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From Bedside to Boardroom: Making the Move to Nursing Management

From Bedside to Boardroom: Making the Move to Nursing Management

How exciting! You’re ready to make a big change in your career and looking for a new challenge. You’ve got the support of your colleagues and your family but perhaps feel some trepidation. You may be asking yourself, Is this really what I want? What questions will they ask during the interview? How should I prepare? Do I have the right skill sets?

These are all important questions and you’ll want to spend some time reflecting on these answers to try and properly gage if nursing management is right for you.  There’s a lot to consider and the more prepared you are the more confident you’ll be in taking the leap. Let’s walk through some key considerations that may help decide if nursing management is the right path for you.

 

What do Nurse Managers do?

If you’re thinking of constant phone calls, checking emails, and attending meeting after meeting - you wouldn’t be wrong - but thankfully there’s so much more! Nurse Managers often supervise a team on a specific unit within a hospital, a geographical area of a home care program, long-term care facility, or within a clinic. They may manage a team that can consist of nurses, allied health, and unregulated care providers. 

They ensure that their team is compliant with established standards, guidelines, policies, practices, and regulatory requirements. Nursing Managers are responsible for hiring and retaining the nursing staff as well as performance management. In large organizations, they may supervise a specific unit such as orthopedics, ICU, or pediatrics.  In small hospitals, long-term care settings,  or clinics, they may manage the entire facility. 

If you are looking for a new nursing job check out our nursing job board where you can search by keyword or location. New jobs get posted daily!

Is Nurse Management right for me?

It will do you well to reflect on WHY you want to make the transition into management. Better positioned to advocate for your patients and colleagues? Pay? No more nights or weekends? Move up the corporate ladder? There are no right or wrong reasons; however, you want to be confident the reasons are right for you. 

Let’s explore some of the pros and cons, myths and realities of nursing management. 

Nurse Managers make more money

Generally speaking, your base salary will increase. The average annual salary for a Registered Nurse in Canada is $79,880. The average LPN/RPN salary in Canada is $53,000 Although their will be some variability from organization to organization and province to province, the average pay range of a Nurse Manager in Canada is:

 

Low

Median

High

$56,000

$81,000

$106,000

(as reported by Indeed.ca)

 

However, you will need to consider the bigger picture when determining an increase in your annual income. For example, many front-line nursing positions will include, shift premiums, overtime pay, and support for education. If money is a motivating factor for you to become a Nurse Manager, have a look at a recent tax return and compare it to your expected salary. Be sure to include any costs that your employer has supported (e.g. License fees or courses) in your calculation. 

Nurse Managers have flexible hours

True, Nurse Managers tend to have some additional flexibilities with their schedule compared to front-line nurses. Often much of their work can be completed with a cell phone and a good internet connection. Also, Nurse Managers tend to work fewer evenings and weekends. However, they tend to have full days of meetings, interviews, and responding to a large volume of phone calls and emails. Also, Nurse Managers may be expected to be ‘on-call’ on evenings or weekends. 

A Nurse Manager role will open doors to higher management positions

True, your first Nurse Management role is a necessary step on the corporate ladder and will potentially open doors to roles with greater responsibility and pay.

A good clinician will make a good Nurse Manager

Sometimes. To be selected as a candidate for a Nurse Management position, you’ve undoubtedly demonstrated leadership skills. Perhaps you’ve honed your skills in case management, exceptional patient care, or education. These skills are invaluable and enable you to the work of those you will supervise. However, managing will require many difficult conversations and increasing responsibilities that some clinicians may find challenging. 

As a Nurse Manager, I’ll have more autonomy and be better able to support a positive work environment and safe patient care

True. Promoting education, committing to occupational health and safety and quality improvement will have positive impacts for your team and patients. However, everyone has a boss. There will be expectations that you will implement organizational goals and objectives. Your role will require that you execute changes that will not always be well-received.

I’m worried I’ll miss working directly with patients as a Nurse Manager

As a Nurse Manager your one-on-one interactions with patients will decrease and those interactions that you do have will often involve mediating conflict or helping to resolve complex issues. We all gravitate to skills and situations that are familiar to us and that we know that we can fix. You may feel compelled to ‘roll up your sleeves’ and assist your team. However, you’ll want to ensure that you maintain committed to your key responsibilities (managing the unit). When staffing is tight, you may find your time better spent building a better schedule versus taking blood pressures and handing out meds.

