Six Steps to Ensure New Nurse Manager Success

Rebecca Hendren, for HealthLeaders Media , June 22, 2010

"Even if the new manager says 'I don't need to meet anymore,' that's not true," she says. "This is a clue there's a bigger problem. They need to force the meeting."

5. Learning leadership principles. New managers who are promoted from within the organization must make a difficult transition from "one of us" to "one of them." Every new nurse manager wants to be liked by the staff and one of the biggest challenges for the person they report to is to teach them that it's not being liked by the staff that counts, but how effective they are in their role.

"It takes time to teach this," says Cohen, "but it is one of biggest jobs of the person they report to."

Both internal and external managers find the volume of work overwhelming when they do not receive training on how to deal with problems.

"They just put Band-Aids on everything so they can get through the day," says Cohen. "They need to be taught how to solve the problems so they permanently go away."

Organizations should invest the time and money and send them to fundamental leadership classes, or find someone in house who can teach the ABCs of leadership. "Without a grasp of the underpinnings of effective leadership, the new nurse manager is being set up for failure," says Cohen.

6. Find a mentor. Being fresh to the role, coupled with a lack of trust from staff because they are new, can leave managers feeling like they are on their own. Find a mentor who can offer support and encouragement and help them find their way. The mentor may be another nurse manager in the organization or from a sister organization who can mentor remotely. They do not need to be in the same specialty, it just needs to be someone who can provide support and help build leadership skills.

Just because new managers have mentors doesn't mean directors can relinquish this area of responsibility. Mentoring nurse managers should be a vital part of their job.

"My greatest mentor was the person I reported to," says Cohen. "He felt that was part of his job and he took ownership of it. And that was the key to my success in leadership."

The key to success and retention of new nurse managers is the time and support put in at the beginning. Investing in these crucial managers will pay dividends in staff satisfaction and the competent management of their units.

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Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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