What Nurses Want From Leaders and Hospital Administrators

Health care professionals sitting in rows and listening to a speaker
Category: Industry Insights

By Matt Rowley
Posted on

Nurses play an essential role in health care, and without them, hospitals and many other health care facilities simply wouldn’t be able to function.

Unfortunately, many nurses are facing burnout – and in some cases PTSD – due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, six in 10 nurses reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health.

Managing a health care organization during a pandemic is challenging to say the least, and the demands are high, but it’s important for administrators to keep the concerns of their nurses as a high priority.

What Do Nurses Want?

So, what do nurses want from their leaders? Incredible Health, a service that connects nurses with employers, published a study in March 2021 about the impact of COVID-19 on nurse turnover and stress. The study’s results included the following:

  • Only 37% of nurses received appropriate personal protective equipment in May 2020; that figure improved to 80% in 2021, but 23% of the nurse respondents contracted COVID-19.
  • 89% of nurses reported increases in stress, anxiety or depression, and 73% said their facility did not provide enough support to deal with the added stress of the pandemic.
  • 58% of nurses reported spending less time with their families during the pandemic, and 44% reported less leisure time.

Here are five common themes for what nurses want and expect from their administrators.

1. Authenticity

Nurses are like all employees in that they want authentic leadership. They want leaders who walk the walk, not just talk the talk. When leaders demonstrate integrity, mean what they say, follow through, and make decisions based on what is best for the hospital and patients, nurses are more likely to feel confidence in their leadership. Leading by example – and not using a “do as I say, not as I do” approach – will foster mutual respect, healthier relationships and higher morale among nurses.

2. Respect

Some leaders may seem out of touch with the realities of nurses’ work, implementing initiatives or policies that make their jobs harder without making a measurable difference to patient satisfaction or patient safety. The result can be an unhappy, overworked and frustrated nursing staff, which can lead to unhappy patients. Therefore, nurses want administrators to work with them to develop initiatives that affect their everyday work and focus on keeping nurses happy, as happy nurses make happy patients. In other words, nurses want administrators to respect their expertise and experience.

3. Protection

In many hospital environments, nurses are in danger every day. In addition to treating patients with infectious diseases like COVID-19, nurses also must face patients who are physically or verbally abusive. Outside of a hospital environment, these behaviors may be grounds for criminal charges, but in the hospital, they may be treated as “part of the job.” Nurses want their administrators to have empathy for the dangers they face every day and establish policies to protect them. Doing so demonstrates respect for nurses and reminds them that they are valued by their employer.

4. Improved Staffing Policies

Mandatory overtime. Floating to other units. Excessive non-nursing tasks. Toxic behavior among the staff. Interrupted breaks. The list of staffing issues that nurses may face is long, and many of the issues are within management’s power to correct. Good managers find ways to avoid many of these issues, while less skilled managers may be unable – or unwilling – to fix these problems.

5. Transformational Leadership

Finally, nurses are like other employees in wanting transformational leaders who have a clear vision for their department’s future. They want leaders who truly care about their staff and can bring the best out in others, while still respecting each individual’s unique qualities and skills. Leaders who support nurses’ career goals and serve as a support system and mentor in their careers can be more successful and have a happier, more engaged workforce.


Health care administration is faced with many challenges, but being able to recruit and retain a strong and functional team will help overcome many of those challenges and ensure the success of an organization. Listening to what nurses want from their administrators is a good place to start.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the various careers in health care administration – including medical and health services managers – typically require an academic degree. At Columbia Southern University, our health care administration degree programs offer a strong academic foundation for those who are entering the field or who already work in health care. We offer programs at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, including an MBA with a health care management concentration and a master’s in public health.

For more information about online degree programs at Columbia Southern University, visit our website.