The Résumé Rx

Be a Leader in Nursing: Steps to Becoming a Successful Nursing Manager

Amanda Guarniere

A nursing manager is a healthcare professional who oversees the nursing staff and operations within a healthcare organization. They are responsible for coordinating and managing the nursing team to ensure the delivery of high-quality patient care. Nursing managers typically work in hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, or other healthcare settings.

In this article, we’ll cover the responsibilities, skills, and requirements for this leadership position. If you’re interested in combining a nursing career with management or administration, then you’ve come to the right place!


What Does a Nursing Manager Do? 

Nursing managers shoulder a variety of responsibilities, requiring them to wear many hats in their roles. Their diverse tasks span numerous fields, emphasizing the need for a broad skill set and expertise in different areas of nursing management. These skillsets include: 

  • Recruiting, Retaining, and Evaluating Nursing Staff: This involves attracting competent nursing professionals, keeping them motivated and engaged, and continuously assessing their performance to ensure quality care.
  • Providing Training for Nursing Staff: This includes organizing regular training sessions to keep the staff updated with the latest medical practices and technologies.
  • Assigning Specialty Roles to Staff Members: Depending on the skills and experience of the nursing staff, they may be assigned specific roles, such as critical care, pediatrics, or geriatrics.
  • Serving as a Liaison Between Staff and Interdisciplinary Teams: This requires ensuring clear and effective communication between nursing staff and other medical professionals involved in patient care
  • Assisting Families and Patients During Challenging Situations: As a nursing manager, you may need to provide emotional support and guidance to patients and their families during difficult times.
  • Managing Paperwork and Health Records: This involves maintaining and organizing important documents such as patient records, staff schedules, and medical reports.
  • Overseeing Day-to-Day Operations and Budgets: This includes managing the daily operations of the nursing department and ensuring that the department stays within its budget.
  • Managing and Reporting Finances: This involves tracking and reporting on the financial performance of the nursing department, including expenses and revenue.
  • Developing and Implementing Policies and Procedures: This includes establishing rules and guidelines that ensure the smooth operation of the nursing department and the provision of quality care to patients.
  • Coordinating Patient Care: This involves organizing and overseeing all aspects of patient care, from admission to discharge.
  • Ensuring Quality Improvement: Nursing managers are responsible for implementing strategies that lead to consistent improvement in patient care quality.
  • Managing Resources and Supplies: This responsibility includes ensuring that the nursing department has the necessary resources and supplies to provide optimal care to patients.
  • Maintaining a Safe Environment: Nursing managers must ensure that the environment is safe for both patients and staff, adhering to all safety regulations and standards.
  • Fostering Professional Development: This involves encouraging and providing opportunities for the professional growth of nursing staff.
  • Handling Conflict Resolution: Inevitably, conflicts may arise within the team, and it falls upon the nursing manager to effectively resolve these issues, maintaining harmony among the staff.
  • Staying Updated with Industry Trends: A good nursing manager keeps an eye on the evolving trends in the nursing industry and incorporates relevant ones into their practice.
  • Collaborating with Other Departments: As the nursing manager, you will often need to collaborate with other departments to ensure coordinated care to patients.
  • Supporting Patient and Family Advocacy: This involves advocating for the rights and needs of patients and their families within the healthcare system.

We want to highlight that the specific roles of a nurse manager will differ somewhat. Factors such as the healthcare environment, the organization’s size, and the breadth of the nursing manager’s role all play a part in shaping these duties.

Nursing Manager Salary Info (How much do they actually make?)

When it comes to the earning potential for nursing managers in the US, different sources report varying figures. Let’s compare the data provided by two major job platforms: 

  1. Indeed.com suggests that nursing managers can expect to earn between $65,000 and $154,000 per year.
  2. On the other hand, payscale.com reports that the average nursing manager’s salary ranges from $71,000 to $126,000 annually.

As always, salary ranges can vary greatly depending on numerous factors, including professional experience, educational qualifications, and the geographical location of the job, so be sure to do your research when you’re on your next job hunt. 

Career Path to Becoming a Nursing Manager

Becoming a nurse manager requires a specific set of educational and professional qualifications, paired with a good amount of experience. We’ll break down these steps into their own sections:

Education Requirements for a Nursing Manager 

A nurse manager typically needs to go through the following steps in their education: 

  1. Attending an accredited university or college is the first step. The individual should graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN).
  2. Next, the nurse must pass the NCLEX-RN board exam to receive a nursing license.
  3. Upon obtaining the license, the nurse must gain experience in direct patient care. It is preferable to gain this experience in an acute care setting like a hospital.
  4. Many employers require at least 5 years of experience for nurse manager positions.
  5. Obtaining a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Master’s in Healthcare or Business Administration (MHA/MBA) is an optional next step. However, it’s highly desired for many nurse manager positions.

