If you want to be in a nursing management role, you might be wondering if there are any useful tips you can learn. As if your own work and patients were not important enough, management adds a new layer of responsibility – and fulfilment – to your nursing career.
Read on to learn 10 top tips for effective nursing management.
What is Nursing Management?
Nursing management refers to a range of management roles in hospitals, aged care and outpatient facilities. Nurse unit managers are the most notable example. Nurse unit managers are responsible for organising day-to-day activities and managing teams, as well as administrative, financial and recruitment duties.
With all of these responsibilities, if you want a career in nursing management you’ll need the following skills to be successful.
1. Establish Ethics and Standards
When thinking about tips for management, you’d probably expect something more tangible to start this list. In truth, establishing strong ethical codes and uncompromising standards early on is one of the most tangible steps you can take to improve your team.
Micromanagement is where time and efficiency are most wasted. If you are constantly correcting poor, lazy or unethical behaviour, all your attention is being spent on maintaining standards, not improving them. Worse still, if you don’t set expectations, poor attitudes and practices can spread through your team.
By establishing ethics and standards early, your team will understand what’s expected of them and find it much more difficult to push your boundaries. Also note that to encourage the right behaviour, it’s a great idea to recognise nurses who do good work. Thank you gifts can be a great idea, but even just a pat on the back will go a long way.
2. Lead by Example
You might be wondering how you can establish your ethical code, and the answer is simple – practice what you preach.
If you lead by example and display the behaviours you want your team to adopt, it is much more difficult for them to challenge you. However, if your team sees you taking shortcuts and not putting patients first, good luck trying to hold them accountable for those same mistakes.
A good rule of thumb is to not ask your team to do things that you wouldn’t do yourself, and to be mindful that your nursing management position guarantees that your work will be scrutinised, even if you don’t notice people paying attention.
3. Hold People Accountable
There are many amazing things about nursing management, like being able to teach people and make large-scale changes. But there is also a more difficult side, and it’s something you can’t shy away from if you want to be successful.
Holding people accountable for their work is essential if you want your team to respect you, and if you want to maintain high standards. While these conversations might be unpleasant, don’t put them off. The longer you wait to have them, the harder they’ll be.
Make sure your feedback is constructive. Never insult or demean team members when holding them accountable. Limit the conversation to explaining the mistake and outlining what they should have done instead.
4. Be Approachable (and Discreet)
As a nursing manager, it’s important that you are approachable. If your team members have problems, you want them to feel safe raising them with you.
Keep in mind that not all problems that affect a person’s work are work related. Team members may inform you about personal issues like a death in the family, mental health struggles, feeling burnt out or bad breakups. Make sure you respond in an understanding, comforting way.
Being discreet is vital if you want to appear trustworthy to your team. Never repeat sensitive information told to you in confidence, and don’t engage in any gossip.
5. Communicate Effectively
Most healthcare professionals agree that poor communication is the biggest threat to hospital efficiency. Whether it’s communication between patients or team members, it is the responsibility of nursing management to set an example for effective communication.
In particular, good communication between day and night shift teams, and between nurses and doctors, is essential. A good tactic is to make sure tasks are followed up, not just assumed to be complete. This might involve leaving clear notes of what has been done on patient charts, or verbal confirmation when tasks are done.
You should also make your own instructions clear. Encourage your team to paraphrase instructions back to you and each other to confirm understanding. While this may seem unnecessary at first, you’ll quickly realise that it reduces chances for instructions to be misunderstood.
6. Time Management
There are two types of time management that you need to learn if you want a career in nursing management: personal time management, and managing the time of your team members.
For your own time management, prioritise your tasks and set reasonable time frames to achieve them. You need to find a balance between being aware of how your time is spent and wasting it, and trying not to set unrealistic goals that will just demoralise you.
For managing your teams’ time, you need to have these same principles, but on a much larger scale. Determine what you think is possible for your team to achieve in a shift, and then don’t compromise on it. Observe your team for any inefficiencies, and demonstrate better practices to save this time.
If you are feeling time poor, it is probably a sign that you aren’t delegating enough. If you are new to nursing management, it’s easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough if you aren’t physically working. This is a false notion that you’ll need to let go of if you want to succeed.
The truth is, if you spend an extra two hours a week working in the unit, and that stops you from reforming an inefficient process that costs all of your team two hours a week, you haven’t saved any time at all. You’ve actually lost time.
Your position allows you to make large scale changes, so delegate duties that can be completed by your team to allow you to look at the big picture. Improvements made here will have a trickle down effect that will save your team far more time and stress in the long run.
8. Invest in Training and Upskilling
It can be tempting to skip through a person’s training, especially if you are experiencing a patient surge. But just like delegation, you need to think of the big picture. If you take the time to train someone properly now, they will save time by operating autonomously in the future.
This also goes for well established nurses who want to upskill themselves. If they show an eagerness to learn, try to make time to teach them. Healthcare systems depend on people gaining experience to rise through the ranks of nursing management.
Once you become a manager, it’s your responsibility to become a part of this pipeline and help develop people. If you are someone who naturally enjoys teaching, this is actually a very rewarding part of a management role.
9. Manage Up
When you think of nursing management, you probably picture yourself managing teams of people, but you might not have considered that part of your role is managing up.
You’ll need to strike a balance between actioning the requests of upper management while also advocating for your team and the satisfaction of your patients.
Managing up effectively is a delicate task. Make sure you are always respectful, and that you have well prepared arguments and evidence. Avoid being emotional or reactionary when dealing when trying to convince your managers.
10. Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is one of the most important skills for any management role, but especially for managers in a healthcare setting. It’s the process of analysing how you think and behave, and looking for ways to improve it. This can be to avoid bias, or doing things that are inefficient just because it’s how you’ve always done them.
The reason this is so important for managers is because the improvements you make have the ability to affect how your whole team behaves, not just you as an individual. Any processes you improve will save time or improve patient outlooks across your entire unit.
You are also uniquely able to think critically because you have some distance from the behaviours you are critiquing. For your nurses, they’re focus needs to be spent on patient care, but your job is to focus on how they perform this care, and whether it is the best method possible.
Have You Considered a Nursing Agency?
Before you can embark on a career in nursing management, you need experience as a nurse. One of the best ways to experience different kinds of nursing, and different locations in the healthcare sector, is by joining a nursing agency.
At Nurses Now, we pride ourselves on our team of incredible nurses. They’re dedication to providing excellent care is what unites them, and we are always looking for new members.