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J Nurs Manag. 2003 Jul;11(4):229-33.

What blocks health visitors from taking on a leadership role?

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Current government documents in the United Kingdom call for all nurses to take on a greater leadership role. This paper critically considers some of the management factors that block one group of specialist nurses (health visitors) from fulfilling their leadership role. Health visitors have a key role to play in meeting the public health targets of local primary care trusts, known as local health improvement plans. But to take on a greater public health role, health visitors need to move away from working independently within separate general practitioner surgeries and to work in teams which share the vision and goals of the primary care trusts. The paper explores different styles of management that promote transformational leadership and relate to practice. It is suggested that use of the Servant-Leader model of management should encourage the empowerment of staff, and through empowerment health visitors should be able to instigate change and become more innovative in their practice. Persistent recruitment and retention problems have resulted in little time being available to focus on the effectiveness of services. The future management of health visitors will be to primarily run the service while supporting staff in accessing and influencing those in power.

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