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How to Get New Nurse Managers Up to Speed

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media, August 16, 2010
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Editor’s note: This piece is adapted from Rebecca Hendren’s June 22 online column, “Six Steps to Ensure New Nurse Manager Success.”

How are vacant nurse manager positions filled at your hospital? Too often, nurses are promoted to managers because they are excellent clinicians, critical thinkers, and communicators.

In their new role, they suddenly have to deal with finance and budgeting, patient safety concerns, quality improvement projects, recalcitrant staff, and many other tough topics. And they are expected to achieve a blend of clinical and business management with little to no training.

“We tend to eat people alive,” says Mary Ann Holt, partner, operations improvement, at IMA Consulting. “It’s not unusual for a person to be promoted into a management role because of their effective leadership in a clinical arena. But not everyone with clinical expertise can transition to being an effective leader.”

Holt says that organizations must set expectations for new nurse managers so they understand their role and that it is vital to invest in training, coaching, and mentoring for new managers. “We can’t just take it on face value that because they are an experienced individual they don’t need explicit managerial education,” she says.

Holt’s advice is echoed by Shelley Cohen, president of Health Resources Unlimited and an educator who often leads new nurse manager boot camps. Cohen recommends organizations follow six principles to help their new managers adjust to their roles:

  1. Have realistic expectations. One of the biggest hurdles new nurse managers face are unrealistic expectations from the person they report to, usually a director of nursing. “They expect them to have no transition period,” says Cohen.

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