Transitioning from bedside nursing to nursing leadership starts with supplementing your education and experience. Before you tackle these requirements, be sure it’s a position you really want to take on. Nurse supervisor jobs have extensive duties that involve much more than telling other nurses what to do. While each hospital has its own qualifications for registered nurses (RNs) wanting to transition to nurse leaders, certain steps are generally standard.
What Is a Nurse Leader?
Nurse leaders, also known as nurse managers, have numerous responsibilities. They usually have a master’s degree and a strong clinical nursing background and may be advanced practice RNs. Besides their responsibilities related to the nursing staff they supervise within a healthcare facility, they also have responsibilities from upper management. Some of the typical responsibilities and duties of a nurse manager include:
- Interviewing and hiring new nurses
- Training, advising and coaching nurses
- Creating nursing schedules to ensure the facility is fully staffed and providing quality care
- Collaborating with medical staff
- Resolving disputes on the hospital floor
- Supervising daily unit operations
- Disciplining and dismissing nurses
- Planning treatments for patients
- Maintaining medical health records
- Developing and managing unit/department budgets and monitoring expenditures
- Facilitating communication between upper management and nursing staff
- Helping carry out the healthcare facility’s mission
Professional Experience Requirements
Nurse manager jobs often require applicants to have at least five years of experience as bedside nurses in either a hospital or a similar healthcare facility. New nurses should concentrate on learning clinical skills before tackling managerial skills. Honing your expertise in patient care is vital to becoming an effective leader to other nurses.
Experienced nurses with aspirations of moving from bedside nursing to nursing leadership should supplement their current experience by working in different departments. Rotating between varied departments provides a more rounded experience that better prepares you to supervise nurses in various roles because you gain intimate knowledge of their daily tasks and the common problems that arise.
Once you have clinical expertise and before plunging into a higher level of nurse leadership, you can gain managerial skills by becoming a charge nurse. Charge nurses oversee a single department of nurses, providing guidance and leadership to other nurses while still performing bedside nursing tasks.
In this role, you have the opportunity to learn administrative tasks such as coordinating staffing and supplies in your department. You also delegate tasks to other nurses, monitor admissions and discharges and ensure the overall smooth operation of your area of the hospital.
Education Needed to Move Into Management
You can begin your nursing career with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), but if you want to move into management, you need at least a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. The quickest way to transition from an ADN to a BSN is by completing an RN-to-BSN program. However, a BSN is the minimum education required. Earning a nurse manager position without an advanced degree can be difficult.
Going back to school to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree or higher prepares you for the increasingly complex demands of leadership roles in healthcare. Continuing your education also can help hone your administrative skills to pair with the clinical skills you’ve obtained on the job.
Many major healthcare institutions employ nurse leaders with an MSN, but some seek those with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA). To facilitate the best of both worlds, some universities offer a coordinated MSN-MBA degree program.
A dual nursing and business administration degree combines management, finance and marketing within a framework designed for nursing and healthcare administration. Graduates learn how to effectively manage departmental budgets while supervising nurses and other healthcare employees. Even if an advanced degree isn’t required, earning one certainly makes you a more appealing candidate for supervisory positions.
Certifications Help Smooth the Move
Professional certifications are another way to increase your appeal as a nurse leader and may help you move into higher-level managerial positions if your job prospects have stalled. Certifications related to nurse management enhance your professional credibility and demonstrate you have the skill to lead others. Each credential has set criteria for eligibility and requires applicants to pass an exam to earn certification. Nurses seeking supervisory roles have several certification options, including:
- Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credentials earned through the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) are designed exclusively for nurse leaders in the nurse supervisor role. Applicants must have a BSN or higher with one year of experience in a nurse manager role or a non-nursing bachelor’s degree with three years of experience in a comprehensive leadership support role. They must pass a 115-question exam that covers human resource management, performance improvement, financial management and strategic management, among others.
- Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP) certification through the AONL is designed for current nurse leaders engaged in executive nursing practice. Applicants must have an MSN or higher with two years of experience or a BSN with four years of experience in an executive nursing role. The 175-question exam covers knowledge of the healthcare environment, communication and relationship building, business skills, leadership and professionalism.
- Nurse Executive – Board Certification (NE-BC) credentials through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is for nurses who typically supervise a single group of nurses and/or non-nursing staff and focus on staffing, daily operations, staff development, individual/group performance and making tactical decisions. Applicants must have a BSN or higher and at least 2,000 hours of experience in a leadership role involving the daily operations of one or more units/departments and 30 hours of continuing education in leadership within the last three years.
- Nurse Executive Advanced – Board Certification (NEA-BC) through the ANCC is for nurses who typically supervise multiple groups of nurses or non-nurse personnel and operations. Applicants must have a graduate degree with either their BSN or graduate degree in nursing. They must have at least 2,000 hours of experience in a leadership role that includes nursing and responsibility for operations on an organization-wide or system-wide level and 30 hours of continuing education in leadership within the last three years.
Nursing Leadership Salary Considerations
Nurse managers’ salaries vary by region, experience and many other factors, but average salaries reflect the significant education, experience and continued development required for these positions. According to Vivian Health’s salary data, the average hourly wage of nursing supervisors was $48.89 in late June 2023, or about $1,956 weekly in a 40-hour workweek and nearly $101,700 annually. The average salary of bedside RNs during this period was $42.74 per hour or about $1,710 weekly and around $88,900 annually.
Other Benefits of Nurse Manager Jobs
Besides an increased salary, transitioning from bedside nursing to nurse manager jobs can offer a multitude of benefits for experienced nurses seeking career growth and a broader impact on patient care. While bedside nursing plays a vital role in direct patient care, nursing leadership positions provide opportunities to influence and shape the healthcare landscape on a larger scale. Some key benefits of transitioning to nursing leadership include:
- Career Advancement and Professional Growth: Transitioning to leadership roles opens opportunities for professional growth, including expanding your knowledge and skills through educational programs, mentorship and leadership training. Leadership roles come with increased responsibilities, further growing your skills. You also have the chance to develop expertise in healthcare administration, policy development, quality improvement and similar areas. Through all this professional growth, you also enhance your career advancement.
- Expanded Influence: Nurse leaders have the power to effect change beyond individual patients, such as developing and implementing policies and protocols that enhance the quality of care across an entire department or healthcare organization. By leading teams, you influence the professional development of nurses, shape the delivery of care and improve patient outcomes.
- Collaboration and Interdisciplinary Work: As a leader, you collaborate with other healthcare professionals, administrators and stakeholders to improve patient care outcomes. You participate in interdisciplinary teams, contribute to strategic planning and engage in decision-making processes that impact the functioning of the healthcare organization.
- Advocacy and Empowerment: Nursing leaders can be powerful advocates for both patients and nurses. In leadership roles, you gain the ability to address systemic issues, promote patient-centered care and ensure that nursing staff members have the resources and support they need to provide optimal care. You can also advocate for nursing initiatives and promote the nursing profession as a whole.
- Improved Work-Life Balance: Nurse manager jobs often offer more flexibility in work schedules, which can promote a better work-life balance. Although leadership roles are usually demanding, they typically involve fewer night shifts or weekends, allowing nurses more time for personal pursuits and family commitments.
All nurses remain in high demand, and this demand is only expected to increase. As the rate of employment of RNs grows, so does the need for nurse leaders to manage them. As a nurse manager, you can make a lasting impact on the healthcare system and contribute to improving patient care on a broader scale. You also have the opportunity to advocate for patients and colleagues, making a positive impact on staff and patients alike while advancing your career, achieving a better work-life balance and earning more income. Transitioning from bedside nursing to nursing leadership requires years of hard work, smart career choices and a positive attitude that undoubtedly pays off in the end.
Join Vivian Health and let us help you make the leap to nursing leadership. We can help you find your next healthcare job faster and easier than ever before.