Careers & Credentials Updated March 28, 2017

How to Become a Nurse Manager

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Nurse ManagerThey’re not often known as the “head nurse” anymore, but a nurse manager is usually the captain of a department or captain during a shift. Nurse managers oversee the day-to-day activities of nurses and address nurses’ concerns as they arise.

And nurse managers are happy in their role. According to an American Organization of Nurse Executives survey, 90 percent of nurse managers reported being either somewhat or very satisfied in their job.

A position in nursing management can be a rewarding choice for nurses dedicated to the profession who want to mentor new nurses and help them excel. Nurses with leadership ability who thrive in positions with multiple duties and requirements will be ideal candidates for a nurse manager position.

Nurse manager at-a-glance

Minimum education required: Bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred
Median annual salary: $94,500
Number of jobs (2014): 333,000
Job outlook (2014-2024): +17%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Nurse manager job description

Overall, nurse managers train and educate staff members, recruit and hire staff members, coordinate patient care and manage department budgets.

In some cases, nurse managers collaborate with doctors regarding patient care or procedures. They might act as advocates and liaisons for physicians, the health care facility and the nursing staff. And they also might interact with patients and their advocates.

Most nurse managers work in hospitals, but there are also ample opportunities in doctor’s offices, skilled nursing facilities and ambulatory care centers.

When [nurse managers were] asked why they chose to stay in their current job, 44 percent said, “I find joy and meaning in my work.” – American Organization of Nurse Executives survey

Duties of a nurse manager

Training and educating staff members
Nurse managers research and stay up-to-date on the latest updates and information regarding nursing care practices. The nurse manager will also regularly assess the staff to determine what individual nurses need and will oversee and conduct the necessary training needed to ensure the staff performs at optimal levels.

From hiring, to promotions, to assigning nurses to specific duties and departments, staffing is one of the manager’s primary duties. That means overseeing a variety of departments — for example, the emergency room, the intensive care unit or the radiology department — and keeping all nurses on the same page.

Patient care
The plans for specific patients in each unit can also be developed by the manager, who makes sure the focus is always on the patients’ optimal medical care and ideal health. Nurse managers can participate in interactions with patients, as well as the families of patients. They will develop patient and service unit goals, identify plans for patients and coordinate new programs as needed. A nurse manager evaluates and monitors staff members for conduct toward the patients that is always safe, appropriate, ethical and legal.

Managing department budgets
A nurse manager is responsible for overseeing monthly budget amounts for the unit, a duty that not only entails personnel but often also includes evaluating equipment and supply needs and expenditures. The manager may test new products and/or oversee demonstrations. A nurse manager will report to budget meetings with other department managers to share information, exchange ideas and engage in problem-solving for the health care facility.

How to become a nurse manager

Although some nursing management positions require only a valid nursing license, many positions require a master’s degree along with experience in nursing or the health care field. The actual number of years of experience required can vary depending upon the health care facility.

After gaining experience working as a nurse, individuals who want to become nurse managers may enter a master’s program in nursing leadership and study to develop the skills necessary to manage a team of nurses and fulfill all of their executive responsibilities.

Nurse manager salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average median salary for medical and health service managers in 2015 was $94,500. The lowest percentile was $56,230 and the highest was more than $165,380.

A 2016 salary survey by the American Organization for Nurse Executives supports the BLS’ median salary, reporting a range of $90,000 to $149,999 as the median.

The states that pay the highest salaries are:

  • District of Columbia: $137,000
  • New York: $128,470
  • Connecticut: $126,850
  • California: $123,660
  • Alaska: $119,470

Job prospects across the country are good as the aging baby boomer generation’s need for medical services increases. As more nurses enter the job market, the need for experienced nurses to take over nurse manager positions will increase as well.

Nurse manager associations

Nurse manager publications

edited by Colin Seymour

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Back to: Careers & Credentials Updated March 28, 2017