface of human wellbeing. From life-or-death situations to the practical business of comfort and care, nurses overcome so many challenges with such high stakes that it’s no wonder some find their workplaces stressful.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. Great nurse leaders can transform even the most fractious working environments into rewarding, connected spaces. They have a momentous impact on the happiness and efficacy of nursing teams.

Creating a positive nurse team culture

A nurse leader has to come to grips with the culture in their department. If there is an environment of blame, bullying, and a high turnover, it's clear something has to improve. When a nurse leader supports and empowers a colleague on a personal level, this has a positive effect on their team, organisation and the wider community.

There are many ways nurse leaders can make their workplaces happier and safer. Enabling and empowering staff to work and make decisions, creating a supportive environment, and making sure everyone has objectives and a development plan are just a few of the things a leader can do to improve nursing culture.

A leader with expertise in nursing engagement has the confidence to act strategically and always protects their colleagues’ mental and physical health. By being conscientious about team dynamics, nurse leaders can support individuals and teams to work through any issues before relationships deteriorate. They also establish a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and ensure inclusivity is a cornerstone of the workplace.

Building relationships

Leaders prioritise employee wellbeing. They value professional development and always provide opportunities for staff to grow. Crucially, nurse leaders acknowledge staff for their contributions and develop an open culture where differing opinions are listened to and valued. Staff are supported in challenging situations and encouraged to review what they learned from the experience. These fundamental leadership traits build a positive and transformational workplace culture.

Nurse leadership is also about modelling the behaviour they want their teams to practise. That includes boundaries on personal time, looking after their own health and wellbeing, so staff feel encouraged to do likewise. This top-down leadership can be the biggest driver of changing workplace culture for the better, turning departments into places people enjoy working in and can positively thrive.

Reducing turnover

“Burn ‘em and churn ‘em” management strategies have no place in nursing. Happy nurses are effective nurses, and one of the most obvious measures of an organisation’s culture is its staff retention rate. By establishing positive nurse work environments, employees don’t want to leave. Good leaders build up the experience in their teams and ensure that patients have continuity of care.

Employers are drawn to nurses and midwives with strong leadership skills because a positive workplace culture slashes the costs of recruitment and onboarding associated with high staff turnover. Those funds can then be spent on further upskilling current staff and improving facilities and services for patients.

When staff see there are opportunities to work well in a positive environment, they will want to stay longer. Leaders also recognise that staff who have been developed and empowered to work to the highest standards will eventually find opportunities in other teams and departments. They hone and perfect their team, so its reputation attracts nurses and develops people into the future leaders. That's all about preparing people for their career trajectory and is a sign of an excellent leader.

Being resilient

Sometimes things don't go to plan, or there's a major crisis to deal with. Nurse leaders are resilient and have the strength to manage difficult situations, drawing on support and experience to lead. They also encourage others in developing resilience skills, so they can deal with unexpected and challenging situations. Crucially, nurse leaders with strong resilience skills have the ability to bounce back from low points in their career or difficult issues, taking strength from learning from the experience. The global pandemic is an example of nurse leaders stepping up and working differently, demonstrating resilient behaviour and supporting their teams. Nurses in leadership positions have taken on an unprecedented situation and used resilience to stay strong and give the best care they can give.

Developing leadership

New tech, funding battles, ageing populations–whichever way you look at it, healthcare is changing. The nursing department has changed dramatically since many senior nurses completed their training so there is a real imperative to learn continually. Nurses need to keep up with change and expect the unexpected throughout their careers. There will always be challenges with recruiting and keeping nurses, but an influential leader can create a first-class workplace that will attract the best nurses. Projections suggest that our society will need more nurses than ever before, and those in the profession will choose the best. It will be up to the nursing leaders of tomorrow to ensure they don’t just deliver but thrive. The health and wellbeing of the community depend on it.

Learn to foster a positive nursing culture with JCU Online Master of Nursing

A Master of Nursing from JCU Online can provide you with the impressive qualification and rich expertise you need to elevate your career and make a real difference to nurses’ and patients’ lives. It is the qualification to take you to the next stage of your career journey. To find out more about further study, get in touch with our Enrolment team on 1300 535 919.


Find out more about JCU’s online Master of Nursing.

Get in touch with our Enrolment team on 1300 535 919

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