Nursing supervisors manage teams and seek to develop positive work environments.

Want to Become a Nursing Supervisor? Job Description and Fundamental Skills

Nursing: Healthcare Systems Leadership

Nursing supervisor jobs focus on achieving critical clinical healthcare goals, with an emphasis on improving patient care delivery, quality, and outcomes. Essential responsibilities in a typical nursing supervisor job description include managing nursing staff and establishing policies and procedures for effective patient care. Nursing supervisor jobs also involve directly interacting with patients and their families in clinical settings. Like their nursing staff, nursing supervisors are dedicated advocates for patients. Often working alongside staff nurses in treating patients, nursing supervisors are keenly aware of patient concerns. When nurses are unable to share patient observations with physicians, nursing supervisors represent nursing staff and report their findings.

As health care facilities increasingly rely on the leadership of nurse supervisors to provide optimum patient care and retain valuable nursing staff, the demand for their services increases. Nurses who choose to pursue advanced education through programs such as an online Master of Science in Nursing gain the knowledge and skills to advance into nurse supervisor roles.

The Need for Quality Nurse Supervisors

As the last of the baby boomer generation—people born within two decades after World War II—retire, the health care system will increase its demand for nurses in an industry already stretched to its limits. The World Health Statistics Report anticipates the need for an additional 1 million nurses by 2020 to address the nursing shortage.

Among the factors fueling the nursing shortage is the aging population of nurses themselves. In a Journal of Nursing Regulation report, experts project the retirement of 1 million registered nurses by 2030. With the departure of this retiring workforce comes a loss of both institutional and practical nursing knowledge.

Nurse turnover also contributes to the nursing shortage. A 2017 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that close to 20% of new nurses leave their first jobs out of college in just under a year. Factors behind this trend include burnout, nurses feeling unsupported in their work environments, and poor communication between nurses and doctors.

A nursing supervisor plays a key role in addressing the present and future challenges of the nursing shortage. Below are a few examples. 

Improve Work Environments           

One of the keys to success in nursing supervisor jobs is building knowledgeable and productive nursing teams that are effective in delivering patient care. Competent nursing supervisors ensure that work environments motivate nurses and keep them satisfied in their jobs, which helps reduce turnover and improve performance.

Balance Staffing Needs with Personal Needs

To keep nurses on the job, nursing supervisors ensure appropriate staffing levels across the entire facility while keeping workloads manageable for individual nurses. Achieving this balance minimizes burnout and improves work-life satisfaction.

Passing on Nursing Knowledge to New Nurses

Nurse supervisors address the potential loss of knowledge due to nurse retirements by establishing a collaborative, knowledge-sharing workplace culture. By creating environments where experienced nurse leaders mentor and train new nurses, nurse supervisors ensure the transfer of knowledge to sustain high-quality patient care.

Improve Communication

Good relationships between nurse supervisors, nurses, and doctors are imperative to delivering quality care. A recent article in U.S. News & World Report cites a study that shows miscommunication between nursing staff and physicians can result in medical errors. Medical errors, if tracked as a cause of death, “would rank third on the list of deadliest conditions behind heart disease and cancer,” according to the article. This figure highlights the importance of nursing supervisors teaching communication and interpersonal skills to nursing staff, especially when dealing with physicians.

The Role of the Nursing Supervisor

Ensuring the delivery of effective patient care is the foremost goal for nursing supervisors.  While their jobs largely entail the managing nursing teams, they also often take a hands-on approach to provide patient care. In addition to clinical knowledge, they use interpersonal skills to answer questions from patients and their families and resolve issues involving nursing care.

Part of the nursing supervisor job description includes staffing every shift with the appropriate number and levels of nurses. This activity is closely associated with other aspects of the nursing supervisor job: hiring nursing staff, performance evaluation, and training. Nurse supervisors proactively train new nurses about processes, procedures and administrative functions as well as identify professional development opportunities.

As administrators, nurse supervisors develop policies and guidelines for nursing staff, promote proper maintenance of patient records, and ensure nursing staff adhere to hospital and government requirements. Nurse supervisors also manage budgets for their departments. Other activities include the implementation of best practices to improve the efficiency of health care delivery, attendance at board meetings, and communication with heads of different departments.

The median annual pay for medical and health services managers, including nursing supervisors, was $99,730 as of 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job growth between 2018 and 2028 is projected to be 18%, about three times as fast as the average for all occupations.

How to Become a Nursing Supervisor

The demanding field of nursing requires that nurse supervisors possess the leadership skills to create safe and healthy environments. Nurse supervisors must combine this skill with analytical and clinical competencies to oversee the performance of nursing staff and promote nursing best practices.

Nurse supervisors also need a technical background to understand the latest technologies, such as electronic health record (EHR) systems, and train nurses on the use of these and other processes. Soft skills, such as advanced communication and interpersonal skills, help nurse supervisors build trust-based relationships with their teams, physicians, patients, and others. The combination of all these skills enables nurse supervisors to achieve goals for their health care facility, enhance nurse job satisfaction, and ensure high-quality patient care. Many medical and health services management positions, such as nursing supervisors, require a master’s degree, according to the BLS.


Norwich University's online Master of Science in Nursing program helps students advance into leadership roles through concentrations tailored to nursing supervisor jobs. The Healthcare Systems Leadership concentration prepares students to understand a leader’s role concerning topics such as finance, human resources, business management, and strategic planning.

For nurses interested in taking on educational leadership roles, the Nursing Education concentration program teaches students about advanced clinical concepts, including pharmacology and health assessment, curriculum and instruction, and measurement and evaluation. Students who complete the Nursing Education concentration can become eligible to sit for the National League for Nursing (NLN) Nurse Educator Certification Exam.

Prepare to Advance as a Nursing Supervisor

Health care professionals driven to make a difference in shaping the future of health care should consider the increasingly vital nursing supervisor job. Learn how Norwich University's online Master of Science in Nursing program prepares students to pursue promising leadership roles in nursing practice.

Recommended Reading

Leadership in Health Care: Gain Skills to Advance Your Career
Leadership Roles in Healthcare: The Nurse Director Job Market and Salary
Nurse Manager vs. Nurse Leader


What Are the Roles of a Supervisor in Primary Nursing?, Houston Chronicle
Physician-Nurse Interactions in Critical Care, American Academy of Pediatrics
Nursing Shortage, NCBI
Nursing Shortage, American Association of Colleges of Nursing
Promote Nurse Manager Job Satisfaction and Retention, American Nurse Today
How Communications Issues Between Doctors and Nurses Can Affect Your Health, U.S. News and World Report
Medical and Health Services Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Qualities of a Nurse Manager, Houston Chronicle
Can You Succeed as a Nursing Supervisor?,
An Alternative Approach to Nurse Manager Leadership, Nursing Management
Master of Science in Nursing, Norwich University
Certified Nurse Education (CNE), National League for Nursing

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