A nurse manager standing with arms folded.

How to Become a Nurse Manager

Nursing: Healthcare Systems Leadership

As health care becomes increasingly complex—with new medical technologies driving advances and aging baby boomers needing more care—the importance of the nurse manager’s role continues to grow in the clinical and financial aspects of the health care system. Educating and training nurse managers are crucial aspects of an overall health care staffing plan. Along with expected growth in nurse employment rates, the number of nurse managers must grow to lead this pool of employees.

Chief nursing officer of Munster, Indiana’s Community Hospital, Ronda J. McKay, noted the following in the news source HealthLeaders: “[Nurse managers] are critical to the mission of the organization. We need to make sure that they are competent to do the job that they’re put in charge to do.”

Individuals who are interested in leading a team of nurses, and participating in the future of health care, can consider earning a degree in the field, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Here is important information on how to become a nurse manager. 

What Does a Nurse Manager Do?

Nursing supervisory positions include nurse leaders and nurse managers. Nurse leaders, who are commonly titled officers, vice presidents, or directors, are responsible for helping achieve a health care facility’s mission. Closely involved with executing a facility’s annual goals, they often help develop new ideas that play a role in patient care standards and costs.

Typically reporting to a nurse leader, the nurse manager is involved in the basic details of guiding a department, from ensuring that nurses properly fulfill patient needs, to creating work and time-off schedules that enable nurses to meet all standards of care. Professionals in this position can mentor and train other health care professionals, serve as an “ambassador” for a health care institution, and work on various financial issues such as patient billing.

Managers in nursing, who often have the title of clinical nurse manager or nurse administrator, play an active, hands-on role in their health facility. Involved in building staff morale and customer satisfaction, they must possess communication and problem-solving skills to both verbalize and resolve the challenges and concerns of staff and patients.

Take the Steps to Become a Nurse Manager

Individuals who are interested in becoming a nurse manager should know the job requires advanced education and on-the-job experience. Here are the necessary steps to assume this key role.

Step #1: Earn Your BSN Degree

To train as a nurse manager, nursing students must begin with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). With a BSN, nurses will gain the fundamental clinical knowledge and nursing skills that can prepare them to pursue an advanced degree and, eventually, focus on a particular nurse specialty or nurse leadership role.

Step #2: Gain On-the-Job Experience as a Nurse    

To qualify for a nurse manager role, an individual must also possess an active license as an RN. Working as an RN provides valuable hands-on experience. Whether working in a hospital, nursing home, or other facility, nurses benefit from taking on management tasks as they pursue advanced positions. Work experience also helps nurses develop superior communication and leadership abilities, which are key qualities in a good nurse manager.

Step #3: Expand Your Knowledge Through an MSN and Certifications         

Aspiring nurse managers typically earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), such as the one offered online through Norwich University. The degree program—taught by doctoral faculty—prepares participants to take the National League for Nursing Nurse Educator Certification Exam (for the Nurse Educator track) and the ANCC Informatics Nursing Certification Exam (for the Nursing Informatics track).

Students can obtain an MSN with a health care systems leadership, nursing education, nursing informatics, or nurse practitioner concentration. The NP concentration offers tracks in family medicine, adult gerontology acute care, and psychiatric mental health. The program enables individuals to learn how to shape future health policy, educate a new generation of nurses, and more. To qualify for admission at Norwich University, applicants must have the following.

  • A bachelor’s degree from a program accredited by the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • An active RN license
  • An undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Undergraduate courses in statistics and research           

After earning an advanced degree, nurse managers can also gain critical skills and credibility by receiving certifications, such as these offered by the American Organization for Nursing Leadership.

  • Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP)
  • Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML)

Graduates of the nurse practitioners tracks are eligible to sit for one of the following corresponding certification exams offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

  • Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC)
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC)
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan) Certification (PMHNP-BC)

Skills of a Nurse Manager

To become a nurse manager, nurses need to develop certain essential skills to serve as the bridge between administration and direct patient care. Essential competencies of the nurse manager span various areas.

  • Staff development and management
  • Human resources leadership skills
  • Budgeting and financial forecasting
  • Knowledge of information technology
  • Project management
  • Ethical behavior
  • Cultural competence
  • Involvement in professional associations
  • Conflict management and problem solving

Nurse Manager Salaries and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for nurse managers is excellent, with employment of medical and health services managers projected to grow 32% from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the 4% average for all other occupations. The BLS also notes medical and health services managers earn an annual median salary of $100,980.

Annual salaries can vary based on healthcare facility, geographic location, education level, and experience. The highest 10% of medical and health services managers can earn more than $189,000, while the lowest 10% earn less than $58,820.

Begin Your Nurse Manager Career

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program helps students obtain the knowledge and skills to hold positions in nursing informatics, health care systems leadership, and nursing education. Norwich’s online Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Practitioner program offers three tracks –– Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner ––  for students interested in focusing their education in a specialized area of advanced practice nursing.

The program develops students to take leadership roles in shaping health care policy, educating other nurses and health care professionals, and providing advanced care to patients. The online nursing program curriculum is based on the guidelines outlined by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, and is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

If you are wondering how to become a nurse manager, explore how a Master of Science in Nursing can help you advance your career in the field.


Recommended Readings

Nurse Manager vs. Nurse Leader
5 Leadership Styles for Clinical Nurse Leaders
6 Common Nurse Leadership Jobs for Master of Science in Nursing Graduates


Investing in Nurse Management Development Pays Off, HealthLeaders
Nursing Shortage, National Center for Biotechnology Information
The U.S. is Running Out of Nurses, The Atlantic
Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC), American Nurses Association
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGACNP-BC), American Nurses Association
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certification (PMHNP-BC), American Nurses Association
Nurse Manager Competencies, The American Organization of Nurse Executives
Medical and Health Services Manager, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Nursing Manager Salary, PayScale

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