Advice and Tips from RNs Who Made the Switch to Management

The biggest and most satisfying part of my job as Forcura’s director of Client Experience is to work directly with our 200+ clients from the moment they are signed by our sales team, through their onboarding and implementation, and overseeing their ongoing service support. I’ve come to know many of the incredible people who brought our platform into their organization, and quickly observed that many of these leaders started as clinicians - particularly as nurses.

Every nurse is effectively a manager. Nurses make important, life-changing decisions at the bedside. They have to juggle a variety of projects, people, and paperwork, staying calm and collected in the process. Home health nurses feel this truth even more profoundly. They are charged with making independent, split-second decisions for their home care patients seemingly in a vacuum. It’s not surprising then that there’s been an uptick in nurses pursuing actual management positions, especially since nurse managers earn significantly more than a traditional nurse, according to one salary aggregation site. The average registered nurse earns $29.30 per hour, while a nurse manager makes $36.64. 

What does it take to become a nurse in a management position? It’s harder – and easier – than it looks, according to those who have achieved the dream. Laurie St John, RN, MSN, the vice president of Hartford Healthcare Community Network’s Hartford Healthcare At Home says she knew from the beginning of her career that she wanted to go into management. As such, the Connecticut-based nurse carefully planned her ascent, starting out as a visiting nurse, but all the while communicating her intentions to her employer. 

This might seem forward, but it’s an excellent strategy. Sometimes, especially for women, it can feel uncomfortable to state what you want, but you can’t achieve something that you don’t put out there. “I have always been taught that you don’t lose anything by asking, and the answer is always going to be no if you don’t ask,” she explains. This is actually a good place to start: Communicate your career expectations and goals, and ask for feedback and help so you achieve them. At the same time, start laying the scaffolding to support your climb. 

In St John’s case, she made sure she had the education to back her goals up. She completed a master’s degree in registered nursing and nursing management. However, you don’t necessarily need an advanced degree to get ahead, explains Kim Bradley, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Nurse Executive, Director Clinical Services at Sentara Enterprises, based in Virginia. “I’ve worked with some wonderful leaders and managers who have natural instincts and cultivated their skills over time,” she explains. She says you can improve your chances of gaining a management position by completing leadership training, joining professional organizations, and asking for help along the way in the form of mentorship and honest feedback. Bradley also encourages management prospects to consider adding technology and data knowledge to their talent arsenal. 

“There are a lot of companies out there that don’t have the means to hire companies to help them with data analytics or implementing new technologies. The job candidates that are going to stand out from the crowd are the ones who can speak fluently and authentically about these topics,” Bradley says. She also suggests reading everything you can find online, watching the free tutorials, and spending time viewing the free, on-demand webinars on vendor websites and YouTube. “If you’re willing to take the time, you can get a wonderful education,” she adds. Management candidates must also have basic technology skills such as Microsoft Office proficiency. 

Wendy Goodreau, MSN-ED, RN, COQS, Clinical Education Coordinator at Southeastern Home Health Services credits her own employers for helping her attain some of her most important management skills. Goodreau completed online training to support her employer’s EMR system, and took an OASIS certification and a Supervision in Management course. She is currently completing two more courses: an ICD-10 coding class and a case management class. “I’m lucky that my company has the foresight to offer us many educational opportunities. If your employer offers you a class or the opportunity to learn something new always say yes – always,” she says.  

Other ways to add to your management appeal include subscribing to newsletters and blogs, listening to podcasts, and offering your services as an internal tester or super user for every piece of new technology that comes into your organization. St. John says another easy way to put yourself on a path to management is getting involved on internal committees such as quality control or infection control. “It’s a really good way to expand your role within an organization and gain expertise and respect, especially if you then take the information you’re learning and bring it back to your team,” she says. 

So how can you tell if a management position is for you? Sometimes, it’s literally a matter of trial and error. Sentara’s Bradley says many nurse managers she’s worked with tell her they miss their old jobs, especially if their new positions remove them completely from the bedside and direct patient care. Goodreau agrees, adding that the rigors of management can be shocking. “It’s not like you can just yell down the hall anymore or call in a colleague, ‘Hey, I need help,’” she says. “Now you’re the one who nurses are calling from the field. You’re the one that – if something isn’t right – is helping them make the right decisions.” 

The best nurse management candidates can handle this shift in duties, remaining true to their calling to serve patients first, yet equally support their company's financial success. Goodreau says this is easier to do if you consciously work hard to keep from losing sight of the fact that there are patients behind every decision and every piece of paperwork. You should also be proficient at self organization, time management, and leading others before you make a move. “Show your manager that you really want it, invest the time, and you’re going to be a more effective nurse, whether you’re in a management role or not.”

I’m certain this advice isn’t relevant only to nurses looking to grow in their careers, which is why I’ll be sharing this blog with my Customer Experience team. We also always keep the patient in mind, knowing our platform can empower better patient care - as delivered by some of the most compassionate, dedicated people I know.

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In her role as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Client Experience, Windy Adams is responsible for the implementation, optimization, and sustained success of Forcura’s clients and partners.  Her expertise is in optimizing organizational processes and the utilization of Forcura’s tools for back-office and clinical success when it comes to the unique challenges that home health and hospice organizations face with regulations.

 Connect with Windy on LinkedIn.

Topics: Building a Company Culture, healthcare

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