What It Takes to Become a Nurse Manager

You’ve been a nurse for a while now, and you love your job. There’s nothing that thrills you more than knowing you’re making a difference and helping those in need.
But you’re starting to think that you want to increase your impact even more. In the nursing field, you can’t really climb the corporate ladder by schmoozing your boss or putting in extra hours. But there are ways you can increase your responsibilities. If you’re a natural leader and you enjoy helping others succeed, you may have what it takes to become a nurse manager.
But what does the position entail exactly? What skills and education will it take to land a job? We compiled government information, real-time job data and expert insight to gather all the information you’ll need to decide if it’s the right career path for you.
What do nurse managers do?
Nurse managers are a vital component of any healthcare setting. They are responsible for supervising a nursing unit in a hospital or clinic. That includes direction of nursing staff, oversight of patient care and some management or budget decisions. In other words, instead of spending their day screening patients and checking vitals, they are establishing work schedules, coordinating meetings and making personnel decisions.
There are a handful of other important duties a good nurse manager needs to understand and undertake, according to Tina M. Baxter, APRN, GNP-BC. These include mastering the budgeting process and adjusting for acuity and giving effective direction and feedback to nursing staff. She adds that above all, it’s also imperative to practice ethically and treat everyone with dignity and respect.
While nurse managers typically have several years of clinical experience, they typically discontinue providing direct care themselves once they take on the leadership role. If you are prepared to put aside the patient care aspect of nursing in order to focus on supporting and empowering the entire department, then becoming a nurse manager might be the perfect move for you.
What are some qualities of a nurse leader?
You’ve already mastered the skills needed to be a great nurse. But those will only get you halfway to a management role. Just because you have impeccable bedside manner does not mean that you will be able to lead others to do the same.
Managers must be able to lead, inspire and motivate others to provide the best care possible. We used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 90,000 nurse manager job postings from the past year.1 The data helped us identify what skills employers are seeking in candidates.
Here’s what we found:

Case management
Patient care
Supervisory skills
Treatment planning
Home health
Staff management
Clinical experience
Discharge planning

While patient care and clinical experience still make it on the list, hiring managers are generally more concerned with overall case management. Expertise in areas like finance and informatics will also help you see the overall strategy and make the best decision for everyone involved, says Karlene Kerfoot, Vice President of Nursing at API Healthcare.
Other skills that define a successful nurse manager are critical thinking and emotional intelligence, according to Baxter. “A good manager can look at a situation and analyze the moving parts to develop the best strategy while remaining flexible and agile,” she explains. As for emotional intelligence, nurse managers are not only responsible for taking patients’ needs into account, but also those of their nursing staff.

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