what does it take to be a good nurse administrator?

Specialties Management


I am a third year nursing student at Syracuse University on the way to getting my BSN. I am planning on getting my MSN in nursing administration. I an wondering if any RN's or nurse managers, directors or administrators have any suggestions on what I should do to prepare for the position. In terms of education, experience, etc..


I currently live in The Bronx, NY --> how much does anyone think I will make as a new graduate?

I will greatly appreciate ANY input.

Hi KBaker,

First, welcome to the wonderful world of nursing :0). While I admire your plans to pursue a Master's degree, don't jump in to it too fast. I think what it takes to be an able administrater is to have a deep understanding of what the actual issues are and the only way to do that is to work at the bedside.Credibility is extremely important, as is a certain degree of clinical expertise.

Second, one of the most valuable skills to have it to be a good listener. People need to feel that they can come to you with their issues and problems.

Third, accountability. I've heard your problem, this is what I've done about and now I'm getting back to you. This promotes an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Find your niche, love your job, and then get an advanced degree. Moving up the ladder only makes you understand the issues better, though it takes longer.

I'm running on at the mouth now, hope some of my rambling has helped.

By the way, I am Unit Manager in ICU

I have been thinking about working full time as a RN,BSN and going to school part time to earn my masters. Atleast this way I can get two things done at once. I can still get the beside experience while acquiring my degree. I think that even after I get my degree I will continue to work at the beside for a while until I feel comfortable enough to leave that position and move up the ladder. I am interested in finding out how I can acquire leadership/management/supervisory skills as an RN before I apply for an nursing administrative management, executive postion.

For example, head nurse, or something along those lines to start out with. I need to have acquired some form of experience in management before I apply for my main goal. Is 4/5 years enough experience as an RN before I can start to slowly move up? Please help! I am desperate for information.

Hi again, KBaker!

Your time lines depend on a number of things, your age, your clinical expertise and you committment to and area/ field. I know it may not be fair, but if you are going to graduate at 21 or 22 , I think it would be unrealistic to think that you'd be accepted as a senior administrator in 4-5 years. I would urge you again to find your niche (med, surg, Er, whatever), love it and then staret moving up. It depends on the area as to whether 4-5 years is enough. I entered management in ICU after 12 years experience and still have a LOT to learn about the area. Believe me, your credibility will suffer if you are not considered a clinical expert. eg: a hospital in my area hired a physiotherapist to be the Patient Care Manager for ICU. Even though her responsibilities didn't much influence patient care, it was felt that she didn't have a really good handle on the issues.

Godd luck, I think working on your MN part time while you work is a good idea, it's hard though :)

kbaker: Choose excellent role models. Assess how they function and why what they do works. I had a supervisor many years ago who worked a day, evening, and night shift each and every month so she had a handle on what was happening. I have worked with "managers" one or two years out of school who had the best intentions, but had no idea of what it meant to work as a nurse. Keep your long-term goal of working in management and learn all you can from really good managers. Short term, just learn how to be a good nurse. Best wishes.

I have been a nurse manager for 10 years. As I have seen things change it has become clear that not only do you have to have the clinical and management skills but you also need to know financial. In order for you to get what you need for your nurses you have to be able to understand the financial people and they speak a whole different language. In order to have crediability with them you have to understand the numbers. Now they do not have to understand you but they hold the purse strings. I also agree with the above statements, in order to hold the nurses you need to be a clinical expert so they will respect you also. It is a big goal. Remember: "If the dream is big enough, the facts don't count" Dexter Yager.

Good luck

It takes a variety of skills to be a successful nurse manager. It helps to have worked the roles you will supervise, there is much to be said for having walked in the shoes!! You need to be a good listener but consistency is extremely important. Your staff will respect you if you treat all staff equally, no favorites or special treatment. Also, you are very young and maturity will help. My niece is in a nursing program in Syracuse, I am from northern NY. Good luck to you. Don't get discouraged. All good things come in time.

Good luck

Hi Kbaker, I'm a Nursing Administrator (CNO) and finished my MSN in nursing administration after I already had 13 years of experience. I agree with the advice of others about being clinically expert, but you also have to have an entirely separate skill set to be a successful nursing administrator. First of all you have to have expert interpersonal skills. Nursing Administrators have to be able to work with managers and directors from many different departments and those employees have different values, priorities, and many times a different language all their own. You have to be able to know the numbers and appreciate the business side of healthcare administration. You also have to know a lot about human resource management, employment law, and risk management. During any typical workday, I change hats constantly - one minute I may be at the patient's bedside running a code, the next I may be working on capital equipment budgets, dealing with an upset doctor of family member, coaching subordinates, interviewing potential employees, writing employment ads for the newspaper, working on JCAHO compliance, or fixing a jammed copying machine. At one job, I even learned how to jump start the back-up generator (just in case) before Hurricane Opal hit us.

I recommend that you get several years of bedside experience and latch on to nursing leaders who are successful and willing to mentor you. I've had several excellent mentors during my career. Lastly, I recommend that you develop a very thick skin and learn how to break into the "good ole boys club". You'll never get what you need for your nurses unless you do. Hope this helps.


1st. It's a challenge to be confronted with a righteous attitude.

2nd. You must have a tolerance for stupidy.

3rd. Access too a bulldozer when necessary.

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