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Leadership Competencies

NANN and NANN-AP together have defined a statement of qualities, abilities, and expertise that comprise universal competencies that every leader in NANN/AP should have and essential competencies, which are specific areas of expertise that are important to neonatal nursing and NANN, and which should be represented collectively across the members of the Board or Council.

Universal Competencies

Volunteers who serve on the NANN Board of Directors or NANN-AP Council should demonstrate the following characteristics and abilities:

Strategic Thinking and Vision encompasses the ability to formulate objectives and priorities, implement plans consistent with the long-term interests of the organization, and build with others a shared vision for the future.

Strong Ethical Behavior requires fairness and honesty in all dealings, and putting the interests of the organization ahead of personal interests.

Commitment to Diversity means promoting a culture that values differences in thought and perspective, and working effectively with people of diverse backgrounds.

Excellent Interpersonal Skills includes the ability to listen and communicate with courtesy and respect, and adjust one’s style appropriately for different situations.

Effective Communication Skills enable clear, concise and convincing expression that is appropriate for the intended audience.

Fostering Leadership in Others includes providing opportunities for others to be leaders and acting as a mentor to help develop leadership skills in others.

Collaboration skills encompass the ability to work well with others on a common task, contribute to and accept the consensus, and negotiate solutions to meet the objectives of the team.

Essential Competencies

Volunteers who serve on the NANN Board of Directors or NANN-AP Council should demonstrate particular strength in one or more of the following competency areas:


Strong administrative competence is important for the delivery of appropriate and cost effective care to the neonatal population and for moving the business of the professional organization ahead. Effective administrative leadership requires strategic planning, knowledge of healthcare environments, and business acumen.

The following are examples of different ways candidates could demonstrate experience in administration:

  • Identification of major goals and objectives for the workgroup and their congruence with those of the larger organization
  • Development of action plans to achieve goals and objectives, incorporating an understanding of priorities, assignment of leads, development of timelines, and identification of metrics for success
  • Fostering shared decision making with all stakeholders (administrators, advanced practice nurses, staff nurses, patients, and family members)
  • Financial decision making, including allocation of resources, staffing decisions, equipment purchases, etc.
  • Participation on multiprofessional teams to define and advance the role of the neonatal nurse
  • Participation on committees, councils and teams within and outside of neonatal nursing


Advocacy in neonatal care concerns the global health of preterm and term neonates, infants, and toddlers through the age of 2, as well as support for the patient, the family, and the community. For neonatal RNs and APRNs, this involves serving as key opinion leaders to local, state, or national policy-makers or other key stakeholders on matters related to the healthcare needs of our patient population and the nursing profession.

The following are examples of different ways candidates could demonstrate experience in advocacy:

  • Knowledge of local, state, and national policy trends, including health disparities impacting care of the population foci
  • Keen perspective on the implications and outcomes of health policy and its impact on access, care, and RN or APRN practice
  • Experience educating others, including policy makers at various levels of government, about nursing, health policy, and patient care outcomes
  • Active participation in professional organizations and advocacy activities related to nursing practice that influences health outcomes
  • Involvement in healthcare policy that shapes healthcare financing, regulation, and delivery

Clinical Care

The neonatal nurse and neonatal nurse practitioner provide expert direct care of complex and/or vulnerable populations with the goal of optimizing outcomes for patients and their families. This includes the promulgation of evidence-based guidelines, information, tools, and programs designed to define, model, and disseminate the highest standards of effective care.

The following are examples of different ways candidates could demonstrate experience in clinical practice:

  • Exhibits strong clinical reasoning capabilities which include clinical decision making, critical thinking, and a global perspective, based on sound nursing skills acquired through a process of integrated formal and informal experience and knowledge of evidence-based guidelines
  • Understands and contributes to the science of neonatal nursing by possessing a well-developed sense of inquiry, staying abreast of current literature, and by developing clinical questions that demonstrate understanding and application of evidence-based practice
  • Interacts with staff and provides coaching at the bedside to coordinate all facets of patient care with the multidisciplinary team
  • Facilitates the adoption of change to improve health outcomes through evidence-based practice
  • Demonstrates mastery of the principles of family-centered and age-appropriate care, including dignity and respect, information sharing, participation, and collaboration.
  • Exemplifies the use of safety behaviors for error prevention and holds colleagues accountable for their use


Quality, state-of-the-art educational content and delivery mechanisms are critical to building a competent, educated, and high-functioning nursing workforce. This requires diverse learning methodologies, modern technologies, and interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge and skills-based training, that is content-rich and in alignment with the neonatal nursing core curricula.

The following are examples of different ways candidates could demonstrate experience in education:

  • A background in educational design and/or the nursing accreditation system
  • Participation in the formal education or preceptorship of students and other healthcare professionals
  • Experience in the development and dissemination of educational content to diverse audiences using multiple delivery modalities
  • Connection to organizations and individuals with the skills required to assist with program management, content development, and the assessment, planning, delivery, and evaluation of continuing education

Quality Improvement

Neonatal nurses have a responsibility to participate in, direct, and advance quality patient care through systematic and continuous actions that lead to measurable improvement in health services and the health status of the neonatal population.

The following are examples of different ways candidates could demonstrate experience in quality improvement:

  • Responsibility for or involvement in quality improvement initiatives and programs at the unit, institutional, community, or national level
  • Research knowledge based upon best practice and available evidence to continuously improve quality of clinical practice
  • Assessment of the relationships among access, cost, quality, and safety and their influence on health care
  • Understanding of how organizational structure, care processes, financing, marketing, and policy decisions can impact the quality of health care
  • Knowledge of variations in practice and experience implementing interventions to ensure quality


Neonatal nurses’ contribution to the cultivation and advancement of basic and clinical research is imperative for the future of health care and nursing. This scientific inquiry typically uses an organized approach or design (qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods) in order to provide answers to the research question or to develop knowledge.

The following are examples of different ways candidates could demonstrate experience in research:

  • Thorough understanding of nursing research development, process, and translation into the practice setting to support neonatal outcomes from birth to 2 years of age
  • Critical analysis and integration of scientific evidence from nursing, social sciences and medicine to improve nursing practice and patient care outcomes
  • Leadership in scientific inquiry independently and/or in partnership with other researchers to provide evidence for bedside practitioners
  • Leadership in the planning and execution of multidisciplinary scientific inquiry
  • Dissemination of current and new evidence to the neonatal audience through publication, media or other methods consistent with NANN’s mission