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How to Become a Great Nurse Manager

As a nurse manager, you play a key role in the delivery and quality of patient care. Your responsibilities may include recruiting, managing and supporting staff, supervising the clinical and administrative functions of a nursing unit, and developing nursing education for staff nurses. This wide range of important duties makes the nurse manager’s job both challenging and rewarding.

Being an effective nurse manager takes a sharp mind and solid practical skills. But becoming a great nurse manager also takes a high level of leadership and people skills. Here are some tips for nurses who aspire to nurse manager careers – and who want to be great at it!

How to Be a Great Nurse Manager

  1. Be decisive. Nurse managers make countless decisions in a given day, including some that others are afraid to make. Whether you’re trying to decide which of two job candidates to hire or how many IV pumps your unit needs, the buck stops with you, and your decision must be sound. If you’re in doubt, gather all the information you need, weigh all of your options and make your decision. Most importantly: live with it, right or wrong. If you make a bad decision, learn what to do differently next time and move on. Great nurse managers are decisive – but always acknowledge when they may have made a mistake.
  2. Be visible. Let your staff see you, and make it easy for them to interact with you. Staying behind a desk in a closed-door office sends the wrong message. Rather, make regular rounds so both nurses and patients see that you are interested in what is happening in your unit. Occasionally offer to assist your staff with starting IVs or passing medications. Ask questions and follow up. Listen to suggestions and observe how patients are cared for. Maintain an open-door policy so staffers know you are approachable and welcome their ideas.
  3. Be curious. Getting to know your staff not only lets them know you care about them as people, but it helps you learn their strengths, as well as areas they need help with. Developing staff to their highest potential can be one of the more gratifying aspects of your nurse manager career. You’ll create a loyal team of nurses, aides and techs when you ask questions, cue into each person’s talents and skills, and assign tasks accordingly. Give those who can handle it a higher level of responsibility, and help others work their way up the ladder.
  4. Be clear. Great nurse managers have a vision for their units, and share it with their team. They set clear guidelines so everyone knows exactly what’s needed for the unit to meet the stated objectives. Work with your team and allow them each to determine how they will reach their individual goals and contribute to team goals. This practice not only increases buy-in, but it makes achievement much more likely. When staff members meet their objectives, be quick to show appreciation and praise. And if they fail to meet your expectations, let them know, but be sure to offer your help so they can be more successful next time.
  5. Be positive. Effective leaders are optimists. They set good examples for others to follow, and display a cheerful, positive attitude at all times – even when it takes effort. Because you’re a role model, your team will look to you for cues on how they should behave. When you’re happy, the team can relax and will enjoy working with you. A positive work environment helps everyone perform better. So remember that maintaining a positive attitude is a sign of a great leader.

Becoming a Nurse Manager Is a Worthy and Attainable Goal

Nursing is not always easy, but the rewards of providing excellent patient care can make it a highly rewarding profession. Advancing your nursing career to become a nurse manager can lead you to even greater rewards, as you help improve patient care and develop the potential of talented and skilled nurses. If you’re new to nurse management or aspiring to become a nurse manager, remember these leadership tips and you can become a great nurse manager!

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