Jump to content

6 Phrases Every Nurse Manager Must Learn to Say

Management Article   (2,823 Views 5 Replies 956 Words)
by Melissa Mills Melissa Mills, BSN (Member) Writer Innovator Expert

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

9 Followers; 116 Articles; 22,630 Profile Views; 277 Posts

As a nurse leader, you walk a fine line between upper management and those who report to you. It isn't always a comfortable or easy place to navigate. You might find yourself in some situations that are downright difficult. However, keeping these six phrases in your "speed-dial" of things you need to learn to say when you work in nursing leadership, will help you succeed.

6 Phrases Every Nurse Manager  Must Learn to Say

Being a nurse leader is challenging. You might often feel like you are performing an impossible balancing act between management and the staff in your department. You want staff to respect you and bring concerns to you first. You hope your hard work and dedication is noticed by your supervisors, peers, and employees. You work to seize opportunities, rally the troops, and achieve or even exceed company expectations for safe and quality care.

All of this pressure, whether part of the job or self-imposed, can place you right in the middle of difficult to navigate circumstances. Maybe you said too much or not enough. You might be in a situation you’ve never been in before, and you aren’t quite sure how to handle it. Or - and, we’ve all been here - you stuck your foot in your mouth in a big way. These are times that call for a few phrases that need to be on your “speed-dial” of things you need to learn to say when you work in leadership. And, they can be used regardless of your nursing leadership style.

I’m Sorry

Apologies restore relationships. However, no one ever said that apologizing is easy. You might even consider apologies as a sign of weakness or fear that saying “sorry” will shine a bright light on your own imperfections. But, saying you’re sorry (and actually meaning it) is a sign of strength and character.

When you apologize, it starts the process of bringing the matter to an end. It demonstrates your own humility, transparency, and humanness. No one wants to work for someone who can’t admit that they make mistakes. When you allow those who report to you to see you at your worst, they will respect you even more when you’re at your best.

How Can I Help You?

It’s critical that nurse leaders remember their humble beginnings. You might have a fancy office with a shiny nameplate on the door, but your first role in the hospital was that of a nurse or maybe a nurse aide. So, when the you-know-what hits the fan, it’s essential that you head out on the unit and ask your staff if they need help.

Even when life is good, and everyone showed up for their shift, stopping by the nurse’s station to check on the crew just means a lot. If you have new staff or nurses in new roles, schedule one-on-one meetings with them at 30, 60, and 90 days to see how things are going and ask them how you can help. If you have a nurse that’s struggling with a particular skill, patient, or even life at home - take five minutes to ask this question. It shows you care and will encourage employees to come to you when they need help.

What Do You Need From Me as a Leader?

This is my personal favorite. When I was working in leadership, I used this phrase often. I always used this as an interview question. I was fascinated by the answers. Some individuals would say “nothing,” but most people could give great insight into how they worked when they answered this question honestly. Typical responses ranged from clear expectations to independence to specific equipment or workspace considerations.

When an employee tells you what they need - listen. This is an excellent time for you to engage and elicit more information from those on your team. They will likely provide more insight into what motivates them to do a good job than what they even realize.

Here’s Why

No one wants to be given the “because I said so” answer, especially not adults. Being a nurse leader isn’t a dictatorship. It’s called leadership because you have qualities that make others want to follow you.

One of your most important functions is to educate staff on why things are done a particular way. Give them the rationale behind big decisions, especially unpopular ones. They might not like the answer, but if they know that you will always provide the “why” they can probably come to live with the solution a little quicker.

Thank You

This phrase should come out of your mouth lots! Again, be sure you mean it and that you give it the space that it needs. Don’t say “thanks” on the fly. Fully engage with the person that has done something that you noticed or went above and beyond. Keep blank notecards in your desk drawer and write a note of thanks to one staff person each week. This works well if you work in a facility with multiple shifts that you don’t always see. However, the best way to show gratitude is to say it directly to the person.

Great Job

Everyone likes to receive praise. They might not want trinkets, cake, or a party to make over them for every single accomplishment, but they will enjoy an honest acknowledgment of when they did a good job. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can even combine “Great Job” with “Thank You” and watch staff members flourish.

Being a nurse leader isn’t always easy. However, if you invest in those around you by using these phrases and matching your actions to your words, you will likely be successful.

Do you have other phrases you use as a leader? Or, maybe you’ve worked with a leader who is exceptional and isn’t afraid to say they’re sorry or use other phrases like these. Share your experiences in the comments below.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

9 Followers; 116 Articles; 22,630 Profile Views; 277 Posts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

klone has 13 years experience as a MSN, RN and specializes in Women's Health/OB Leadership.

3 Followers; 13,256 Posts; 114,622 Profile Views

Another phrase that I have found IMMENSELY helpful...when a staff member comes to me with a problem with a coworker, I will say "And when you talked to her about it, how did she respond?"

It lets them know that I expect them to attempt to resolve their own differences and disagreements, rather than "tattling to mom."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

9 Followers; 116 Articles; 277 Posts; 22,630 Profile Views

On 2/27/2019 at 11:54 AM, klone said:

Another phrase that I have found IMMENSELY helpful...when a staff member comes to me with a problem with a coworker, I will say "And when you talked to her about it, how did she respond?"

It lets them know that I expect them to attempt to resolve their own differences and disagreements, rather than "tattling to mom."

I agree, Klone! Setting expectations upfront is the sign of a great leader. 

Thanks for sharing. ~Melissa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are you a credible source? Add your Credentials, Experience, etc.

39 Posts; 808 Profile Views

These are all good points. The only thing I would add is that when I tell a coworker. "Great job," I like to add how I know that. For instance. "Great job. Mrs X says she feels so much better since you changed her dressing." or Great job. Mr. Y looks less anxious since you explained his procedure." 

I know my coworkers are pleased to know that I am able to see the results of their efforts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

KPRN1 specializes in Ortho, Geri, Pedi.

2 Posts; 84 Profile Views

How can I help you! I loved this one. As a charge nurse, I always watched my nurses, not in a micromanagement sense, but to notice if they are stressed, running behind on things, a patient taking a turn for the worse, or just off their game. I was never one to sit at the desk and watch nurses sink. My crew, I feel respected me for that. I gave them assignment choices when we could. For instance, if they wanted a full group and no admissions or if they wanted fewer patients and take admissions if necessary. I generally took a couple of patients myself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

K+MgSO4 has 12 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Surgical, quality,management.

1 Follower; 1,604 Posts; 21,874 Profile Views

I can't fix that, but I will find out who does.  It shows that you don't know everything but you know how to ask the right people.  Really helps with people you have on a leadership track as sometimes they think they have to "know" everything. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
×