When you’re thinking about your career goals in nursing, they might include a more advanced position, such as nursing management or nursing leadership. Knowing more about leadership vs management in nursing can help you decide which path is right for you. Consider the following as you weigh your healthcare career options.
Differences Between a Leader and Manager in Nursing
What are the differences between a leader and a manager in nursing? Leadership and management roles in nursing are similar in some ways, but there are notable differences between them. Nursing managers are responsible for managing day-to-day operations in nursing departments and supervising department staff. Leaders typically supervise nursing teams and ensure the overall success of the unit or hospital as a whole.
Similarities Between Nursing Leaders and Managers
Nursing leaders and managers share some similarities, mainly in terms of the kinds of skills required for these jobs. Whether you work as a nursing leader or manager, you’ll need to develop solid leadership and management skills. To succeed in either of these positions, you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively with others. You’ll also need to work on your critical thinking and problem-solving skills so you can make informed decisions regarding patient care as a nurse leader or day-to-day operations as a nursing manager. Both roles can also involve delegating tasks to others on a regular basis.
Keep in mind that there are different leadership styles that nursing leaders and managers might use. These include servant leaders who focus on supporting team members individually and transformational leaders who focus on uniting nursing teams. Democratic leaders focus on making improvements to the system overall, while authoritarian leaders have a take-charge approach that usually doesn’t include feedback from team members. Laissez-faire leaders typically have a more laid-back, reactive leadership style.
Why Both Are Important
Nursing leaders and nursing managers both play essential roles in ensuring high-quality patient healthcare. While managers focus on making sure patients are receiving the care they need or finding ways to improve day-to-day procedures, leaders concentrate on the bigger picture. Both roles are needed for facilities to continue providing dependable healthcare services.
Role of Nurse Manager
A nurse manager primarily focuses on keeping daily operations in the department running as efficiently as possible. These managers usually don’t handle patient care in a direct way. Instead, they supervise nurses and other staff members and provide training as needed. Nurse managers might also be responsible for creating a budget for their department, hiring staff members, ensuring electronic records are up-to-date, and interacting with stakeholders. When you work as a nurse manager, you might also need to work with other managers in the facility and step in when difficult situations occur between healthcare professionals and their patients. Your responsibilities might also include overseeing healthcare insurance issues.
Role of Nurse Leader
A nurse leader focuses on making sure individual patients receive quality care. As a nursing leader, your responsibilities may include overseeing a nursing team and working on improving patient care, as needed. Nursing leaders are often expected to make patient care more efficient to help reduce hospitals stays, lower the risk of readmissions, and reduce healthcare costs. Other responsibilities you might have in this position include lowering turnover rates among nurses at your facility, providing patients with education to help them manage medical conditions better, and helping them understand their treatment plans to improve outcomes. Nursing leaders might also provide healthcare services directly in addition to educating patients. You’ll also need to continue learning to remain up to date on healthcare research that’s relevant to your area of nursing.
Knowing the job outlook for nurse managers and nurse leaders can help you determine which career path you would like to pursue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t specifically provide a job outlook for nurse managers. However, BLS does state that the job outlook for medical and health services managers from 2019 through 2029 overall is projected at a 32 percent rate, which is much higher than usual. The national average for all jobs in the U.S. is 4 percent. The average salary for medical and health services managers is $104,280, although it can vary depending on the type of facility you work at. For example, medical and health services managers at hospitals have an average salary of $112,870 per year while those working in outpatient care centers have an average annual pay of $100,690.
BLS does not offer specific job outlook and salary information for nurse leaders. However, the job outlook for registered nurses in general from 2019 to 2029 is 7 percent, which is higher than average. The median pay for registered nurses is $75,330 per year, but this varies based on the type of facility. Those working in hospitals might make roughly $76,840 annually, while those working in ambulatory healthcare settings might make $72,340 per year.
How to Become a Nurse Leader
Becoming a nurse leader involves becoming a registered nurse first. In order to do this, you’ll need to earn your undergraduate nursing degree and pass the required NCLEX exam. Passing this exam means you’ll be licensed to work as a registered nurse.
Your next step may include earning a graduate degree from an accredited program. While working on your graduate degree, you can expect to gain clinical experience that help you turn classroom learning into the practical skills you’ll need on the job.
From there, you’ll need to become certified if you plan to work as a nurse leader. You can do this through a certification program, such as the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification Program offered by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. After completing these steps, you’ll be able to begin working as a nursing leader.
If you’re leaning toward becoming a nurse leader, we can help. American Sentinel College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Post University offers a Master of Science in Nursing with an Organizational Leadership Specialization. This online program provides you with a solid education, so you can build the skills required for a nurse leadership position. Please contact us today for more information about this program.
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