8 Qualities a Head Nurse Must Have

By Leaderonomics|21-10-2021 | 13 Min Read
Source: Photo by Graham Ruttan https://unsplash.com/photos/89Eox4MY5M8

Having one of the best nursing educators by your side is very crucial when it comes to thinking about applying or applying for a nursing position. It's great to have support to prepare you for a leadership role. Before applying for a head nurse position, two major things come to mind.

Having experience as a nurse is a big deal. The more experience you have, the better. You also need to have leadership skills. To obtain a leadership role as a nurse, he or she must have certain qualities before applying for such an important job.

Image Source 

A few of those qualities include having excellent communication skills, be the boss of the other nurses, the know-how to handle certain situations, be able to train new nurses that enter where you work, supporting other nurses, going above and beyond to get the job done, having time management skills, and having critical thinking skills.

1. Communication

In a general setting, communication has an important role in getting your message across and to avoid any potential misunderstandings. In a doctor’s office or hospital setting, communication has an even more crucial role.

Your communication with other nurses should be clear and concise. Don't let them leave you until they understand what you're saying. Miscommunication will affect the patients. A miscommunication will lead to wrong medicine or surgery. Be sure to communicate by looking them into the eyes and treating them nicely.

Image Source

It is also important to stress about how you communicate with the patients. Remember, communication is not just a matter of speaking with the patients. It also includes the other aspects of services that you can provide to the patients, such as how you treat them, how attentive you are in listening to their condition, how you give your full attention to the patients, and how dedicated you are in trying to help them throughout their treatment period. Your body language and eye contacts are also important when you communicate with the patients, as it will give them a boost in motivation and help them recover much faster.

Read more: Breaking Down Communication to Avoid Communication Breakdown

2. The Boss

It's important to show authority to the nurses underneath you. It will help pave your way to build respect for your subordinates, so they don’t undermine your position as a person in charge or question your authority. If you don't, they will not take you seriously. They need to see you as the person in charge, not just a friend or co-worker. Being the boss also comes with the responsibility of delegating.

Image Source

Once you get the position as a head nurse, you have to give tasks to other nurses. Don't try to do everything yourself. As a head nurse, it might be best for you to handle various tasks by yourself, as it will show how capable you are in handling the tasks for your current position. However, it’s also important for you to delegate tasks to other nurses for your own benefits. First, you will deal with fewer tasks and make your tasks even easier to handle. Second, it will show your leadership skills on how you manage your subordinates and how skilful you are in distributing the tasks suitable for them to work on. Therefore, you need to have some sort of leadership background before applying and accepting the position because you need to feel comfortable being the boss.

3. Handling Situations

If you're not comfortable handling certain situations, then you need to become comfortable and learn how to do it. Whether you're working in a doctor's office or hospital, most people know them to be a hectic place. You don't have time for co-workers airing out their problems in front of doctors, other nurses, and patients.

As a head nurse, you need to know when and where you should deal with your co-workers, such as when they are having problems with the patients, the tasks, or with each other. During the hectic time, it is not the time for you to chatter with the co-workers or subordinates about the problems they have during their work time, as you will need to focus and concentrate on the work you need to handle at hand. It is the health of the patients that matters during these frantic and busy hours.

This may interest you: How to Handle Fear as a New Leader in Challenging Times

You need to build a kind of rule, whether written or unwritten, letting the subordinates know about when and where they should speak about their complaints and problems with their job. Unless it is urgent, your subordinates and co-workers should not disturb the flow of your work with unimportant chatter. Also, even if it is urgent, let them speak about it in the office, when it will not disturb the patients’ comfort.

Image Source

The best way to handle a situation like that is to pull the people involved aside and speak to them quietly about their behaviour. You want to seem approachable so they can ask questions if they need to. Plus, you don't want to cause a scene by trying to handle other people's situations.

4. Training

One big step to handling a head nurse position is knowing how to train a new nurse that has been hired. This is where the experience comes in. You should have plenty of experience before you're able to do this. It helps to have years of experience working for the same doctor, so you're used to their policies and procedures.
As a nurse in a leadership role, you should be able to train a student intern as well. Remember you were once in their shoes so be sure to cover everything they need to know to succeed. The first part of the training process is having them shadow you. During this process, you will be doing everything so they can see how it's done and which patients to become familiar with.

The second part of the training process is to have them do some things while you're in the room with them. This usually happens by the second or third week after they feel comfortable.

For example, you can ask your subordinates to help you perform certain medical activities, such as taking the blood sample of the patient, assessing the patient’s condition, communicating with the patient that comes to the doctor’s office or hospital for the first time, and so on, under your supervision. This way, you can assess their skills in handling the patients and how well they do that. You need to supervise them while doing these simple tasks and fix their mistakes yourself whenever necessary, knowing that your subordinates are still in their training stage.

