There are plenty of managers in this world who aren’t seen as useful by their employees. What about nursing managers? They occupy a unique position where they must influence not only other nurses, but physicians, hospital administrators and patients as well. The job might be described as being the glue that holds all the pieces of patient care together.
As hospitals struggle to deal with accelerating changes in health law, insurance, technology and clinical practice, it seems likely that the importance of nurse managers will grow. It’s also clear that they will require a skill set far more advanced than that of a typical RN.
Full Nursing Spectrum
Nurse leaders exert a strong influence on every aspect of the hospital work environment, including safety, quality of care and patient outcomes, according to a Press Ganey Nursing Special Report. But the job requires a unique level of skill and subtlety. Nurse leaders who practiced an authoritarian style in the past, sometimes frightening other nurses on their units into working hard, would find themselves out of place in hospitals today. A successful nurse manager must now have a more subtle understanding of staff motivation, communication, cooperation and education.
It’s no longer enough to be good at traditional tasks like scheduling staff hours and giving job performance assessments. Nowadays, the nurse manager must act as his or her unit’s top voice to doctors and administrators. And as administrators push for changes that improve value-based care, the typical nurse manger can expect to be called upon to give real insights into patient care data. Determining if a dialysis center is seeing the right number of patients each day, for example, a typical data-based assessment a nurse manager might be expected to make.
Administration Versus Inspiration
Nurse leaders are often overwhelmed by constantly having to struggle to staff the next shift. But as important as staffing is, a nurse manager must focus on these tasks to be seen as a true leader:
- Working collaboratively with physician leaders convey expectations and desired outcomes to everyone on the clinical care team.
- Developing a two-way communication channel with RNs on staff, rather than simply pushing information to them without getting their feedback. Some nurse leaders approach this by having a regular “unit huddle” to help everyone on staff identify small problems before they turn into big ones.
- Cultivating autonomy: Leaders in many professions simple refer to this as knowing when to “get out of the way.” It’s an important way to encourage RNs on staff to think about what they’re doing in a more long-term perspective, rather than just handling the issues they face today. A sense of autonomy is a key ingredient in good morale among the nursing staff.
Nurse managers usually have relatively less direct contact with patients than floor nurses. But they still have a tremendous indirect influence on patient outcomes. By reviewing care plans, observing nurses at work and getting feedback from doctors, patients and their family members, they’re key members of the hospital staff that develops a full “360 degree” understanding of the quality of care devivery.
The requirements for employment as a nurse manager aren’t necessarily the same from one hospital to the next. Generally, however, the position requires a good deal of clinical nursing experience and advanced training. With more and more hospitals hiring only BSN degree holders for their nursing staffs, the nursing manager is often expected to have a master’s degree in nursing. Nursing administration is an appropriate course of study. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a nursing manager is now about $83,000. per year.