December 1, 2023

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Leadership is key to an efficient and compassionate health system, say experts

2 min read

“Higher degrees such as a master in nursing with a specialisation in leadership and management [can] equip nurses with the relevant knowledge and skills to lead and manage in the dynamic and challenging environment that is contemporary health care.”

Postgraduate courses that include subjects in clinical governance, informatics for health professionals and business essentials “are highly desirable to further develop nurses’ advanced management practice, critical thinking, problem-solving and professionalism”.

Nurses ‘very good at the business of nursing’

The federal government’s JobOutlook website says the skill sets necessary to be a nurse manager or health and welfare services manger are “very high”, with very strong job growth prospects for both occupations.

Nurse unit manager Megan Breen completed a master’s of nursing, majoring in leadership and management, last year as part of a career spanning nearly 30 years.

“Historically nursing leadership and management tended to be more a matter of seniority rather than any leadership potential or skill,” said Ms Breen. “Nurses tend to be very good at the business of nursing but not necessarily the business of healthcare.

“I believe that a nurse with high clinical skill level combined with postgraduate leadership and management training is the panacea for the modern challenges in healthcare.”

Pandemic has made burnout worse

Even before the pandemic hit in early 2020, many healthcare professionals were already experiencing significant burnout. The past two years have heaped fuel on the fire.

“I’ve had two different roles in that timeframe and have observed firsthand the catastrophic results of untrained and unskilled healthcare management and leadership,” Ms Breen said.

“It has certainly reinforced to me the impact leadership has in an organisation and the importance of highly skilled leaders and managers.”

Ms Breen says postgraduate study has vastly improved her communication and leadership skills but also added considerable levels of comprehension and understanding of the business of healthcare.

“Healthcare leaders can make or break an organisation. It’s all about building [solidarity], which improves retention, and leading teams through crises whilst managing and navigating what is essentially a business.”

Ms Breen says that a failure to build up a future healthcare workforce that will produce leaders and managers “will come at a significant cost to the system, and more than just fiscally”.

“I genuinely believe my study has given me additional skills that are highly desirable in healthcare. I’m now using all the theory to hone my leadership and management skills.”


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