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Arkansas State University

The Characteristics of a Good Nurse Manager

One of the leadership roles that an RN with a BSN can step into is nurse manager. In a hospital or assisted living facility setting, a nurse manager is in charge of a unit of nurses and medical assistants, who care for patients 24/7. It’s a key role, with the functionality, flexibility and morale of the unit dependent on how the nurse manager leads.

First and foremost, a nurse manager should be able to work with people. The job entails hiring, conducting performance reviews, connecting higher levels of administration to the staff, and making sure communication is clear and complete. In other words, it takes “people skills.”

But each facet of working with people as a nurse manager requires an ability to assess needs and priorities, and communicate those effectively. While being friendly and welcoming counts as a skill that helps with morale, nurse managers also have to make sure people are where they need to be, doing what they need to do, in order to help the unit take care of its patients.

Bob Dent, president of the American Organization of Nurse Executives, notes that nurse managers are vital to creating a sense of teamwork within the unit. It’s not just about making sure nurses work well side by side; nurse managers can create the culture allowing them to operate as a team.

The nurse manager also needs to have a wealth of nursing knowledge. Even if the nursing unit doesn’t deal in a specialized area of care, experience with the types of patients the unit treats will be vitally important. If a nurse manager oversees a specialty unit, he or she will also want to keep up on the latest research by taking certification classes, reading peer-reviewed journals, and talking to other doctors and nurses in the specialty area.

Nurse managers may not be directly involved in patient care, but they’ll still be expected to be a resource for the other nurses in the unit, and may also be involved in educating patients and their families.

Also, the experience of being a nurse will help a nurse manager better know how to advocate for the nurses on the unit, for patient safety, and for the healthcare facility’s bottom line. All of those elements are important, but not easy to keep in balance.

Nurse managers also need to help their units be flexible. As Beth Greenwood noted for the Houston Chronicle, “Priorities can change quickly in a healthcare setting as patients develop problems. Most inpatient hospital units experience daily or even hourly changes in census as patients are admitted or discharged. Medical technology also changes regularly, or the lack of a particular item may necessitate a change in supplies or equipment. The nurse manager must be able to adjust staffing or care decisions in response to changing needs while also being decisive when necessary.”

Arkansas State University’s RN to BSN program is designed with the nurse manager in mind. In addition to courses that prepare a nurse for the rigors of a modern healthcare setting, the program has a course specifically focused on nursing management. The seven-week course prepares nurse managers to lead healthcare teams. If you feel that you have the skills and desire to take on a nurse manager role, A-State can help you prepare for this challenging and vital position.

Learn more about A-State’s online RN to BSN program.

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