As with any profession, the nursing field has different levels of professionals with different types of responsibilities. From the nursing assistant who provides support to the registered nurses who do much of the hands-on care, everyone has a role that helps to make a hospital floor or doctor’s office run that much more smoothly.
One job that most people don’t realize exists in the nursing world is the nurse manager. As the name implies, the nurse manager is the one responsible for overseeing the rest of the nursing staff, often laying out standards of care with other health care professionals, including doctors, surgeons, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other ancillary staff. Unlike charge nurses, who are primarily responsible for on-the-scene supervision, nurse managers straddle the line between caregiving and business administration.
In many cases, the nurse manager is the one who:
- Acts as an advocate between health organizations and staff, or health organizations and patients
- Makes decisions related to patient care and staffing
- Resolves conflicts between staff members
- Works with human resources to oversee the entire staff, including hiring and layoffs
- Ensures that patients and nurses are properly rotated
- Spends time overseeing charts and paperwork, often using information technology
- Oversees budgeting or works with administrators to make changes at an organizational level
As you can see, the nurse manager is very much a leadership role. In addition to a nursing degree and years of experience, most nurse managers have either taken continuing education credits related to leadership, or they have combined their medical training with courses in business management or hospital administration to reach a Master’s degree level. Many nursing schools offer nurse management programs, while others allow you to “build” your own curriculum by combining advanced care courses within a hospital administration program.
One unique feature about a nurse manager is that he or she almost always has to have had clinical experience. The purpose of the role is to bridge the gap between administration and nursing staff, and in order to do this well, the nurse manager needs to have first-hand experience in professional caregiver role.
If you’re interested in learning more about this position, it’s best to talk with your employer or your school to determine what combination of work experience and education is required for you to get started.