a style of leadership that involves working with others as full partners in a context of mutual respect and collaboration. This leadership style has been associated with improved patient outcomes, a reduction in medical errors, and less staff turnover (Gardner, 2005; Joint Commission, 2008; Pearson et al., 2007). It may also reduce the amount of workplace bullying and disruptive behavior, which remains a problem in the health care field (Joint Commission, 2008; Olender-Russo, 2009; Rosenstein and O’Daniel, 2008). Yet while the benefits of collaboration among health professionals have repeatedly been documented with respect to improved patient outcomes, reduced lengths of hospital stay, cost savings, increased job satisfaction and retention among nurses, and improved teamwork, interprofessional collaboration frequently is not the norm in the health care field. Changing this culture will not be easy.
The new style of leadership that is needed flows in all directions at all levels. Everyone from the bedside to the boardroom must engage colleagues, subordinates, and executives so that together they can identify and achieve common goals (Bradford and Cohen, 1998). All members of the health care team must share in the collaborative management of their practice. Physicians, nurses, and other health professionals must work together to break down the walls of hierarchal silos and hold each other accountable for improving quality and decreasing preventable adverse events and medication errors. All must display the capacity to adapt to the continually evolving dynamics of the health care system.
Nurses at all levels need strong leadership skills to contribute to patient safety and quality of care. Yet their history as a profession dominated by females can make it easier for policy makers, other health professionals, and the public to view nurses as “functional doers”—those who carry out the instructions of others—rather than “thoughtful strategists”—those who are informed decision makers and whose independent actions are based on education, evidence, and experience. A 2009 Gallup poll of more than 1,500 national opinion leaders,1 “Nursing Leadership from Bedside to Boardroom: Opinion Leaders’ Perceptions,” identified nurses as “one of the most trusted sources of health information” (see Box 5-1) (RWJF, 2010a). The Gallup poll also identified nurses as the health professionals that should have greater influence than they currently do in the critical areas of quality of patient care and safety. The leaders surveyed believed that major obstacles prevent nurses from being more influential in health policy decision making. These findings have crucial implications for front-line nurses,