How to Become a Manager in Nursing

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Morganne Skinner, BSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse managing team member

When you picture a healthcare setting — for example, a hospital — you likely imagine dozens of busy nurses working to complete their current tasks and before moving on to the next one. There are nurses at the bedside caring for patients, nurses filling out end-of-shift reports, nurses talking to patients’ family members — the list goes on. There’s a person behind the scenes (and sometimes very much in the scenes) helping to make sure the nurses are able to do their jobs efficiently and successfully: a nurse manager. But that’s just one of their responsibilities.

There are many ways to move forward in your career as a nurse. One option is gaining enough experience to become a manager in nursing. But do you know how to become a nurse manager? Let’s look at what it takes to be in healthcare management roles, the financial advantages of the position, and the steps required to become a nurse manager.

What Is a Nurse Manager?

The job of a nurse manager blends caring for patients and managing a unit in a hospital, clinic, or other healthcare setting. It’s a great way to use everything you’ve learned as a nurse and apply it to a management position.

A nurse manager is the first level of management in nursing, followed by director of nursing, chief nursing officer, and healthcare administrator. You’ll find nurse manager positions in hospitals, surgical centers, clinics, private practices, nursing homes, and emergency rooms.

Qualities that are important for a nurse manager include:

  • Diverse clinical expertise
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Analytical skills

What Does a Manager in Nursing Do?

In short, a nurse manager has the decision-making and supervisory responsibility to oversee the daily operation of a unit and supervise its nursing staff. It can also be a hands-on position, with the nurse manager also occasionally providing direct patient care, especially when a facility is short staffed. Specific management duties include:

  • Recruiting, hiring, and managing nurses
  • Scheduling nurse shifts
  • Providing leadership and mentoring nurses
  • Managing a unit’s budget
  • Addressing patient and family conflicts and concerns
  • Advocating for patients and nurses
  • Overseeing policies and procedures and being a liaison with governing bodies that oversee nursing
  • Maintaining records

What Skills and Education Are Needed to Become a Nurse Manager?

1. Finish Your Nursing Degree

Licensed registered nurses who hold this position tend to have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) at minimum. If you start your nurse education path as an RN with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), you can find RN to BSN programs that take less time to complete than a traditional four-year bachelor degree.

It’s not unusual for employers to prefer that nurse managers hold a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a master in healthcare (MHA). A master in business administration (MBA) may also be helpful in boosting your career. Earning this advanced degree can also increase your job opportunities. You can find schools with programs that allow you to earn your BSN and MSN simultaneously.

2. Gain Clinical Experience

Before you can get experience in a nurse manager role, you’ll need to get a good base of clinical experience. A nurse manager typically has five years of nursing practice experience, but sometimes two to three years can suffice under the right circumstances. A successful applicant who has thought about how to become a nurse manager rotates through several departments in a hospital to have a broad base of experience.

3. Take Advanced Courses

Consider taking master’s level courses to give yourself a stronger foundation for this role in the real world. Classes on nursing ethics, policy, and advanced nursing practices are recommended. Don’t forget to think about the business and administration side of the job, too. Classes in leadership, human resources management, organizational management, financial management, and general accounting can prove to be extremely valuable to you.

4. Consider Certification

An optional post-master’s nursing leadership and management certificate can add to your knowledge and increase your ability to secure a nurse manager position. Here are some options:

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL)

How Much Do Nurse Managers Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nurse managers under medical and health services managers. The average annual salary for medical and health services managers is $127,980. States with the highest salaries for these jobs are:

  • New York
  • Washington, DC
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Delaware

In addition to a high salary, a great incentive to pursue this job is the fact that nurse managers are in great demand now. The job outlook is predicted to increase by 28% in the next 10 years — approximately 56,600 new job opportunities each year — which is much faster than the average for all other occupations. There were about 480,700 professionals in this field in 2021, and the number is expected to climb to 616,900 by 2031.

Wondering why the big numbers? The country is getting older. By 2030, the baby boomer generation will be age 65 or older. That means more healthcare professionals will be needed to provide care for this population.

Furthermore, as electronic health records become more widely used, there will be an increased need for managers who know how to use this technology.

Where Do Nurse Managers Work?

As with other healthcare jobs, the work environments for nursing managers are varied and plentiful. Basically, wherever there’s a staff of nurses, you can expect nurse managers. The BLS reports that the largest numbers of employed medical and health services managers work in the following types of facilities:

  • Hospitals
  • Doctors’ offices
  • Outpatient centers
  • Skilled nursing facilities
  • Home health care services

Become a Nurse Manager Faster

It can be a challenge to complete the degrees you need to be a manager in nursing while you’re working as a nurse. Take control of your work schedule to fit it around your classes. Find out more by starting your IntelyCare application today.