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How to Become a Nurse Manager

Nurses work in fast-paced clinical environments, where coordination and effective leadership are critically important. Nurse managers are team leaders with extensive on-the-job experience, as well as advanced comprehension of clinical techniques and nursing theory. Current and aspiring nursing professionals may be wondering how to become a nurse manager. Some may even be registered nurses who have as yet only completed an associate degree or nursing diploma. For these individuals, continuing their education by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing can position them to qualify for advanced clinical nursing or nursing leadership positions.

A nurse manager shows a tablet screen to two nurses.

What Does a Nurse Manager Do?

Nurse managers are responsible for overseeing the clinical activities of their nursing unit, as well as supervising support employees who perform administrative work for the department. A nurse manager’s primary responsibility is ensuring that patients are treated with care in a safe and comfortable environment.

What does a nurse manager do to achieve this goal, compared to a regular nurse? One important aspect of the role is to instill a culture of ethical practice among the nursing team, which can be achieved by educating employees about industry-approved methods of delivering healthcare services.

Additionally, nurse managers must act as mentors and role models for their employees. Nurse managers are leaders, so other nurses look to them for professional guidance and career advice. When this occurs, they should be prepared to respond supportively to employees and help them find answers. In this way, nurse managers promote employees’ personal development and professional growth.

Nurse managers are sometimes responsible for their department’s financial affairs as well. In this capacity, they may manage their organization’s finances by creating budgets or monitoring cash flow — for instance, patient fees and operational expenses. Depending on the financial health of the nursing unit, managers must determine the best way to use resources and schedule labor. Depending on the size of their unit, nurse managers often need to collect records about the services their unit delivers. This helps the facility’s executive leadership make strategic decisions.

Setting goals and communicating their unit’s strategic vision is also an important responsibility of nurse managers. They implement policies and procedures that staff members can review to better understand their own roles in the organization. To ensure that all employees are properly adhering to these policies, nurse managers must also evaluate their staff’s work performance and offer coaching where needed.

Potential Path to Becoming a Nurse Manager

There is no standard route that will certainly lead you to a career as a nurse manager, but there are a number of steps you could take to position yourself to qualify for this role.

Along with an aptitude for management and leadership, qualified candidates for nurse management jobs must have extensive knowledge of the core concepts of clinical nursing practice. Although nurses who have completed a nursing diploma or associate degree program may have gained some exposure to these subjects, those who earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) typically achieve a deeper level of expertise that better qualifies them for positions in nurse management. Earning this degree can also prepare nurses who have not yet taken the registered nurse license exam.

In addition to equipping graduates with sharper critical thinking and creative analysis skills, BSN programs encourage students to develop the enhanced communication skills and clinical knowledge that are fundamental to being an effective nurse leader. According to American Nurse Today, “Nurse managers straddle the worlds of staff and middle-upper management, ensuring a two-way flow of communication. They translate and promote organizational goals to frontline staff and remove barriers that could hinder their performance.”

Given these diverse, high-level responsibilities, employers typically only consider nurse management candidates who have BSN degrees or higher and at least three to five years of clinical nursing experience.

Nurse Manager Salaries

The average annual salary for nurse managers is about $84,000, according to PayScale data from April 2019. However, there are opportunities for growth in this occupation: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nurse managers within the broader category of medical and health services managers, who earned a median annual salary of $98,350 in 2017. Those who hold advanced degrees and professional certifications may qualify for the higher end of the salary range. Other factors such as geographic location, job complexity, specialization, and experience level can also affect nurse manager salaries.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies nurse managers within the broader category of medical and health services managers, who earn a median annual salary of $98,350. Those who hold advanced degrees and professional certifications may qualify for the higher end of the salary range. Other factors such as geographic location, job complexity, specialization, and experience level can also affect nurse manager salaries.

Employment Outlook for Nurse Managers

The nursing profession is going through a talent drought. There is a massive gap between the number of nurses available and the number needed to sustain the demand being placed on the healthcare system. The BLS found that registered nurses and nurse practitioners could expect to see 15 percent and 31 percent growth in employment respectively between 2016 and 2026. The number of jobs for medical and health services managers is on pace to increase 20 percent within the same period. This is fortunate for individuals who want to advance in the nursing field, as every new team of nurses will need qualified nurse managers to supervise them.

Pursue a Leadership Role in Nursing

Registered nurses who would like to ascend to a leadership role and become a nurse manager typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree program. Maryville University offers an online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program designed specifically for nurses who have previously earned their associate degree or nursing diploma. Visit the program website to learn more about how making the leap from RN to BSN can help you unlock doors to new professional opportunities.

Sources

American Nurse Today, “Move up to the role of nurse manager”

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Manager

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Practitioners

Maryville University, Online RN to BSN

Maryville University, Online RN to BSN Curriculum

PayScale, Average Nursing Manager Salary