November 2019

When nurses lead, patients are safer

All nurses, regardless of role or title, are leaders. Nurses lead every single day in all practice settings.

Nurses lead when they:

  • Advocate for patients. From advocating for a patient’s specific care goals to speaking up for vulnerable patients who may be in danger, nurses look out for their patients. 

  • Identify risks to patient safety. Nurses put patients first, even when it’s challenging to do so.

  • Advocate for quality practice settings. Nurses work as a team to create policy changes when necessary to support safe patient care.

  • Share their knowledge. Nurses collaborate with other care providers, including students and those who are new to the profession or practice setting.

Leadership is essential for patient safety. In fact, when reviewing cases where patients were exposed to risk, CNO has noticed a pattern: a patient could have received safer care if the nurse providing their care had demonstrated leadership.

Reflect on a time you acted like a leader in your practice setting. Maybe you spoke up for a vulnerable patient because you noticed another nurse had not maintained appropriate boundaries with the patient. Maybe you pulled a colleague aside for a chat because you were concerned about their ability to provide safe patient care. Or maybe you provided support to a new member of the health care team by sharing your knowledge. These are all examples of leadership in action.

To enhance your ability to provide safe, patient-centred care, reflect on your leadership abilities:

  • How does my practice align with the leadership expectations outlined in the standards?

  • What does nursing leadership mean to me?

  • How am I developing as a leader?

  • How can I maximize my leadership potential?

  • What are the opportunities for leadership in my practice setting?

  • What sources of feedback can I seek to inform my nursing practice?

To learn more about your accountabilities to lead, read the Code of Conduct and the Professional Standards, Revised 2002 practice standard.
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