Broadly defined, a nurse manager oversees a team of nurses as they provide care for patients. The specific duties may vary by setting and employer, but generally include scheduling, training, mentoring, compliance, budgeting, working collaboratively to ensure the best plan of care for each patient, ensuring a safe and efficient environment for patients and staff and advocating for patients and staff. Nurse managers are also the conduit for their team's learning, and the means by which key messages about an organization's mission, vision and values are conveyed.
The scope of responsibility is enormous and that can make it difficult for nurse managers to even remember to have personal career goals, much less work towards them, but it is important for nurse managers to remain focused on their own career goals to maintain strong managerial and clinical skills in a fast-paced environment.
Given the rapidly-evolving nature of healthcare and the nurse manager's role in it, it can be a bit daunting to choose the most meaningful goals, so where to start…?
Goals for education need to happen on two levels for nurse managers. They are usually responsible for managing the credentialing and certifications for their team. Managing certificates for things like BLS, CPR and other clinical competencies can be made more manageable by using a Learning Management System, but what about the educational needs of nurse managers themselves?
Successful nurse managers need to continually expand their education to ensure that they are able to address the evolving challenges of their work and the healthcare industry. In addition, areas like business and finance that are outside the scope of typical nursing education programs need to be addressed to help nurse managers deal with the considerable number of business and financial issues with which they will be faced in their roles. In addition, education on creating and impacting healthcare policy is critical as they continue their career advancement.
The nature of nursing leadership requires critical thinking – every day. Virtually every aspect of the job requires discernment, judgement and problem solving. Nurse managers need to model it for their team and they need to develop it in themselves. Critical thinking is essential in managing difficult or emergent clinical issues as well as conflicts and human resources issues among staff. Critical thinking skills also provide the foundation for problem solving when the inevitable differences between staff and patients and staff and administration arise. Developing this skill and modeling it for staff is essential for clinical and professional development and makes significant contributions towards a well-run unit or department.
Leadership has many aspects, but it almost always means delegating and empowering your team. Empowerment can take a variety of forms. Leaders can empower the nurses who work for them by encouraging them to develop new skills, seek new educational opportunities and encourage them to take care of their physical and emotional needs to avoid burnout. Leaders also need to model these kinds of behaviors in their own practice.
Poor communication and weak critical thinking skills account for a significant percent of poor outcomes and incidents of patient harm. It can also lead to unhealthy levels of nurse turnover and poor nurse satisfaction and engagement. Nurse managers should have communication on their radar screens – to provide training for their teams and to be sure that they are also enhancing their own skills. While considered a "soft" skill, it is also a clinical skill and an essential one at all levels of management.
Managers in any setting, including healthcare, are hugely predictive of job satisfaction and engagement. Nurse managers need to be sure that they have a plan for mentoring their team. Sharing key clinical and institutional knowledge with new nurses as well as nurses who are new to the organization is an important function of nursing leadership. Ensure that your mentoring skills will help new nurses as well as nurses with management and leadership aspirations.
Organized managers can be born or made, but the skill is essential to nurse leaders who are managing a fast-paced, rapidly-changing environment in which critical, life or death decisions are being made. Strong organizational skills can make the difference between a well-run unit or department and one that tends a bit more towards chaos. If strong organizational skills are already in your wheelhouse, you may not need additional training on best organizational practices, but if they are not, consider setting goals to improve these important skills.
HealthStream works with healthcare leaders to address learning and performance management. You can use these tools to support your own career development and to help build leadership skills among employees who have leadership potential.
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