What Is The Difference Between Nurse Leaders vs. Nurse Managers

difference between nurse leaders and nurse managers

Being a nurse comes with some inherent leadership and management traits. Whether taking responsibility for patient outcomes or supervising care teams, nurses use their knowledge and influence for positive results.

Often used synonymously, nurse managers and nurse leaders share similar traits. However, they can have distinct roles within health care—this article explores what they are.

The Nurse Leader

A nurse leader can be described, in short, as inspirational. Even when they are not in a position of authority, nurse leaders will influence others.

Nurse leaders typically have exceptional communication skills and interpersonal competencies. They focus on empowering their colleagues to do what’s best for patients, themselves and their organizations. These are leaders dedicated to providing quality care efficiently and effectively.

There are actual nurse leadership roles, including nurse manager and nurse administrator. A nurse leader sets standards and embodies the organization’s mission and vision. In many cases, they are less task-oriented. Here are some of the responsibilities of nurse leaders who are administrators in health care:

●  Develop policies and procedures

●  Recruit, train, and supervise staff

●  Facilitate professional development activities

●  Represent nursing staff in meetings

Furthermore, nurse leaders should possess certain skills and traits. The American Organization for Nursing Leadership lists the core set of nurse executive competencies and their components:

●  Communication and relationship-building—effective communication; relationship management (including with medical staff); influential; diversity focus; and community involvement.

●  Knowledge of the healthcare environment—knowledge of clinical practice, patient-care delivery models, health care policy and governance; research skills; supporting, monitoring and improving patient safety programs; improving performance; and risk management.

●  Leadership—foundational thinking skills; learning from setbacks and successes; systems thinking; succession planning; and change management.

●  Professionalism—personal and professional accountability; career planning; upholding ethical principles and compliance standards; and advocacy.

●  Business Skills—financial management; human resource management; strategic management; and information and technology management.

The Nurse Manager

Nurse managers ensure day-to-day functions run as smoothly as they can. They are involved in several specific tasks related to patient care and staff management. These activities range from treatment planning to mentoring new nurses. In addition, nurse managers:

●  Communicate and coordinate with medical team members

●  Prepare and monitor budgets

●  Schedule nursing shifts

●  Manage records

Nurse managers have leadership characteristics, but in management roles use a technical skillset. They support departmental work by making sure the necessary processes, resources and materials are being applied in practice.

Nurse managers are typically knowledgeable about current standards and use healthcare technology.

Furthermore, they serve a crucial role in centralized command. Nurse managers translate and prioritize organizational goals for frontline healthcare staff and work to remove obstacles that could impact performance. They also support staff, advocate for patients and offer a calm presence in times of emergency. Nurse managers see the direct impact of the care they provide and are usually aware of the personal and professional needs of those around them.

Achieving Goals Together

Nurse managers and nurse leaders are essential to the success of health care organizations. They create balance—leaders envision and inspire, while managers measure and maintain. Nursing practice benefits from effective leadership and management.

Aspiring nurse leaders and managers can take an important first step in Carlow’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. This BSN nursing program establishes the foundation for a nursing career, while encouraging leadership and management skills.