4 Things Every Nurse Should Know About Being a Supervisor

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Being a nurse supervisor or manager is an exciting job that requires multifaceted management and organizational skills. Nurse supervisors are in charge of overseeing all of a department’s nursing employees, which may include advanced practice nurses, registered and licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

These professionals often have a variety of other duties, including nurse recruitment, professional training, employee retention, evaluations and other operational concerns. And, though we can’t cover every aspect of successful nurse management, any nurse considering a career as a supervisor can greatly benefit from four key elements of leadership:


Most nurses are already adept at accurately gathering, processing and passing along large amounts of information to patients, other nurses and doctors on a daily basis. For nurse supervisors, honing strong communication abilities is even more important because nurse supervisors often work with a larger pool of people.

Nurse supervisors provide a line of communication between staff members and the upper management team in a hospital or health care facility. They also directly interact with patients, family members of patients, pharmacists, social workers, lab technicians, administrative staff, nutritionists, educators and a variety of other people who may come into contact with patients and staff members. Nurse supervisors must be well-versed at communicating complex information to people with a wide variety of experience and expertise.


In addition to relaying feedback and information to staff members, nurse supervisors are most effective when they invest in the success of their staff members. A nurse supervisor develops insights and an overarching view of how well his or her nursing staff is performing, facilitating an easier review of what processes and practices are or aren’t working, and developing ways to improve them.

Nurse supervisors often create, implement or arrange for professional and personal development opportunities for their staff members. Supervisors may also implement team-building exercises, lateral violence training, conflict resolution processes and other approaches that set the tone for a positive workplace.


Nurse supervisors should also be sources of encouragement and motivation for nursing staffs. With fatigue, burnout and many of the other problems nurses frequently encounter, nurse supervisors can provide a sympathetic ear to any members of the staff who need assistance.


According to the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, advocacy is another important area in which nurse supervisors should contribute. The journal notes that nurse managers can help advocate for their staff members by allowing the staff to contribute and give feedback on higher-level decisions. Not only does this approach help ensure that multiple voices are heard and incorporated, but it also can increase workplace morale.

Often nurse supervisors play important roles in budgetary matters and higher-level organizational decisions about resources. These discussions may sometimes directly impact the nursing staff. Nurse supervisors shouldn’t be afraid to advocate for their staff members to receive a fair share of resources, particularly if it can help improve their job performances.

Becoming a nurse supervisor

In addition to on-the-job experience, advancing into many nurse managerial and supervisorial roles requires education as well. Nurse supervisors need to hold nursing degrees as well as nursing certifications. Employers will also require nurses to have graduate-level degrees in nursing or hospital administration. Some nurse supervisors must also pass certification exams that cover subjects such as management skills, finance, technology, performance improvement and other topics.

Working as a nurse supervisor provides experienced nurses the opportunity to continue developing and applying their skill sets. Nurse supervisors hold influential positions that allow them to improve the flow of processes, foster positive environments for staff members, serve as sources of motivation and contribute to the overall success of their workplaces.

Nurses interested in advancing to a supervisor role should pursue educational goals aligned with their workplace requirements. More importantly, they should continually demonstrate their willingness and ability to serve in these four significant capacities: communication, success, motivation and advocacy.

edited by Kevin Phang

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