What Makes Successful Interim Nurse Leaders

If you are a healthcare organization, you are most likely preparing for a massive reduction in the nursing workforce. A recent study forecasts that there will be a shortage of over 154,000 RNs by 2020 and over 510,000 RNs by 2030. The shortage is expected to concentrate in the South and West regions of the United States. While this is an improvement over earlier expectations, hospitals and healthcare organizations need to begin and continue efforts to put in place succession plans for nursing leaders and to get ready for unexpected, time-critical vacancies with the placement of interim nurse leaders. However, it is important to place the right interim with your team. Today, we will discuss the skills and characteristics that make up successful interim nurse leaders. 

Qualities of Successful Interim Nurse Leaders
A guide to selecting strong interim nurse leaders

Causes of Expected Reductions in the Nursing Talent Workforce

There is no one cause for this phenomenon, but an aging workforce, turnover rates, and burnout has a direct impact in the number of nurses and nurse managers that will be able to rise into leadership roles.  

Interim Nursing Leaders as a Solution

The healthcare ecosystem is constantly changing and hospitals and healthcare systems face more and more clinical, financial, and reputational hindrances. Interim nurse leadership is an ideal way to alleviate these challenges when they arise.

Interim nurse leaders work to fill the demand for veterans while more permanent solutions are found for critical vacancies. These interim leaders provide temporary management and skills to mitigate risk during transitions, crisis, mergers and other severe and unexpected situations.

Why Interim Nurse Leaders?

Identifying, vetting, and attracting solid, stable and effective talent for indispensable leadership positions is getting more complicated by the day. Searches can take long periods of time which can result in financial, clinical, and legal risks. When a hospital or healthcare organization is missing key nurse managers and leaders, it will stagnate in development. This is why it is important that the healthcare executive search firm you choose to work with includes interim talent services to complement the searches they are executing for you.

Filling a position with an interim nurse leader has many benefits. They can bring objectivity, knowledge, guidance, and most importantly, an unprejudiced view into your organization. However, working with interim talent is drastically different than working with someone promoted from within the organization and there will be a need to prepare for the different aspects of their time at your organization.

It begins with exploration and learning. In the best case scenario, your team members will be receptive and look forward to the assistance and change that the interim nurse manager or leader will impart. In other cases, team members may be unsure about a stranger who may be seen as a threat. However, if you are working with one of the top healthcare executive search firms, they will have vetted the interim leader for the skills to assure, analyze, coordinate with, and balance the team. Effective nurse interim leaders will have the skills to bring a team together and plan for success.

Once the interim leader has passed the discovery stage, he or she will need to decide which departmental challenges to take on immediately and which should be set aside for the leader that is eventually chosen to take the permanent leadership role or when an absentee leader returns. In the first case, your interim leader should make decisions as if he or she were the permanent leader. This will be more effective when collaborating with team members and other departmental leaders to achieve the goals and expectations set forth in the interim contract.

Most departmental projects and challenges will fall into the interim nurse leader’s purview.  For those that may need to wait for the permanent holder of the position, the interim leader will still take some actions, mostly information-gathering and planning. This will be invaluable to the new leader, reducing the time that the permanent leader needs to spend in his or her own discovery phase and smoothing the transition from interim back to permanent.

In both cases, it is important for the interim nurse leader to evaluate the current environment he or she is managing. This includes astute observation, surveys, and conversations with team members to determine how current factors will affect the expectations of his or her goals during their interim role. This is one of the most important abilities that a successful interim leader possesses.

It is important that the interim nursing leader understands that their role is to see the department through the placement or return of a permanent leader. That means that he or she should not put into place changes that the permanent leader will not be able to carry out once the interim contract has ended.

The benefits of an interim leader’s unprejudiced view cannot be stressed enough. They may be able to identify previously undetected weaknesses that had not been reported or discussed due to personal relationships amongst the permanent team. They bring an experienced outside viewpoint into ingrained processes that may not be the most efficient, effective, or safe.

Ultimately, the interim nurse leader who is placed to bridge a vacancy or absence should work to keep the peace, identify issues and opportunities, and to make the transition of a permanent leader or returning leader an easy one.

Summit Talent Group Supplements Search Engagements with Interim Placements

If you are currently in need of an interim leader or are looking for a healthcare executive search firm that offers interim services along with c-suite and executive searches, contact us. Summit Talent Group is a boutique healthcare search firm. We take on a limited number of engagements, and, in turn, it is our principals that lead search engagements, unlike other firms that delegate tasks to less experienced team members. Additionally, we believe in full transparency and give our clients a thorough timeline to understand when to expect certain milestones to be hit during the search engagement. 

Our team of search consultants looks forward to meeting you and telling you more about our executive search structure and history of success.