It is possible to state with certainty that the concept of leadership plays an immensely important role in nearly every sphere of societal life. It is apparent that some people tend to have more impact on how other members of society behave or perceive themselves. Therefore, the role of a leader is highly important because such individuals can have a crucial influence on various processes such as work, issues within the community, politics, et cetera (Hamric, Hanson, Tracy, & O’Grady, 2014). A more particular and narrowed-down concept is an opinion leader, which generally refers to the person that does not directly command people to do something, but instead, he or she impacts what people think.
It is evident that both of the mentioned concepts could be applied to the discussion of the issues related to the sphere of nursing (Hamric et al., 2014). The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of an opinion leader with references to scholarly literature as well as personal working experience. As a result, a comprehensive conclusion about the characteristics of an opinion leader will be made.
General Overview of an Opinion Leader’s Characteristics
First of all, it is essential to overview the characteristics which are traditionally attributed to an opinion leader. Additionally, it is also of high importance to understand the role of leadership in the context of nursing. Rokstad, Vatne, Engedal, and Selbæk (2015) generally define leadership as “a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal,” also stating that it is a very significant process in hospital environments (p. 16).
Further, they describe opinion leaders as people who “are individuals within the organisation who have formal or informal influence on the attitudes and beliefs of their colleagues” (Rokstad et al., 2015, p. 16). Anderson and Titler (2014) describe opinion leadership as a multifaceted and complex set of role functions which is to be carried out by opinion leaders. They are described as individuals who are a respective source of influence within a peer group.
In general, it is possible to suggest that the use of opinion leadership enhances clinical performance in numerous ways. Such aspects as being technically competent, objective, encouraging, as well as “trusted to judge the fit between the evidence base of the practice and the local situation” should be considered as primary characteristics of an opinion leader in hospital settings (Anderson & Titler, 2014, p. 137). It is possible to add that opinion leader could be also characterized as role models so that they have an influence on other coworkers’ opinions and attitudes.
Opinion Leadership in the Context of Personal Experience
As the general notion of opinion leadership was observed in the previous section, it is possible to focus on the discussion of it in the context of personal working experience. I was working as an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse for six years. Eventually, I become the Unit Practice Council (UPC) chair, and my primary responsibility was to represent the interests of my colleagues during monthly meetings with the Practice Nursing Council.
Another area of concern for which I was responsible was to collect patient care information with the purpose of improving the standards of care, patient safety, and employee satisfaction. Therefore, it is apparent that I had to apply the functions of an opinion leader in order to efficiently control the processes for which I was responsible. I can state with certainty that my working experience is highly valuable for me as a nursing professional.
In What Ways Do I Perceive Myself as an Opinion Leader?
Finally, it is essential to state in what ways do I see myself being an opinion leader. Based on the discussion of primary characteristics of opinion leadership as well as my working experience, I assume that I fit into the definition of an opinion leader. First of all, the fact that I become the UPC chair is the evidence for the credit that I had been given by my hospital community to speak for their interests. Secondly, my work as the UPC chair in the field of improving standards of care had brought numerous changes in evidence practice in my hospital environments. Accordingly, I should state that, in general, I used my position to influence my colleagues’ opinions in order to develop a more efficient approach to providing care.
In conclusion, the immense importance of opinion leadership for the contemporary health care system should be restated. This paper provided an overview of the mentioned concept by referencing scholarly literature on the topic. While there is no universal definition of the opinion leader, the majority of authors refer to such characteristics as being respected by coworkers, being able to form and influence opinion as well as to promote ideas that facilitate the effectiveness of a particular hospital setting.
In order to prove these assumptions, examples from personal working experience were provided. In overall, I should state that I consider myself as being an opinion leader that can positively impact evidence practice changes along with influencing colleagues’ opinions.
Anderson, C. A., & Titler, M. G. (2014). Development and verification of an agent-based model of opinion leadership. Implementation Science, 9(1), 136-149.
Hamric, A. B., Hanson, C. M., Tracy, M. F., & O’Grady, E. T. (2014). Advanced practice nursing: An integrative approach (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
Rokstad, A. M. M., Vatne, S., Engedal, K., & Selbæk, G. (2015). The role of leadership in the implementation of person-centered care using Dementia Care Mapping: A study in three nursing homes. Journal of Nursing Management, 23(1), 15-26.