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How to Be a Good Nurse Manager

4 min readSeptember, 15 2023

Among their many competing responsibilities, good nurse managers lead and integrate activities to ensure everything runs smoothly. As a leader, you’ll typically manage budgets, inventory, and quality improvement efforts. Your duties expand beyond tasks — you’re also responsible for your patients and nursing staff.

Leadership Styles for Nurse Managers

Successfully managing your nursing team begins with developing a trusting relationship with your staff through accessibility, honesty, and respect. Good nurse managers are often leaders, but these skills may take time to develop. Confidence as a leader grows through successfully navigating challenges and embracing increased responsibilities.

Leadership styles in nursing generally fall into these categories:

  • Autocratic. Decisions get made quickly and independently, with little input from employees. The autocratic nurse leader excels at task delegation. This nursing leadership style may be most effective in an emergency.
  • Democratic. These leaders are collaborative and focus on team success. They may excel in quality improvement roles but may not be as effective in situations requiring independent decisions.
  • Servant. This people-centered approach focuses on employee development and individual needs. This method works well with goal-driven environments or as a nurse educator.
  • Situational. This leadership style is the most adaptable since it analyzes the situation and determines the appropriate approach. The situational nurse leader is flexible enough to modify their approach based on the organization or individual’s needs. This style works well with nursing students but may divert from the organization’s long-term goals.
  • TransformationalTransformational leaders inspire and motivate their teams to achieve higher performance, emphasizing personal growth and development. This nursing leadership style works well with mentoring.
  • Transactional. The transactional nurse leader does well with short-term goals by focusing on efficiency and performance. This task-oriented style reduces errors and works well with tight deadlines.
  • Laissez-faire. This leadership style puts faith in every facet of a well-oiled machine. The laissez-faire method may work well with experienced teams or self-directed nurses.
    Each type of nursing leadership role can be valuable when used in the right setting and can help you develop the characteristics of a good nurse manager.

What Makes a Good Nurse Manager?

Practical communication skills, strong leadership abilities, and a commitment to supporting and developing your nursing staff contribute to being viewed as a good nurse manager. These skills help create a vibrant culture of teamwork and trust among your team. There are also many personality traits of a good nurse manager that round out their overall skill set. These traits include open-mindedness, assertiveness, adaptability, and empathy.

Strategies for Effective Management

Try these strategies to be a good nurse manager:

  • Communicate effectively. Engagement while interacting with your staff is one of the essential qualities of a good nurse manager. It can help build interpersonal relationships and shows you care about your team and their work. Active listening skills can assist in conflict and relationship management and ensure instructions and expectations get conveyed clearly.
  • Act as a role model. Treat your position as more than a title by being visible and accessible. Don’t simply promote patient care and safety by supporting the implementation of best practices. Lead by example and display the strong work ethic and high patient care standards you expect from others.
  • Foster a positive work environment. Your nursing staff is essential to the organization. Make sure they realize their contributions are valued and recognized. Creating a supportive environment with open communication makes nurses feel appreciated and respected. Provide opportunities for professional developmentmentorship, and coaching to allow staff to expand their skills.
  • Advocate for your staff. As a nurse leader, you must be a champion for fair staffing practices, necessary resources and equipment, and the safety and well-being of your staff, patients, and their loved onesNurse burnout, compassion fatigue, and other work-related stressors often accompany the demands of a career in health care. Normalize conversations about mental health and wellness to empower nursing staff to seek help when needed.
  • Promote teamwork. Each interdisciplinary member plays a crucial role in improving patient outcomes, and part of your role is to foster a sense of unity and collaboration among the team members. Ensure your team doesn’t only hear from you when there’s a problem. Recognize and reward achievements and accomplishments to help increase staff satisfaction.
  • Manage priorities. A good nurse manager has plenty of tasks but often needs more time. Strong organizational and time management skills — and the ability to streamline processes and delegate appropriate tasks — help to improve efficiency and empower your staff.
  • Embrace change. Health care is constantly changing. If the current approach isn’t working, present it as an obstacle to overcome. Encourage innovation and sharing of ideas along with suggestions for solutions and improvements.
  • Commit to lifelong learning. You may not have all the answers, but your staff likely sees you as a mentor and source of information. Develop a social network and nurture professional relationships to stay abreast of changes in health care and best practices. Seek a mentor who provides honest feedback on areas you need to improve. Attend conferences and workshops or pursue advanced education or certifications to expand your knowledge base.

A person in a white coat talking to a patient

Your dedication to providing quality care and support will positively impact your team and their patients. Developing the qualities of a good nurse manager requires continuous learning, adaptation, and self-reflection. Focus on these areas to create a positive work environment, support your nursing staff, and contribute to delivering high-quality patient care. And be sure to ask for feedback from your team on your performance — and listen to their suggestions.


Images sourced from Getty Images

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