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The Non Technical Skill Of Leadership

Nursing Essay
The following essay will demonstrate the understanding of the non-technical skill of leadership. This
non-technical skill has associated elements, which are setting and maintaining standards, supporting
others and coping with pressure. The focus of this assignment will be leadership mainly in terms of
the element of setting and maintaining standards. The essay will also discuss issues relating to the
application of these skills in clinical practice and the impact they can have on patient safety and the
delivery of high quality patient care.
Nursing is an art and the core purpose of nursing is to care. To allow the delivery of safe, effective,
person centred care to patients across a wide selection of healthcare situations, it is vital for nurses
to develop evidence-based technical skills (Pearson & McLafferty 2011). Non-technical skills are the
interactive aspects which include social and cognitive skills that lead to the safe and effective
delivery of care. Non-technical skills include communication and teamwork, decision-making and
leadership (Flin et al. 2008). To improve work performance and reduce adverse events, non-
technical skills have been used in many different occupations, but in nursing they have been
recognised to play an important part in the increase of patient safety and successful clinical
outcomes. Non-technical skills training was introduced within the aviation industry as it was
recognised that failures in pilots' non-technical skills impacted on accidents. However, in areas of
acute healthcare settings, non-technical skills have been researched and developed to help achieve
safe and efficient practice in a variety of situations (Mitchell 2008). There is always emphasis on the
quality of clinical skills in nursing but nurses need to develop their non-technical skills to make them
more efficient at making the correct decisions and maintaining standards (Flin et al. 2008). A
combination of technical and non-technical skills can lead to safe and effective performance (Mitchell
200According to Nursing and Midwifery Council (2011) the quality of clinical skills in nursing has
become more important and there are increasing suggestions that non-technical skills need to be
improved. White (2012) suggests that nurses must improve their understanding of non-technical
skills as these are vital for patient safety. It is important for nursing staff to have the education and
backing to improve the safety of their patients and the key to this is powerful nurse leadership
(Williams and Reid 2009). At the very beginning, when nurses enter their career, they will start to
develop their leadership skills. They will be setting and maintaining standards and working together
with other members of the multidisciplinary and nursing team as this is essential for effective
healthcare (Burton and Ormrod 2011). Leadership is an important skill for nurses to develop
because it is critical to delivering a high standard of care, essential for positive staff development
and as written previously, vital to patient safety.
The key elements of leadership are being able to cope with pressure, setting and maintaining
standards and supporting others. Nurse leaders are often asked to make difficult decisions, deal with
challenging tasks and confront the constant pressures of their job. To overcome these pressures
they must prioritise their responsibilities, stay motivated and invent new ways to resolve these
demands (James and Wooten 2010). One of the main responsibilities for a nurse leader is the
setting and maintaining high standards of care. They are responsible for controlling and developing
the practice surroundings (Curtis et al. 2011). Williams and Reid (2009) explain that by setting aims
and maintaining standards, nurse leaders can help to reduce the number of patient adverse events.
The last element which will be briefly acknowledged is supporting others. Nurses are often too busy
caring for everyone else that they forget that one of the main responsibilities of leadership is to
support one another. To be able to help others in the team to develop and progress, it is important
for the nurse leader to offer regular team briefings and feedback sessions along with one to one
meetings and annual appraisals. This will improve the practice of not only the individual, but the
team too, which in return will encourage confidence and loyalty (McKenzie and Manley 2011).
Therefore for the remainder of this assignment, the focus will be on the non-technical skill of
leadership and the element of setting and maintaining standards.
Leadership has been defined in many ways in the literature and it has to be said that as all the
definitions are varied this helps to provide many different aspects that can influence leadership. A
straightforward definition is Leadership involves the use of interpersonal skills to influence others to
accomplish a specific goal (Sullivan and Garland 2010). Therefore several qualities are common to
most definitions of leadership. For example, leadership is a process which exists at all levels,
involving and stimulating others to achieve goals. A leader cannot be a leader unless they are
, intelligent, supportive and totally in control especially in a crisis.
Leadership is the skill of encouraging, guiding and setting the standards of the team(Flin et al. 2008)
and according to Curtis et al. (2011) more and more nurses are expected to take on leadership
tasks. Leadership is considered vital to nursing as nurses are expected to manage their co-workers
and act as an advocate for the patient to ensure that the patient receives safe, efficient and priority
care. In effect, good nurse leadership is vital to ensure that standards are set and maintained and
that the nurse leaders have a continuing influence on their staff's attitude, performance and
commitment to their work (Hughes 2008). On the other hand, someone with inadequate leadership
abilities may have a negative affect on their staff, making them feel disheartened and unmotivated
(McCray 2009). Leaders are needed that can set aims and maintain standards and have the
awareness and capability to implement change. This will then reduce the frequency of adverse
events. Nursing articles state that to ensure compliance with evidence-based treatment, nurse
leaders are vital and that opinions and actions can alter the traditions of the NHS (Williams and Reid
Effective leadership impacts on the success and smooth running of hospital wards (Casida and
Parker 2011). This is due to the fact that according to The Governance Institute (2009) nurse leaders
have the means and ability to shape, organise, prepare and be responsible for the services that
meet the needs of the patients in their ward. Nurses must take on the leadership role if they are to
progress with the standard of healthcare and succeed in targets for patient safety and quality
(Hughes 2008). However, Sherring (2012) suggests that a lack of leadership can contribute to
unsafe and poor quality care. The investigation into the severe failures at the Mid Staffordshire Trust,
which was carried out by the Health Care Commission (2009) highlights this. This was an important
study that was carried out to investigate the high mortality rates of this trust and the care provided to
these patients. After the investigation took place it was concluded that there were severe failings
which included poor quality and unsafe care on the wards, which fell well below the acceptable
standards of care. There were serious issues with maintaining standards and these included
nutrition, medication and infection control. The investigation also stated that there was a serious
failing in the management and leadership of the trust and that leaders did not develop an open
learning culture or inform themselves sufficiently about the quality of care (Health Care Commission
2009). Therefore it was reported that these failures could have been caused by the weak leadership
of nurses.