Image Source

The third step of the training process is to leave them alone with the patients. You have to trust your employees. When the doctor sees how good they're doing, it's a great reflection on how well you can train someone, and you may get asked to do more training in the future.

Similar to other businesses, Leaderonomics also provides world-class leadership training on many different levels, including individual, organizational, youth and educational training! Click ME to find out more.

5. Offering Your Support

It's important to encourage your nurses whenever they're doing a good job. It makes them go on throughout their day with a positive note. Being a nurse is a thankless job. They do all the hard work so knowing there is someone out there that has respect for them is all they need to hear.

Image Source

So, it is worth mentioning that respect and appreciation are in order for the nurses working under your supervision. As a head nurse, it’s becoming your duty to encourage them to work hard even more by appreciating the hard work they have done before. Also, respecting them as a worker and at a personal level is necessary to keep them on the right track.

Read more: Supporting Those Who Support You

Giving respect and appreciation to your nurses will give them even more motivation to do better than they already have done. It means better service for the patients, and thus, better health for the community. The more satisfied patients you have, the better it will be for the hospital’s reputation. It all comes down to giving respect and appreciation for the nurses who deserve to get it.

6. Going Above and Beyond

Going above and beyond in your position as the head nurse may lead to advancement opportunities shortly. Keeping every sanitised and keeping your nurses in line will help further that dream. Keeping your area organised will also help things move more efficiently and effortlessly.

This may interest you: Are You In Control?

Aside from that, taking your time to check the inventory and stock of medicines and other things related to the nursery tasks will also make you even more reliable as a head nurse. As a head nurse, it is important for you to take matters into your own considerations and do various tasks based on your intuition. Taking the instructions from the doctor is a part of your job as a head nurse, but you also have to take the initiative to do certain things that might help your nursery job in some ways.

7. Time Management

Having time management skills is a necessity for this position. When you start your day, there may be a checklist you have to follow. The first thing you have to do is check on the patients that you last saw during your last shift. Follow up with them and see how they're doing and if they need anything.

Image Source

Get files out and be prepared for new patients. You should also be cleaning your station and getting the computer systems up and ready for the day. To focus on time management, do the task that has priority over everything else, and then do the next thing on your list. Getting there a little earlier would show initiative as well and you can get things done quickly.

Read more: Plan Ahead, Be The Master Of Time

Preparing the tasks for tomorrow will also help you get a head start and avoid any problems you might experience in the future. It’s better to prepare the tasks for tomorrow today, so you will know what you expect to do. This can also save a lot of time in the morning preparation for each day. You should also learn about the 4 quadrants of time management, which you can use to prioritize the tasks that you need to do each day. This way, you can have more control in each hour that you spend in the doctor’s office or hospital.

8. Critical Thinking Skills

You need to be the kind of person that can think on your feet when faced with a difficult problem. You also need to be able to know which nurses work well together and which ones don't. If the doctor asks you a question about a patient, you need to have the answer right away.

The doctors have enough on their plate without having to worry about the nursing department. This is where the head nurse comes into play. A head nurse should handle things in the nursing department since you know more about being a nurse than anyone you work with. It takes a lot of hard work and responsibility, but you can get the job done and you will make things happen.

Ancillary reading:


These are the important qualities a head nurse must have. As a head nurse, you have a lot of responsibilities to manage the tasks around the doctor’s office or hospital. It’s important for you to know your role as a head nurse and become the best head nurse by using your authority in the most proportionate way.

It’s important to treat your subordinates as your assistants, by giving them the tasks they can handle, and by treating them with respect. Train them to do various important tasks around the hospital and teach them how to treat the patients well. Also, appreciate them whenever they do a great job in completing their tasks.

These are the essential qualities you need to have, and once you master these qualities, becoming the best head nurse is the only way to go. It can also open the doors for many other opportunities in front of you.

Trying to establish your leadership can be a challenging and daunting experience but what matters the most is you are trying your best in soldiering through. One of the crucial points that were underscored was 'Communication'. Look no further, let me introduce you to → Happily (or Budaya for those from Indonesia) is an amazing engagement app built for organisation to drive engagement amongst employees. It has amazing analytics and also provides activities for employees to be fully immersed in the organisation's culture and values. To find out more, click here or email info@leaderonomics.com

All organisations and businesses can leverage on Happily as a tool to ensure not only employees' well-being but also breaking the barrier of merely being colleagues with fun games and activities. Unlock the many features and festivity that the Happily app can offer you! Check out the media below to unleash the fun:

Leaderonomics Logo

Wow, you scrolled all the way to the bottom! You must really like us.

Since you’re here, we’d like to ask you to consider donating to the maintenance and upkeep of our site, which as it turns out is pretty expensive.

Many do not have access to the resources needed to bring out their full leadership potential. That is why our content will always be free, and we would be forever grateful to those who help make that possible.

Earn your one-way ticket to heaven.

© 2022 Leaderonomics Sdn. Bhd. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the writers or the people they quoted and not necessarily those of Leaderonomics.