Document Type



School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa


Background: Nurses’ involvement in health policy development ensures that health services are: safe, effective, available and inexpensive. Nursing history reveals several legendary nurse leaders who have influenced policy and the course of nursing and health care. In the recent times there have been concerns regarding the availability of effective leaders physically, symbolically and functionally at clinical, organizational and national levels, who can effectively influence health policy. Exerting influence in the policy arena requires that nurse leaders acquire attributes that enable them to be effective in policy development activity.

This paper reports part of a larger study whose purpose included: “build consensus on leadership attributes necessary for nurse leaders’ participation in health policy development in East Africa”.

Method: A Delphi survey was utilized and included the following criteria: expert panelists, three iterative rounds, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and building consensus. The study included purposively selected sample of national nurse leaders (expert panelists) from the three East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The study was conducted in three iterative rounds. Seventy eight (78) expert panelists were invited to participate in the study and 37 (47%) participated in the first round of these; 24 (64.8%) participated in the second round and all invited in the third round 24 (100%) participated. Data collection was done using questionnaires and collected qualitative and quantitative data. Data analysis was done utilizing the principles of qualitative analysis in the first round and descriptive statistics in the second and third rounds.

Results: The study achieved consensus on the essential leadership attributes for nurse leaders’ participation in health policy and include being able to: influence; communicate effectively; build relationships; feel empowered and demonstrate professional credibility.

Conclusions: For nursing to participate in influencing the health policy and the health of the population, it will need to develop nurses with leadership attributes who are able to inspire change and influence the policy development process within the context where it exists. The leadership attributes identified in this study can be utilized to develop programmes geared to support nurses’ participation in health policy activity.


BMC Nursing