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Conceptualizations of clinical leadership: a review of the literature

Authors Mianda S, Voce AS

Received 10 June 2017

Accepted for publication 31 August 2017

Published 27 October 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 79—87

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JHL.S143639

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Russell Taichman


Solange Mianda, Anna S Voce

Department of Public Health Medicine, School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Introduction: Poor patient outcomes in South African maternal health settings have been associated with inadequately performing health care providers and poor clinical leadership at the point of care. While skill deficiencies among health care providers have been largely addressed, the provision of clinical leadership has been neglected. In order to develop and implement initiatives to ensure clinical leadership among frontline health care providers, a need was identified to understand the ways in which clinical leadership is conceptualized in the literature.
Design: Using the systematic quantitative literature review, papers published between 2004 and 2016 were obtained from search engines (Google Scholar and EBSCOhost). Electronic databases (CINHAL, PubMed, Medline, Academic Search Complete, Health Source: Consumer, Health Source: Nursing/Academic, ScienceDirect and Ovid®) and electronic journals (Contemporary Nurse, Journal of Research in Nursing, Australian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery, International Journal of Clinical Leadership) were also searched.
Results: Using preselected inclusion criteria, 7256 citations were identified. After screening 230 potentially relevant full-text papers for eligibility, 222 papers were excluded because they explored health care leadership or clinical leadership among health care providers other than frontline health care providers. Eight papers met the inclusion criteria for the review. Most studies were conducted in high-income settings. Conceptualizations of clinical leadership share similarities with the conceptualizations of service leadership but differ in focus, with the intent of improving direct patient care. Clinical leadership can be a shared responsibility, performed by every competent frontline health care provider, regardless of the position in the health care system.
Conclusion: Conceptualizations of clinical leadership among frontline health care providers arise mainly from high-income settings. Understanding the influence of context on conceptualizations of clinical leadership in middle- and low-income settings may be required.

Keywords: clinical leadership, conceptualizations, frontline health care providers

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