Certifications Needed to Become a Nursing Manager

As a nurse aspiring to be a manager, you might be wondering about the best certification paths to bolster your credentials. Well, you’re in luck because the American Organization of Nurse Executives offers two excellent certification paths specifically designed for nurse leaders like you: 

Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP)

One of the certification paths is the CENP certification. This certification is mainly intended for nurse leaders who are in executive nursing positions or aspire to be in such roles. 

  • The CENP certification isn’t your average nursing certification—it’s designed to equip nurse executives with the leadership skills they need to excel.
  • Obtaining a CENP certification isn’t a walk in the park—it comes with a set of requirements that must be met. You must have an active, unrestricted RN license. If you have a master’s degree, you need two or more years of experience in an executive nursing role. Those with a bachelor’s degree in nursing will need four years of experience in an executive nursing role. Besides these qualifications, a certain fee has to be paid, and an exam must be passed.

Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML)

The second pathway to certification is the CNML certification, offered in collaboration with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). This certification is explicitly aimed at nurse leaders who are currently in nurse manager roles or aspire to be. 

  • The CNML certification is a game-changer for nurse leaders, providing them with the skills and competencies they need to lead teams effectively and drive outstanding patient care.
  • Like the CENP, the CNML certification has a set of requirements. You must have an active, unrestricted RN license. If you have a BSN degree or higher, you’ll need two or more years of experience in a nurse manager role. Those with a non-nursing bachelor’s degree need three years of experience in a nurse manager role, while those with an associate’s degree need five years of experience in a nurse manager role. Just like with CENP, there is a fee to be paid and an exam that must be aced to achieve certification.

Core Skills Required to Become a Nursing Manager

These are the core skills required to become a Nursing Manager. Each one plays a crucial role in the day-to-day responsibilities and overall success in this position. 

Clinical Expertise

A Nursing Manager should have a strong clinical background. They need to understand the complexities of patient care, and how to best support their team in providing it.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is key in healthcare. A Nursing Manager needs to clearly convey information to their team, patients, and other healthcare professionals.


Healthcare is a dynamic field that requires adaptability. A Nursing Manager should be able to adjust to changes in schedules, policies, and patient needs.

Analytical Skills

From interpreting patient data to managing resources, analytical skills are needed to make informed decisions in nursing management.

Management Skills

As leaders, Nursing Managers need to effectively manage their teams, ensuring they work efficiently and provide high-quality patient care.

Attention to Detail

Every detail matters in healthcare. Nursing Managers need to have an eye for detail to ensure protocols are followed correctly and patient care is not compromised.


A Nursing Manager needs to inspire and motivate their team. They should provide direction, resolve conflicts, and create a supportive work environment.


Problems arise frequently in healthcare. A Nursing Manager must be able to think critically and come up with effective solutions quickly.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding and managing emotions, both their own and others, is crucial in nursing management. This skill helps to build strong relationships and handle difficult situations effectively.

Continuous Learning

Healthcare is always evolving. A Nursing Manager must be committed to continuous learning, staying updated on the latest research, technologies, and best practices.

Time Management

With multiple responsibilities, Nursing Managers must be able to effectively manage their time, prioritizing tasks to ensure everything is completed efficiently.

Ethical Decision-Making

Nursing Managers often face ethical dilemmas. They must have the ability to make fair and just decisions that align with professional ethics and patient needs.


How long does it take to become a nursing manager?

Becoming a nurse manager typically takes six to seven years. This includes obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing, passing the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse, and gaining at least three years of clinical nursing experience. Earning certifications like the Certified Nurse and Manager Leader exam can help expedite advancement. Employers generally value candidates with a college degree, work experience, and demonstrated skills in the field.

Are nursing managers in demand?

Yes, nursing managers are in demand. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of labor statistics, the job outlook for medical and health services managers is highly favorable, with an estimated growth rate of 28 percent between 2021 and 2031. This projected growth is significantly higher than the average for all occupations.

What is the career outlook for nursing managers?

The career outlook for nursing managers is quite promising. The demand for skilled nursing managers is expected to grow in the coming years due to several factors. Firstly, the healthcare industry is expanding rapidly, with an increasing aging population and advancements in medical technology. This growth creates a need for effective leadership and management in healthcare settings, including hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities.


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