As a habitual charge nurse, I fell into management.
At my first job, where I was one of a bulk pack of 50 newly hired graduate nurses, staff nurses rotated through three critical care units on all three shifts.
For some reason, every time I came to work, I was assigned to be the charge nurse. I discovered I liked it. Everyone else hated it.
Becoming a nurse manager wasn’t a planned career move, but if I had formally planned my career, it’s probably the path I would have chosen. I liked managing and leading a team and was good at it.
I enjoyed the close interpersonal exchange. I found that I loved being around nurses and fostering an empowering environment. And I found I could facilitate good patient care and high-quality outcomes. What a great job, interacting with the professionals you love and getting paid for it.
If any of that resonates with you, consider making the move to management. If you’re still on the fence, maybe one of these reasons to switch will convince you.
4 reasons to become a nurse manager
- You can have far-reaching influence. Bedside nurses change the world, one patient at a time, and that is important. But managers can change the world, every day, by influencing dozens of nurses and the hundreds of patients who they touch indirectly through their staff.
- It’s where the money is. According to our Nurse.com Nursing Salary Research Report, nurse managers make an average of $92,025 per year compared to an average RN salary of $69,224. That 25% gain is hard compensation for a job that demands your engagement 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the ability to make tough, sometimes unpopular decisions with a sincere smile, on a daily basis. It’s a gateway to even more money, if you choose. Chief nursing officers make a base average salary of $127,754, and many rise to become a CEO or COO with a mean salary of $157,437. That’s serious money.
- You get to be in charge. If you are like some of us and feel a need to be in charge of everything, management is for you. Be forewarned though, this role is drastically changing as shared governance becomes more popular, forcing managers to put others in control of their own practice and the resources that support it. However, believe it or not, this change has actually augmented managers’ control and influence over their units.
- The skills you learn go with you. Managing is a portable skill set that you can take from job to job throughout your career. Once a manager, always a manager, even if you find yourself as a team of one with no reports. Once you have learned how to formally manage a team, you can transition those skills to project management or committee work.
There are many paths to management, including my own in which I simply acquiesced to it. If you want to control your entry, there are things you can do and things you must do.
Steer in the right direction
- Declare your intent and find a mentor. Tell the right managers, including your immediate boss, and solicit their support. Your immediate supervisor should become one of your biggest advocates. If he or she doesn’t support you, find out why. You’re either not looked upon as management material by that person or you’re working for the wrong boss, who might not want anyone to get ahead. Most managers would like nothing more than to mentor someone who works for them into management. I know I did, over and over.
My career-long obsession with succession planning drove me to look for potential managers on my team all the time. For me, helping others to become effective managers has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a manager.
- Prepare yourself. Start reading up on the skill set that marks the excellent nurse manager. Start thinking of yourself as a manager. Purchase attire for the job to which you aspire. Ask for advice from managers you admire. Get buy-in from your significant other, since most management jobs in nursing come with 24-hour responsibilities that invade your personal time. Prepare to go back to school if you don’t have a master’s degree in nursing and/or in business administration, depending on the organization to which you apply. If you want to get a handle on the content in which managers become certified, scope out an online certification review course or nurse manager competencies.
- Tailor your resume or CV to emphasize experiences that demonstrate management potential. For example, did you volunteer in a day camp that made you responsible for the health or activities of a large group of children through their counselors? Did you have a leadership role when participating on sports teams in high school or college? If you have been in charge of other people, anytime in your career, document the specifics.
- Rehearse for interviews so you demonstrate you have management potential. It is true that managers divide the world into people who are managers and those who will never be managers. Eventually you will have that interview in which you have to convince someone that you belong in the management group. You need to be able to demonstrate management potential through examples of any formal or informal structured activity that put you in charge of getting things done through others.
If you can talk about times when you were able to step up and call the shots when others were running for the hills, you’ll be demonstrating solid management skills. And be able to differentiate between management and leadership, which demand two very different skill sets.
If you are able to demonstrate both, you’ll have a stronger case for someone to take a chance on you as a first-time manager.