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Being a Nurse Manager: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Nurse First, Manager Second

Published June 22, 2016 2:47 PM by Samantha Therrien

Being a nursing manager these days, people automatically assume means being dressed in a suit with a lab coat, rarely venturing out to patient care areas and a having a nice big office. The biggest complaint that I hear is that managers forget about being nurses and are not clinically involved and lack clinical credibility.

Reality check. I manage an extremely busy pre-operative day surgery facility. We do as many as 74 cases a day, which includes surgical and endoscopy patients.  My job is to manage staff, patients and the daily schedule.  Being a nurse for 21 years and having a diverse background in nursing has helped me become a manager and still be a nurse first.

 Yes, you will see me behind a patient's curtain wearing scrubs, clogs and carrying a stethoscope around my neck and having daily patient clinical case load along with my staff.  Some days it becomes very challenging, especially those days when there is a full schedule.  As a nurse manager I feel left out at times, staff can see you as the enemy and do not appreciate your work.  Being a leader, I must remind myself I'm always under the microscope. I personally struggle with this and I'm afraid it will ruin me. One certain rule that I have learned throughout the years is that it can be lonely at the top. 

 Years of working alongside with other nurses and sharing their lives, successes and failures create a strong bond with your staff. I encourage my nurses to communicate their concerns, frustrations and empower them to participate in decision making, giving a sense of ownership and autonomy. This allows my nurses to become united, working as a team instead of creating a competitive atmosphere.

 Managing means being able to manage people. Being a nurse manager requires nursing skills and managing skills and being good at both things. A highly experienced and trained nurse does not suddenly become a competent manger, likewise an experienced manager from another area would need time to develop nursing skills.  

Being a competent manager is being able to utilize the skills that are learned and using the resources at hand to deliver a service that is required. Great managers have to be creative and able to see tiny details as well as the broader perspective, easily approachable, accessible and empathetic to their staff.

I believe that being a nurse manager is a unique skill. It has been one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences in my career. I have challenged myself and developed knowledge. Having insight in what I need to do in a day to day basis in a wide range of areas and circumstances has made me become a successful nurse manager.




Thank you for this article. Often, working side by side with our staff is known as a weakness. But how can we be change agents for our staff and advocate for quality care. It is a balance not successfully done by most. It is a desire to make a difference in people's lives. The role is challenging but most important. Please continue to do as you are doing. That has been the most rewarding part of my years.

Kerri, Medsurg/Trauma PCU - Director July 26, 2016 5:38 PM
Melbourne FL

The read was great therapy. I concur. Its an art and a juggling act.

James Yearwood, Medical-Surgical-Tele - Associate Nurse Manager, Jackson South Community Hospital July 26, 2016 4:01 PM
Miami FL

Well done Samantha! Very well put and this is exactly how you  perform with professionalism.

Gail D, Medical - Office Manager June 28, 2016 7:00 PM

Great article, very challenging job fan you do it well

Andrea P, Nursing - RN, Same Day SurgiClinic June 26, 2016 9:50 PM
Fall River MA

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