I’ve never been good with conflict. How will I avoid it?

You can’t. But that doesn’t mean conflict can’t be turned into a positive experience. Nurse Managers are notorious firefighters. From unhappy family members, to performance issues, to co-workers who simply just don’t like each other. You will learn and develop your communication and mediation skills.

 

How do I apply?

Fabulous, you’ve made it to this section and are still interested in Nurse management!  You will need to update your resume. Presumably, the version you currently have was tailored to clinical nursing roles. Ensure that you update your resume with any advanced certifications, continuing education, committee roles, mentorship roles, and even leadership roles you may have had outside of nursing. Refer to the job description and ensure that in one way or another you’ve demonstrated each job requirement within your cover letter or resume. 

Cover Letter

Ensure the cover letter provides a topline overview of your skills and objectives. Use the job posting to ensure you utilize similar terminology as the posting. Many large organizations use screening technology that can sift through resumes to quickly identify those that meet (or exceed) the job requirements. 

Resume

You have many options for the specific format of your resume but generally you’ll want to include your education, skills, and work experience. Remember to highlight your formal or informal leadership skills and experience. You needn’t include your reference on your resume, but bring them with you if you’re successful in landing an interview.

How do I prepare for the interview?

Congratulations! you’ve made it to the interview. Your knowledge and experience documented on your stunning resume has caught the attention of senior leadership but you still have some preparation to do. Unless you already work there, research the organization and the role and ensure you have an understanding of the organization's mission, vision, values and type of work that the organization does.

Example Interview Questions 

It’s important to answer each question asked; however, don’t feel you need to answer each question right away. It is better to ask the interviewer to come back to the question at a later time than fumble through a poor response. Remember, use specific examples as often as possible. They will bring your responses to life and perk the ears of the interviewer. With each response to their questions, respond by saying. “Yes, and let me give you an example of how I handled the situation”. 

Some questions that might be asked of you include:

Do you have any supervisory experience? If so, what was it?

The interviewer will want to know if you have both the aptitude and desire to pursue a management position. Be sure to highlight any formal or informal opportunities that you’ve had that required some level of supervision. Don’t forget to draw attention to the times you mentored students, worked as charge nurse, taught a class, or even managed your daughter’s baseball team. 

How do you keep a team engaged?

Ensure to highlight the importance of clear, consistent, and continual communication. As a Nurse Manager, effective communication will be the cornerstone of positive work interactions. Speak to the importance of promoting input from the team to collaborate in decision-making. 

What do (or would) you look for in a new hire?

Interviewers will want to know if you have some clarity on how you would build a high-functioning team. 

Attitude. Entry level nursing competencies and job requirements, for sure, but skills can be learned. Positive attitude will promote professional relationships and a positive work environment. 

What is your management style?

This question is becoming less common; however, some interviewers may still ask. You may choose to do a little research to determine what your management style is (e.g. consultative, persuasive, collaborative etc.). But not having been a manager, you may not know your style. It is perfectly appropriate that you are not certain of your style, but you anticipate that your style would reflect what the situation or scenario requires.

Describe a time that you experienced a professional failure

The specific professional failure is less important than how you overcame it. Ensure to emphasize how you grew from the experience and how you will avoid it in the future. Everyone makes mistakes.

What do you feel most proud of?

Don’t be shy, promote yourself; however, keep it professional. Avoid saying your kids or your new convertible. Remember, to include why you feel most proud of the accomplishment. The ‘why’ will demonstrate your qualities of a budding nurse manager.

Describe a time you went ‘above and beyond?"

Interviewers will want to know that you have the capacity to persevere and succeed in a challenging situation. Again, ensure you use a specific example, and walk the interviewer through the context, situation, and result. Interviewers will value a response that demonstrates you worked collaboratively yet demonstrated leadership skills.


Scenario Question Example 1:

Rose, a new nurse on your unit seems to be calling in sick frequently. You review the schedule and notice her sick days are often the Friday before her weekends off. How would you approach this situation?

