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Should You Be a Nurse Manager?

Should You Be a Nurse Manager?

Mark, the Telemetry Director, walked down the hall towards Jeniffer and asked to talk with her. He has an opening for a manager on one of his units and wants her to apply. Inwardly, she feels very excited. And scared. Although she has never  told anyone, she sees herself as a nurse manager. Now she’s been given the go-ahead. What does she really know about being a nurse manager? Would it be a colossal mistake? Or a golden opportunity?

Maybe you, too, have thought about being a nurse manager. Here’s some things to think about before applying.


Should You be a nurse manager?

Should You Be a Nurse Manager?

Are you ready? The successful nurse manager is emotionally mature. Being mature includes  having insight into your own behavior. Most new managers struggle with their need to be liked.

Can you identify your need to be liked and set the need aside so as not to sway your judgement?

 Can you give up being friends with nurses that you mange? You can be friendly but you can’t be friends. An effective nurse manager cannot afford perceptions of favoritism. Your peer group is other nurse managers.

Laura, a new ICU manager, decided to hold a staff meeting in a popular sports bar. This is an example of a new nurse manager attempting to “be cool”. Needless to say, it backfired. It’s OK to be cool, but it’s necessary to be wise. Management is not a popularity contest.

Do you understand that some people dislike authority and will undermine you and that it is not personal?

Maturity includes resiliency, perspective, and sometimes a thick skin. You are putting yourself out there to lead and you will be criticized. Effective managers have to deliver unpleasant information to their employees in a positive manner.

Work Ethic

If you have been tapped to be a manager, you have already shown you have a good work ethic. That’s great, because now you will work many long hours with no overtime. Management is not a 40 hour a week job.

If you are used to working 12 hour shifts/3 days a week, the change to 5 days a week is  a big one. At first you may feel overwhelmed but in time, you and your family will adjust. Work and career advancement is important, but loved ones are more important. It’s a matter of values. Never lose sight of that.

Politically Savvy

 No nurse ever went into nursing to play politics and most nurses either abhor organizational politics or are blithely unaware of them. But pretending they don’t exist doesn’t make them go away and ignoring them doesn’t make you an effective leader.

“If I just do the right thing always, they’ll see that and agree with my point of view”- is naive and wishful thinking. Yes, you have to do the right thing- but you also have to be organizationally and politically savvy.

As a bedside clinician, you can avoid politics and keep your head down. Take care of your patients, work your shift, and then go home. As a nurse manager, you have to understand and work within the political and power structure to effect change.

Effective nurse leaders are badly needed. If thinking about taking on this important role excites you, then it may be your next step.

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth  career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question :) 

About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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