There are a variety of reasons why nurses decide to leave the bedside and move into management. Some are eager for new challenges, along with a desire for more recognition and a higher salary. Others see the big picture when it comes to patient care, and would like to be in a position to facilitate positive change in a highly fragmented healthcare system.
This desire to improve and reach for a higher level of excellence is an intrinsic trait for leaders. When you’re not content with the status quo for yourself, it’s likely you’ll also work hard to raise the status quo for colleagues and for patients. This can translate into a vision for a better healthcare system, through initiatives for disease management, wellness promotion, community outreach, public health, and patient safety.
But the move from clinical practice to management represents a huge change and requires a new skill set. So how do you get there? Believe it or not, even if you’re brand new to nursing, you can start laying the foundation for a career in management right now. Take a look at our checklist, below, to assess where you stand now and what you’ll have to do to land your dream job.
- Get the education you need. While some employers will promote nurses with only a BSN into management, a master’s degree is quickly becoming the minimum education requirement for nurse managers. When you acquire a broader view of healthcare, from a systems and policy perspective, you equip yourself to make strategic decisions at the managerial level. American Sentinel offers flexible online MSN programs that allow you to work and advance your 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 results 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. Even staff nurses can begin to build a strong foundation for leadership, by building credibility and modeling professional values in everything you 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, and quality assurance. This is a key area where education comes into play: American Sentinel’s online MSN program with a specialization in 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.
- Develop top-notch communication and interpersonal skills. As a manager, you’ll need to clearly communicate your vision to staff nurses, be accountable to executive managers, and resolve conflicts by employing empathy, active listening, and objectivity. These are skills you can learn through books or online workshops, and then practice on a daily basis. To get started, take a look at our blog series titled Leadership Skills for Nurse Managers.
- Share your goals with a mentor. It only makes sense to voice your ambitions to your current manager or a mentor who can help others begin to see you as management material. If your manager is supportive, she may help you identify which areas you need to strengthen in order to pursue your goals. And if you’re currently working on a nursing degree, your employer may be eager to promote you once you have finished the program. If you’ll need to change employers to find a management job, a mentor may be able to help you with networking opportunities.