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New nurse managers: tips for engaging your former peers

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One of the most challenging aspects of taking a leadership role as a nurse is figuring out the best way to engage and educate your staff. For leaders that are promoted internally, it can be especially difficult to redefine your professional relationship with former peers and assert yourself as a leader.

Beth Boynton, RN, MS, has some advice for those who are struggling with this transition:

Expect respect: Nursing units can be a tight-knit group; it’s very likely that a new nurse manager has grown-up and bonded with the other nurses in their unit. When taking on a leadership position, make sure that everyone knows that you expect to be treated with respect.

If a staff member fails to treat you with the respect, use incidents as a potential learning opportunity. Meet with staff member individually, and discuss how their actions were disrespectful. You could even address the shift in your relationship directly, and discuss how you can build a positive working relationship.

Shift the culture: When you take on a leadership role, there are probably habits and behaviors that you tolerated as a staff member but would like to correct as a leader. You should consider holding training sessions on proper communication so that you can create explicit norms and expectations that you can use to hold your staff accountable. In this aspect, support from hospital leadership can be helpful, and you can work with your supervisors on strategies to monitor and enforce these new norms.

For more advice on leading staff, check out the leadership section of the Strategies for Nurse Managers’ Reading Room. Here are some examples of what you’ll find there:

The fundamentals of accountability

Talking the talk: Teach new residents effective communication techniques

Nurses urged to examine their changing roles