One of the speakers at last month's Nursing Management Congress in Texas conducted a quick, informal poll among attendees to see which age brackets were represented. Overwhelmingly, one group stood out: those who were less than 15 years from retirement. The speaker's aim was to illustrate the point that our nurse manager workforce is aging and we face a succession planning crisis in the near future.
Despite this, many hospitals place little emphasis on developing formal nurse succession plans or offer leadership development classes to groom the next generation of leaders. I met new nurse managers at the conference who were there on their own dime, eager to develop their skills, learn how to become better managers, and increase their usefulness to their organizations and staff.
Several of these nurse managers credited their desire to progress their career and take management positions to coaches or mentors who provided career advice and development opportunities. Without these coaches, they said, they might never have thought management was an option for them or been interested in pursuing it.
Senior leadership should encourage these mentoring and coaching relationships in their organizations.
"You shouldn't wait until a leader leaves to start thinking 'who are we going to move in there?'" says Patty Kubus, president of Leadership Potential International, and a former nurse manager who now teaches leadership development and consults with hospitals on issues such as succession planning. "You should be constantly looking to identify leadership potential in staff, and focused on building leadership skills, so they are ready and waiting to fill open positions."