Be sure to indicate that your approach would be both considerate but consistent. First, you will want to provide an opportunity for the nurse to explain why the absences are happening and if there is anything you (as the employer) can do to assist. You’d want to ensure that the staff is aware of specific expectations and that you would like to meet with them again in the near future to support your staff at being successful in his or her role. Sometimes, simply identifying a behaviour is enough to curb it. However, If the absences were justified, you provided an opportunity to obtain support. If in a unionized environment, be sure to mention that you would engage the union.

 

Scenario Question Example 2:

Dorothy, a seasoned RN on your unit, typically a conscientious nurse, recently had a series of incidents involving patients. How would you approach this situation?

Again, you would want to convey respect and consistency. Although staff satisfaction is important, one of your key responsibilities will be to ensure patient safety. You’d need to engage Dorothy in a discussion and make mention that her work is historically stellar, why the change? Provide Dorothy a safe space to request support

Describe some of your strengths and weaknesses?

Yes, believe it or not, many hiring managers still ask this question. However, avoid glazing over it by giving clichéd responses like ‘I work too hard’, or ‘I expect perfection’. For strengths, be honest and give an example. For weaknesses, focus on something that you are working to overcome and provide an example.

 How do you manage many competing priorities?

Interviewers will want to know how you navigate several issues at one time. Don’t be afraid to mention some very tangible approaches like keeping your calendar up to date or putting reminders in your phone. But also mention how you would attempt to assess the most pressing need (e.g. an issue involving patient safety versus a broken coffee machine). Provide an example of how you demonstrated effective prioritization, even one from your clinical practice. 

How do you maintain a positive work-life balance?

Nurse Management will be a busy role and a balanced work-life will be essential. Be honest, but avoid brash attempts at humor like “sipping away at boxed wine!’. Nothing against boxed wine, you just want to avoid appearing crass. Exercise, travel, cooking, or taking time to unwind are all pretty safe responses.  

How do you commit to professional development?

New Nurse Managers often have a steep learning curve. From the suite of Microsoft products, to managing email inboxes, to performance management. Interviewers will want to know that you’ve got both the desire and motivation to learn new skills. Professional development needn’t always be formal courses or certifications. Don’t hesitate to mention your commitment to reading a particular nursing or health related publication. 

Describe a time that required you to mediate between colleagues or family members

This is a critical question. Rest assured, this question (or one like it) will come up. The interviewer wants to ascertain your comfort level and ability to address challenging situations and work to resolve conflict. Avoid vague answers like “I just try to talk to people to get to the bottom of it”. Use concrete examples of how you intervened and resolved a volatile situation.

Do you have any questions for us?

This question typically gets asked near the end of the interview and although it may seem like the ball is in their court, it’s perfectly appropriate to have come ready with your own questions. Don’t forget, you’re interviewing them as well and you are both motivated to ensure both you and the role are a good fit.  

Some questions that might be appropriate to ask include:

  • What does success look like for this role?
  • What would you consider the more challenging aspects of this job?
  • Why do you enjoy working here?


Avoid inappropriate questions or questions that can be asked when offered the job. For example:

  • What type of unit is this? Or what type of patients do you have? (do your homework before the interview)
  • How quickly can I get promoted? (wait till  you get the job, at least)!
  • Are there other positions available? (you want to give the impression your interest lies in the role you’re interviewing for)

 

What if I don’t get the job?

Don’t get discouraged. At the very least, you’ll gain an understanding of the processspecific questions, and flow of the interview.  Employers value perseverance. If you miss an opportunity, try again later. 

Nurse Management It’s not without its challenges that may have a steep learning curve; however, it is an exciting and rewarding career and a worthwhile pursuit. Taking some time to reflect and doing some research will give you insights into the best career path for you.

 

Author Bio: 

Ro Rath is a Nova Scotian Nurse who has worked primarily in Primary Care including private for-profit, non-profit, and governmental organizations.  Currently, Ro utilizes his nursing skills to inform health related content for various audiences and publications. He lives in a small coastal village with his spouse, daughter and Basset Hound. Ro can be reached at [email protected]