Succession planning: Developing the next generation of nurse leaders
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Leadership development through succession planning is a business strategy to prepare nurses to assume administrative positions vacated by "baby boomer" retirees. The literature indicates that many healthcare organizations provide little or no formal education for nurses who advance to higher positions. Nurse leaders need skills in managing hospital business operations and in managing diverse individuals of different ages, ethnicities, and social backgrounds. Succession planning is a proactive strategy that retains intellectual capital and ensures that internally qualified candidates are prepared for leadership positions. The purpose of the study was to explore the implementation of succession planning programs in healthcare organizations for aspiring nurse leaders to understand how the programs are established, structured, and sustained. A qualitative research approach using grounded theory methodology was used to guide in-depth interviews and analysis. A purposive sampling method was used to select six large healthcare organizations from the West, Midwest, and South with successful succession planning programs. Twenty-five individuals who were closely involved with the programs were interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Data were coded and themed using Corbin and Strauss's (2008) process. Four themes emerged, common to each of these programs that described elements of a successful succession planning program: 1) organizational commitment, having the vision and fiscal support; 2) individual commitment, engagement of key administrators, program directors, faculty, and engaged participants; 3) a formalized program, providing a guiding framework; and 4) and sustainability, organizational and individual outcomes which reinforced the investment in the program.