So, you’re barely out of nursing school and you’re interested getting a nurse management role.
While you may wish to dive right into nursing management or administration after receiving your asn, bsn or even an msn, it’s rarely a good idea.
These positions are highly competitive, and they’re hardly ever served up on a silver platter, so you have to work hard and work smart.
You don’t want to put yourself in a position where you become associated with a dysfunctional nursing unit that you are responsible for, but can’t seem to get a handle on because you’re inexperienced.
Or even worse, you don’t want to wind up getting fired.
So here are five guidelines you should follow before you apply to a nurse management role.
- Proficiency Has To Be Earned, So Earn It
As implied in our opening thoughts above, Do NOT accept a role in management when you have little to no experience. In most cases, any facility worth their weight in gold will pass over an inexperienced person for someone who has worked in the trenches for some time, and with good reason---they want their hospital to run smoothly.
Instead, focus on getting clinical experience. Nursing theorist, academic and author Patricia Benner says new nurses needs to move from beginner level to at least proficiency before deciding whether to consider management. Even if you consider yourself advanced, Benner says advanced beginners are skillful in parts of nurse practice, but they still need supportive cues and their time management skills typically aren’t up to par.
In her book, From Novice To Expert: Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice, Benner says true Competency only occurs after two to three years in the same position.
That’s the only way to master the protocols and procedures you practiced in labs. That’s the only way to reinforce the laws, regulations you learned in nursing school. Being a floor nurse will burn these rules and real experiences in your brain-- something you’re going to want to recall when you shoulder the responsibilities associated with management.
- You Need Time to Pay Attention & Learn the System
You need to pay attention to the need of your patients, your fellow nurses and your physicians. You need to understand how those needs overlap. You need to see some best case scenarios and worse case scenarios play out enough times to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
This will teach you how to prioritize cases and delegate duties in the future. This will give you perspective with issues like budget restraints, because you’ll understand how it affects nurses.
- You Need to Tell Managers About Your Desires and Find Mentors
After getting a year or two under your belt as a staff nurse, speak to your managers and let them know your long term goal is to end up in management also. Ask to be considered for certain cases or opportunities that will begin to groom you for such a position, and if you trust your manager, consider asking her (or him) to become your mentor. Take every opportunity to volunteer for “extra”, off-duty activities, functions or committees happening at your facility. You will likely come across higher ups who you may want to befriend, inform of your plans, or simply learn from.
- Gradually take on more responsibility to Prove Yourself
Keep your eyes peeled for positions in unit leadership, like a shift coordinator or an assistant director of nursing. Having documented success in these lower level roles will build evidence that you can take on new responsibilities and do them well. Hiring managers will feel more confident about taking a chance on you, because if you did a great job in your last promotion, you’re capable of doing the same thing in a bigger promotion.
- Education Helps, But You’ll Need These Skills Too
Should you get your MSN degree? Education is always a wonderful thing, and it certainly lends a bit of credibility. An MSN can help to get you noticed for leadership, and as a matter of fact, it’s required in some cases, but there are plenty of instances where it’s not mandatory.
Nursing curriculums help nurses develop decision making skills and critical thinking skills, but they don’t teach business and financial skills.
If you’ve got a handle on organization, communication, managing people, flexibility and clinical expertise-- you’ll be hard to pass up.
In sum, experience talks. Most nurse administrators spend 10 plus years in staff nursing before moving into management.
Once you are truly ready to transition, you will be going up against nurses who have tons of great experience and accolades.
If you’re still considering applying for a nurse management role when you’re graduation cap has barely cooled off, think about this.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally, if a hospital is willing to hand over an administration job to a nurse with just two years of experience, it may be a sign that the hospital is either desperate or irresponsible. That’s not the kind of place that foster’s a healthy career.
Would you choose an inexperienced financial advisor over one with a proven track record to improve financial portfolios’ growth by 60 percent?
I’m guessing that’s a big, fat no.
If a nurse doesn’t understand the inner workings of a facility and the impact of any change on patient care, they’re not ready.
The proficient nurse can evaluate situations in a holistic manner and make strong judgment calls on the best course of action, as opposed to focusing on individual individual tasks.
A nurse who is ready for management can assess what’s happening in a healthcare system beyond his or her daily workload.
Again, this takes years.
The bottom line--- you want take your time and wisely climb up the ladder.
You will not only get more experience, you will gain confidence and built relationships that will come in handy when you finally enter the world of nurse management.
You will set yourself up to become a top-notch leader, making your peers and yourself, proud of your work.
Enjoy the journey.