Six Tips for Success as a Nurse Manager

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Nurses transitioning to management roles can expect new responsibilities.

Taking on a leadership role as a nurse manager requires more than clinical skills, critical thinking, and strong communication. Nurses who have earned a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree and are stepping into management take on new responsibilities that include planning, budgeting, time management, quality improvement, and staff relations.

In a new leadership role, DNP-prepared nurses are expected to direct employee performance to align with an organization’s objectives and goals. The job can be challenging for nurse managers who are redefining their roles in healthcare and with their peers and coworkers.

“Strong nursing leadership is needed to create practice environments and work climates that are healthier and safer for both nurses and patients,” Janet Henriksen said in Nursing Management. “Nurse managers are recognized as leaders who have the ability to create practice environments that influence the quality of patient care, nurse job satisfaction levels, and the achievement of performance goals.”

In deciding to make the transition to management, registered nurses (RNs) who are considering a DNP degree should understand the nurse manager’s role in healthcare. The leading DNP programs, including the online DNP program at Duquesne University, provide learning opportunities for RNs to make smooth transitions to management.

Nursing and management experts say there are practical tips for becoming an effective DNP-educated nurse manager:

1. Keep communication open and honest

Poor communication has been linked to preventable medical errors, nurse turnover, and low morale. In turn, low morale leads to high levels of stress, low job satisfaction, and reduced quality of life, Kathleen A. Vertino said in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.

New managers should understand what is essential to the staff and provide feedback. Managers should also seek input from superiors and staff nurses for a greater understanding of organizational needs. Key components of communication include:

  • Using active listening skills
  • Practicing positive body language
  • Paraphrasing comments for clarity
  • Avoiding negative messages

“The manager can no longer give orders and respond in an authoritative manner and get results,” Charlotte Eliopoulos, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Nursing, said. ‘In addition to assuring work gets completed, the manager must nurture a satisfied workforce.”

2. Expand critical thinking skills

Nurse managers are expected to make decisions and solve problems as part of the job. Critical thinking — analysis, evaluation, inference, problem-solving, and deductive reasoning — play an important role in making decisions and solving problems.

Indeed, nurses utilize critical thinking skills in their daily practice. One study showed strong critical thinking skills could also impact a unit as a whole. A study in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship found nurse managers who have robust critical thinking skills help create positive work environments. As a result, staff nurses deliver better care.

3. Be a visionary

Don’t be afraid to take measured chances, Janet Henriksen said in a Nursing Management article. Nurse managers should be able to express their vision to guide change and outline a plan to achieve action.

Self-awareness, the ability to understand one’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and emotional intelligence, or being able to read and understand others’ emotions, is essential to becoming a successful visionary. Nurses who possess both skills are committed to an overall vision rather than self-interests, Henriksen said in an article titled “An alternative approach to nurse manager leadership.”

“They challenge the status quo, listen and encourage others, and engage in a shared vision,” she said of visionary nurse managers.

4. Serve as a mentor and seek a mentor

Mentors provide important guidance for both new nurses and managers. Serving as a mentor allows nurse managers to impart their personal experiences to new staff nurses. Working with a mentor provides nurse managers with guidance on the transition from nurse to nurse manager, Dr. Lisa M. Aldisert said in Becker’s Hospital Review.

5. Set the tone

In 2017, research from the independent patient satisfaction firm Press Ganey found nurse leaders influence work environments, safety, quality, and patient outcomes. In its nursing special report, the company found that effective leadership helps organizations make improvements in all areas.

Researchers also found effective nurse leaders provide transformational leadership, which encourages greater nurse autonomy and professional development opportunities. When nurse leaders use appropriate staffing and teamwork, patient outcomes are positively affected.

6. Embrace education

A DNP education prepares RNs for the rigors of working as a nurse manager. The leading programs help nurse leaders tackle all of the challenges that come with management, including understanding the role of business and finance and assisting in creating healthcare policy.

Even after graduation, nurse leaders are encouraged to seek continuing education opportunities for future growth. The most successful nurse managers continually explore their roles in healthcare and work to better themselves.

Additional Tips for Nurse Manager Success

RNs who have transitioned to leadership roles say some of the best advice is also the most practical:

  • Learn time management: The nurse manager’s position includes added responsibilities and demands. Time management is essential to getting the job done.
  • Recognize potential problems: Conflict is an inevitable part of life, but so is resolution. Determine the causes of conflict and address them quickly.
  • Take ownership for mistakes: Every new leader makes mistakes, but blaming others and denying wrongdoing only fosters alienation.
  • Learn from mistakes: Advancing to a leadership position means you have the skill to succeed. Ask the right questions and seek answers.

The skill to succeed comes as a result of earning a degree through the leading online DNP program at Duquesne University. Through the university’s DNP program, students have an opportunity to earn an advanced doctoral degree in one of three specialized areas of study: Transcultural Nursing, Forensic Nursing, or Nursing Education.

About Duquesne University’s Online DNP Program

Duquesne University’s online Online Doctor of Nursing Practice program prepares RNs for leadership roles in hospitals, medical centers, and other healthcare facilities. With a DNP degree, nurses can lead teams to make positive changes in healthcare. Duquesne University’s online DNP program provides one-on-one faculty mentorships and a 100 percent online curriculum. For more information, contact Duquesne University now.

Additional Reading:

Duquesne University Blog, “Why You Should Earn Your Doctor Of Nursing Practice (DNP) Online”
Duquesne University Blog, “Doctor Nurse Practitioners Influencing Health Care Policy


Nursing Management, “An alternative approach to nurse manager leadership”
Huron, “If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Advice For Nurse Leaders From A Former CNO”
The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, “Effective Interpersonal Communication: A Practical Guide to Improve Your Life”
Nursing Management, “Tips for the novice manager”
American Association for Long Term Care Nursing, “Coaching and Communication with a Diverse Workforce”
Journal of Nursing Scholarship, “Critical thinking of nurse managers related to staff RNs’ perceptions of the practice environment”
Becker’s Hospital Review, “3 Ways to help nurse managers transition into leadership”
Industry Edge, “2017 Nursing Special Report: The Pivotal Role of Nurse Managers”
American Organization of Nurse Executives, Key competencies