Finding Your RN Specialty: Become a Nurse Manager

Whether you just earned your Registered Nursing (RN) license or you’ve been working in a hospital or medical center for years, you may be curious about the different avenues you can pursue within the nursing field. Once you have your nursing degree and RN license, you have the ability to explore new specializations, or switch specialties via continuing education, specific on-the-job training or work experience, or various certifications. If you have a knack for leadership or a personal interest in management, you may want to consider shifting gears and explore a career as a nurse manager.

What is a Nurse Manager?

Nurse managers supervise the nursing staff in a hospital or medical facility. Besides just treating patients, they manage overall logistics that affect the nursing staff such as patient care, budgets and financial aspects, and scheduling. Many nurse managers also make personnel and staffing decisions. The nurse manager position provides the opportunity for RNs to move into a management role and stay in the medical care industry.

Nurse Manager Responsibilities

As the name implies, the nurse manager serves as a supervisor or manager in a hospital or medical facility. This means that, beyond patient care, nurse managers supervise the nursing staff, coordinate schedules, and oversee the budget and financial decisions that impact a particular site or medical facility. In addition to experience and a sound bedside manor, nurse managers also need leadership skills to develop their nursing team, as well as soft skills to work with various departments and manage different personalities.

Do Nurse Managers Treat Patients?

While specific day-to-day responsibilities will vary based on the hospital or medical facility, nurse managers traditionally have a more administrative role and often don’t treat patients unless additional help is needed.

Nurse Manager Salary

A nurse manager’s salary can vary based on location and experience. According to PayScale, the average salary for a nurse manager is $85,990.

Clinical Nurse Manager

Although an individual’s title and day-to-day duties can differ based on where they work, a clinical nurse manager is generally more of a mentor than an administrator, which is something this role has in common with a general nurse manager. A clinical nurse manager is tasked with overseeing staff performance during clinicals, which nursing students must complete to gain hands-on experience before earning their RN. During clinicals, nursing students and/or recent graduates are assigned patients and must demonstrate their aptitude to administer proper care. A clinical nurse manager’s responsibilities can include mentoring and evaluating RN’s and other medical staff during these clinicals.

Clinical Nurse Manager Salary

According to data from Payscale, the average clinical nurse manager salary is $82,742.

Lead Nurse

A lead nurse is another professional avenue that RN’s may consider. The role of lead nurse is generally less hands-on and more tactical. Lead nurses are responsible for setting standards and inspiring their team and staff members. This can consist of setting policies and quality control protocols, regulatory compliance, and focusing on patient and staff satisfaction. 

What is the Difference Between a Nurse Leader and Nurse Manager?

Certain terminology and titles may differ from one medical facility to the next. Nurse leader and nurse manager is one example. In some hospital settings, the titles may be interchangeable, but in others, a nurse leader and nurse manager play a different role on the medical team. 

A nurse leader may spend more time on big-picture, behind-the-scenes items that affect a facility, like policies, whereas a nurse manager may have more responsibilities tied to managing and developing the nursing staff.

Lead Nurse Salary

As with the clinical nurse manager and nurse manager salaries, the pay range can differ based on locations and responsibilities. According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for a lead nurse is $58,909.

How to Become a Nurse Manager

The first step to becoming a nurse manager is to obtain your nursing license. Many nurse managers start as RNs and are promoted within the hospital or medical facility or take on a leadership role after several years of experience. There are two different paths you can take to acquire the necessary certifications to become a nurse manager. The first option is to earn a certificate in executive nursing practice (CENP). According to Registered Nursing, the CENP consists of an RN license, master’s degree in nursing, and two or more years of experience in an executive role.

The second option is to acquire your certification as a nurse manager and leader (CMML). To get this certification, you’ll need your RN license, and a bachelor’s degree or higher with two or more years experience in a nurse manager role. The CMML also offers options for individuals who have a non-nursing bachelor’s or associate’s degree, as long as they have the required years of experience in a nurse manager role. 

Regardless of which certification option you choose, you must pass an exam in order to earn the certification.

Earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing is often the first step in pursuing a career as a registered nurse. While it’s not necessarily required, you may also want to pursue your master’s degree in nursing to arm yourself with the education and background to explore a specialty or take on a management or leadership role. 

If you are considering pursuing a specialized path, or just want to start your career as a RN, National University offers both undergraduate and graduate options for nursing students. With flexible online and in-person classes and four-week class schedules, you can earn your degree on your time — all while juggling work, family, or both. No matter your professional aspirations, contact an admissions advisor to learn more about the best degree program to help you pursue a rewarding career in the nursing field.