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Qualities That Make a Great Nurse Manager

Successful nurses are proactive in pursuing their passion for helping people. Taking the next career step — going from RN to nurse manager — creates broad new opportunities to leverage that drive and passion.

Those opportunities are embedded in a new set of responsibilities and demands aimed at improving patient outcomes by enriching the quality of care delivered by the clinical team.

Proven, mature clinical experience is the foundation of the nurse manager role.

In addition to experience, a few other skills play a key role in nurse manager success. Leadership, communication and collaboration, organization and emotional intelligence rank as the top five qualities of a great nurse manager, says Adam Kless, vice president of clinical operations at Avant Healthcare Professionals.

“Great nurse managers aren’t easy to find, as they are multi-dimensional and require strong organizational and governance skills,” Kless wrote in “What to Look For When Hiring a Great Nurse Manager.”

That is a lot of new hats for one person to wear but putting them on brings significant rewards.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the May 2020 mean salary for managers in the health and medical fields is $118,800. The BLS also predicts demand for nurse administrators will increase by 129,000 positions in this decade — at a rate much higher than growth in other economic sectors — as medical group practices become larger and more complex.

Moreover, nurse managers also realize deep professional satisfaction.

Eloise Balasco Cathcart, a clinical associate professor and director of the graduate program in nursing administration at New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing, writes in Nursing Management:

“There are few other roles that provide the opportunity to have such a profound impact on patient care and the nurses who provide it.”

Nurse Managers’ Contributions to Positive Health Outcomes for Patients

Qualities an effective nurse manager must possess to meet the demands of the role — clinical experience; leadership; communication and collaboration; and emotional intelligence — result in a stronger team, which translates into improved delivery of nursing services on the floor.

A proven history of high-impact clinical experience is crucial to the primary mission: improving patient care. There is no substitute for the wisdom, insight and expertise gained by directly caring for patients to effectively take on the new duties. Those duties include monitoring courses of treatment and patient progress, suggesting enhancements to administrators or physicians, and adjusting schedules and personnel.

Expand your horizons beyond traditional nursing roles with an online MSN.

Moreover, a nursing team naturally will follow a leader who has lived through and empathizes with the personal and professional stress accompanying long hours of sometimes thankless work.

Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker who specializes in studying the qualities of great leaders, discussed the neurochemistry of leadership in his Inbound14 keynote presentation, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don’t.

Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin (and conversely, cortisol, which inhibits its release), Sinek says, are central to creating dynamics that result from and reinforce actions that strengthen teams. His conclusion: “The responsibility of leadership is not to come up with all the ideas but to create an environment in which great ideas can thrive.”

Strong ideas come from all directions. Few factors are more conducive to improving patient outcomes than an environment where team members feel safe to express their thoughts on improvements and modifications, confident that leadership will listen.

How Great Nurse Managers Enrich Young Nurses’ Careers

Nurse managers hold the important responsibility of nurturing and mentoring young nurses who are just starting their careers.

Writing in Nursing Management, Angela R. Coladonato and Mary Lou Manning, reported that their research, conducted at a nonprofit community hospital in southeastern Pennsylvania, measured “how a nurse manager’s self-perception — one of five [emotional intelligence] subscales — may predict nursing job satisfaction.

Their research found that “… nurse leaders who were good at knowing themselves well (self-perception) were more likely to have staff members who enjoyed their jobs and believed that their nurse manager’s ability, leadership, and support of nurses were strong.”

Learn more about UTA’s MSN in Nursing Administration online program.


Avant Healthcare Professionals: What to Look for When Hiring a Great Nurse Manager

Inbound14: Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don’t

Nursing Management: The Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: Nurse Leader Emotional Intelligence: How Does it Affect Clinical Nurse Job Satisfaction?

Nursing Management: The Journal of Excellence in Nursing Leadership: The New Nurse Manager Survival Guide Part 1

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Medical and Health Services Managers – Occupational Employment and Wages
Occupational Outlook Handbook: Medical and Health Service Managers

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