Tips to Prepare Nurses for Transition into Nursing Management Roles


Today's nurse managers are responsible for directing the U.S. healthcare system; yet new nurse managers are often expected to hit the ground running with no management training after making the move from clinical practice to management.

Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, associate dean of American Sentinel University's graduate nursing programs shares a checklist for nurses to assess where they stand now on the clinical side and what they need to do to land their dream job in nursing management.

"The desire to improve and reach a higher level of excellence is an intrinsic trait for leaders. The skills that make you a great nurse are a solid start but are just the beginning to forge a successful path into nursing management," says Dr. Foster. "Managers must be able to lead, inspire and motivate others to ensure patients receive the highest-quality care. Many of these skills can be learned and honed through obtaining an advanced nursing degree."

The end-result translates into a vision for a better healthcare system through initiatives for disease management, wellness promotion, community outreach, public health, and patient safety.

But Dr. Foster points out that the move from clinical practice to management is a huge change and requires a new skill set. Dr. Foster believes nurses can and should start laying the foundation for a career in management right now.

She offers a nursing management career checklist to help nurses assess where they currently stand in their careers and what they'll need to do to secure a position in nursing management.

Get The Education You Need . 

While some employers will promote nurses with a BSN into management, Dr. Foster says that a master's degree is quickly becoming the minimum education requirement for nurse managers.

"When you gain a broader view of healthcare, from a systems and policy perspective, you equip yourself to make strategic decisions at the managerial level," she says.

"Now, flexible online MSN programs allow nurses to work and advance their education at the same time."

Exhibit Leadership - Skills at Every Level of Your Career .

There is a marked difference between the role of manager and the role of leader. Managers focus on tasks and the business aspect of an organization while leaders focus on influencing and motivating others to help the entire team meet its goals.

By this definition, leadership can exist independently of manager status.

"You don't have to supervise or manage anyone to position yourself as a leader," says Dr. Foster. "Staff nurses can begin to build a strong foundation for leadership, by building credibility and modeling professional values in everything they do."

Improve Your Business Savvy .

Many nurse leaders have risen to their current positions based on their competence in a clinical role, without any formal leadership training.

"They are forced to learn to think critically about unfamiliar areas like budgeting for internal resources and federal reimbursement policies, staffing, strategic planning, quality assurance and risk assessment and risk management; and these are key areas where education comes into play," says Dr. Foster.

Online nursing programs, such as American Sentinel's online MSN program with a specialization in nursing management and organizational leadership is designed to examine the various human resource challenges facing an organization, as well as the dynamic nature of the strategic planning and management processes.

The program also includes practice experiences that provide the opportunity to apply the concepts and knowledge learned through coursework immediately into their day-to-day work.

Develop Top-Notch Communication and Interpersonal Skills .

As a manager, nurses need to clearly communicate their vision to their team, be accountable to executive managers, and resolve conflicts by employing empathy, active listening, and objectivity.

Dr. Foster says that these are skills you can learn through books or online workshops, and then practice on a daily basis.

Share Your Goals With a Mentor .

It makes sense for nurses to voice their ambitions to their current manager or a mentor who can help others begin to see them as management material.

" If your manager is supportive, she may help you identify which areas you need to strengthen to pursue your goals, "

says Dr. Foster. "And if you're currently working on a nursing degree, your employer may be eager to promote you once you have finished the program."

She says that if a nurse needs to change employers to find a management job, a mentor may be able to help with networking opportunities.

Dr. Foster says there is a variety of reasons why nurses decide to leave the bedside and move into management. These include an eagerness for new challenges, a desire for more recognition, a higher salary, and the opportunity to be in a position to improve patient care.

"The choice for a nurse to pursue a management position broadens the scope of who they will be able to help. An empowered nurse leader with valuable management skills will be in a position to facilitate positive change in today's healthcare system."

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