Nurse Management vs Nurse Leadership: What’s the Difference?

Nurse Management vs Nurse Leadership: What’s the Difference?

Whether you are early in your nursing career or have been at it for a while, you probably have specific career goals in mind. Maybe you know you want to lead in some capacity, but you’re unsure whether you want to be a nurse manager or a nurse leader—or both at different times in your career. Let’s first define these terms.

What is a Nurse Manager?

A nurse manager is someone who has decision-making powers and control over certain processes in an organization. While their role might not be direct patient care like the role of a bedside nurse, they are still responsible for the long-term planning of patient care by directing staff, teaming up with an overall healthcare team (including physicians and others), and coordinating a patient’s continuum of care.

What Does a Nurse Manager Do?

Common duties of a nurse manager:

  • Managing small or large teams of nurses
  • Overseeing or coordinating the training of staff
  • Supervising nurses’ patient care
  • Collaborating with other managers to offer a range of health care services
  • Using evidence-based health care practices

What is a Nurse Leader?

A nurse leader often has a clinical specialty of some kind. They focus on patient quality of care and safety but at a higher level, leading teams of managers and RNs. In addition to leading clinical teams, these leaders advocate for patients. Some nurses, however, demonstrate leadership at any level within an organization and at any stage of their career. They might not have supervisory or management duties, but they help direct groups in ways that make them function better.

What Does a Nurse Leader Do?

Common duties of a nurse leader:

  • Acting as the strategic lead for patient care initiatives
  • Directing a group of nurse managers
  • Influencing others through effective communication and interpersonal skills
  • Implementing evidence-based practices and rolling them out to other nurses and health care staff
  • Mentoring other nurses

Benefits of Developing Leadership Skills in Your Nursing Career

Nurse managers can manage more effectively if they possess a wider range of leadership skills – including the ability to motivate others. A manager who makes every decision without input may is likely to lose buy-in because they do not value the experiences of other nurses. This type of manager often cannot build an effective team.

Both leaders and managers need many different skills:

  • Critical thinking skills
  • The ability to envision a positive future and lead in difficult times
  • Continuous self-improvement and a higher level of excellence

One of the best ways to develop leadership skills is through nursing education. If you have an Associate Degree of Nursing, consider going for a BSN. If you already have a BSN, consider going for an MSN.

American Sentinel’s online MSN, Nursing Management and Organizational Leadership degree is designed for experienced nurse professionals who seek to develop both management and leadership skills. Through case studies and hands-on course work, nurses examine the various human resource challenges facing an organization as well as the dynamic nature of the strategic planning and management processes. Courses cover long-range planning, including budgeting, analysis and reporting.

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