Gearing Up for Management

By Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, CSP

Are you a staff nurse who aspires to someday move into a supervisory role? Would you like to eventually work in nursing or health care administration? Are you considering a leadership role in a professional association or community group? Here are some steps to get you moving in the right direction.

Have a heart-to-heart talk with your supervisor. Let your supervisor know about your aspirations, and ask for assignments that would help prepare you for that role. Ask your supervisor how he or she got started and what was learned along the way. You can have this discussion during an annual evaluation — or, better yet, make a special appointment to sit down and discuss your career goals. .

Work on your formal education. A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement for most management positions. Having a master’s degree will give you a competitive edge. It’s not just the credential that’s helpful here; it’s the knowledge and skill you’ll acquire pursuing that degree. Although a BSN is becoming standard for nursing practice and an MSN for nursing management in some settings, nurse managers and administrators hold a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees these days, including those in nursing, business, health care management, and public health. There’s no one “right” degree to have.. .

Join and become active in related professional associations. Consider joining the American Organization of Nurse Executives www.aone.org. While some management organizations require you work in a specific capacity to qualify for membership, AONE welcomes all nurses who either hold a management position or aspire to that role. It offers mentoring, educational resources, conferences and workshops, and publications all related to leadership. Also look into the American College of Healthcare Executives www.ahce.org and the National Association Directors of Nursing Administration – Long-Term Care www.nadona.org.

Joining your state chapter of the American Nurses Association (and/or a specialty association) is a great way to become aware of trends and issues. You can’t be an effective manager if you don’t know what’s going on in your profession. Getting on a committee or volunteering for a leadership position in the organization is a great way to develop your leadership skills. .

Study the art of management. Management is not simply the process of supervising people, nor is it something you get better at through experience alone. There is knowledge to acquire related to human resources, financial management, and regulatory issues. There are skills to master, such as conflict management, negotiating, team building and oral and written communication. How can you learn all of these things? There are plenty of great books out there on management and related topics, many specific to the nursing and health care industry. Also, look into classroom and online courses. .

Develop a professional image. Image does matter. Your appearance, your mannerisms, and the way you hold yourself make a loud statement about who you are. If you aspire to move into a management position or simply want to have access to the best career opportunities, you need a professional image to match the professional person you are. Pay attention to your grooming, clothing (even scrubs), accessories, posture, and so on. Create an image that conveys professionalism and an air of confidence, competence, and authority. This applies to networking and workplace social situations as well as everyday work situations. In other words, look the part. .

Network, network, network. I’m fond of saying everything happens through networking. Thanks to personal contacts and connections, you can acquire knowledge, make connections, uncover unadvertised jobs, get advice, and gain introductions. There are many ways to network, but one of the most effective is to get out regularly to professional association meetings, conventions, and educational programs. If you don’t already have business cards, have some made so you can exchange contact information and stay in touch. .

Look for role models and mentors. Whom do you admire or aspire to be like? Who is doing something you would love to someday do? These might be people at work, those you know through professional associations, or others both in and out of nursing. Go out of your way to associate with these people, talk to them, and get them on your team. Make an effort to meet them face to face at formal networking events, such as meetings, conventions, and symposiums. Communicate with them by phone or e-mail. Show an interest in these individuals, convey your aspirations, and ask for their help and advice in achieving your career goals. .

Seek out opportunities. Don’t wait for an opportunity to be handed to you. If you’re interested in a management position posted at your place of employment, apply for it. If there’s a position in another facility in which you’re interested, try getting an interview. Since there’s a limited number of management positions in any one workplace, it’s sometimes necessary to seek opportunities elsewhere. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Every successful manager and administrator once started out exactly where you are now.

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