When a staff nurse becomes a manager or director it is the result of a combination of clinical excellence, education, and leadership qualities inherent or developed within the individual. He or she typically has a number of years experience on the unit and within the organization – they know the ins and outs and are respected by their peers. What the newly promoted manager is typically lacking is business training, even if they have completed a BSN and/or MSN program.
These programs generally do not offer any or enough curriculum focused on teaching new nursing leaders how to most effectively and efficiently run their business, i.e., their unit. This accountability has traditionally fallen to the organization. Sadly, we hear from many organizations and frustrated nurse managers that the on-the-job training is neither effective nor geared to their learning styles and background.
Identifying the Gaps
Financial and analytics wherewithal are typically the most significant gaps in a nurse’s management acumen. Familiarity with these two areas can catapult a good nurse manager into an all-star with unlimited upward potential.
The ability to analyze metrics and make the connections to implement improvements is not a terribly difficult skill to learn. Depending on the aptitude of the individual, he or she could be competent in just a few hours of training. More training will be needed for mastery, but with a foundational understanding he or she will be able to build on their knowledge by managing through real-life, everyday scenarios.
However, unless given the opportunity of a good mentor (or mentors) to provide the insight and hands-on training to assist them through the process initially, most new managers are not prepared to add insight or positively disrupt (and improve) the unit’s established processes. They will show up to their first meetings with finance either uninformed or intimidated in what can and should be (but typically isn’t) a highly collaborative partnership. As a new manager, there is a whole slew of jargon and terminology that is foreign to them; much like how the DRGs codes and drug abbreviations are unknown to finance.
The role of the nurse manager is critical in the ability of an organization to meet financial and quality targets. Organizations that invest in the skill building of these valuable leaders will experience better results and outcomes.
Closing the Gaps
The waste that occurs with regard to healthcare labor management happens one decision at a time. These seemingly insignificant decisions happen every day and on every unit within a hospital or health system. Just as individual drops of rain can become a downpour, so to do poor decisions coalesce into missed targets.
Stepping back and thinking rationally, away from the staff on the unit and the patients who need care, it is easy to question the thought process from a strictly numbers or analytical standpoint. But when you are that nurse manager on the unit, making these seemingly little decisions that alone will not make a major difference or impact to the bottom line, we are reminded that healthcare is a compassion-centric profession, especially with caregivers. Having the training to separate some of the emotion-based elements from the business operations will result in more data-driven decisions.
The first step to establishing an effective nursing leadership business training program is to embed and facilitate a culture of collaboration and mentorship, both internal to nursing and between nursing and other departments, particularly finance. Depending upon the current state of the organization, this can be initiated with a shared team-building session which could include HR, nursing and finance in which executive leadership, or whomever appropriate, sets the stage and reminds the team of the company mission/vision. All groups within the organization are working toward the same goal: to provide efficient, top-quality patient care.
My next post will outline the specific ways an organization can implement a training program to help close these critical gaps in a nurse’s management skill set.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the enterprise tools and strategies needed to effectively manage labor.