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Navigating the transition from staff nurse to manager


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Becoming a manager for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. You will need a whole new set of skills and abilities than you needed in your previous non-managerial position. It is helpful to assess your professional skills so you understand where you are and what skills you need to learn and develop.

The best way to assess your existing professional skills is to use a reference tool. Such tools may include job descriptions, industry standards, etc.

When selecting tools, base them on your past clinical performance. Doing so will allow you to incorporate existing expertise into your new role. If possible, select several tools, as one tool may not encompass all professional areas.

You should also complete and document a self-assessment. Be deliberate and candid when evaluating yourself. When filling out the self-assessment, try to evaluate as many areas of professional performance and behavior as possible. When you have finished writing the assessment, review it for candor and honesty. Also solicit input from mentors and organizational leaders using the same tool. Doing so provides a mechanism to compare findings and formulate baseline skills. Afterward, take careful consideration of the findings, and thank the leaders for contributing.

Remember, the transition from staff nurse to manager will present challenges that are difficult to assess. Unlike the clinical performance of a nurse, the skills and skill development of a manager are less measurable because these outcomes are not assessed by patient-care outcomes. Rather, management behaviors only draw on the fundamentals found in the clinical setting. A useful evaluation tool will reflect the differences between the expectations of clinical nurses and those of nursing mangers.

As part of the assessment, it is important to diagnose, or identify, your areas of strength as a manager and those areas that need improvement. First, let's review how nursing diagnosis works to better understand its application to management.

Nursing diagnosis is clinical judgment about individual, family, or community responses to actual or potential health problems/life processes. A diagnosis is a concept that consolidates the analysis and identification of attributes. These attributes exist by nature, personality trait, or learned behaviors. Nursing management is similar to nursing diagnosis. By replacing "clinical" judgment with "management," you begin to describe the process in a useful manner for managers. In addition, maintaining the "responses to actual or potential" questions or issues will facilitate open-ended discussion and comprehensive performance assessment.

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from HCPro's book A Practical Guide to Nurse Management in the ED: Skills for Nurse Managers. Check out our other nursing resources here.