Nurse Managers … Hate them or Love Them?

The Nurse Manager…we all have one. What do we as nurses want in a Nurse Manager? I know what I want, so I asked some of my fellow colleagues to contrast and compare their feelings with my own. Lets look at some of the comments I received…

“I want a manager who is professional. I want to be treated with professional respect, not talked down to, not disciplined in front of my colleagues and I want a manager who addresses concerns in a timely fashion”.

“We need a nurse manager who demonstrates integrity, fights for us, speaks the truth and walks their talk”.  

“I want a nurse manager that truly wants to make our unit better, who stands beside us and not above us. A manager who puts an end to bullying and encourages a healthy work environment”.

“I want a manager who is fair and does not play favourites. Consistency is paramount”.

“I want a manager who knows my name and understands what I do in a shift”.

“We need a manager who is diplomatic, fair, and honest in resolving conflicts. We also need a manager who communicates effectively and values us enough to tell the nurses the reasons for the change. It allows us to feel like more of a team”.

There were many more comments, but I think you get the basic feeling.  Nurses want to feel important, they want to feel like they are not just a number and that they are valued as part of the team. Nurses want a strong leader who communicates effectively, actively moves towards eliminating a poisoned work environment and fights for them, or at least stands by them. They want to be supported to grow and excel in the nursing profession, not made to feel bad or doubt their desire to be a nurse.

While researching this topic I came across an interesting statistic. In one study, 84% of nurses leaving or considering leaving their jobs did so as a result of their relationships with their Nurse Manager (Schmalenberg & Kramer, August 2009). I know this statistic is older, but it is a pretty high percent don’t you think? If we conducted that study now, would it be the same? The main reason for this statistic was that the nurses did not feel like they were supported. Nurses stated that they felt like it was “them against the world”. Nurse manager support is a critical factor in maintaining healthy work environments.

I have worked under many managers in the past 22 years. Some great… some absolutely horrific.

So now let’s take a look at a supportive manager. I personally know and admire a Nurse Manager of an Emergency Room that gets rave reviews from her staff. How many people can get called into their manager’s office for discipline or to discuss an incident and walk out thanking their manager? Weird eh? Most nurses would walk out of the office disappointed, upset, frustrated or angry. So why do most of this manager’s staff “love” her? They “love” her because she is a supportive manager. She follows the rules, is fair, and demands that her staff have professional respect for each other, she demands that they support each other and work together as a team. If you bully, show incivility or are just plain mean to people…well you better start looking for another place to work. This manager will not stand for a poisoned working environment and removes those who poison it, no matter how many years experience you have or how good of a nurse you are. Wow that’s a statement isn’t it? This manager fights to keep her staff safe. Oh and she jumps in and is active at the beside when her staff needs another set of hands.

Not all managers have the same managerial style, and not all styles meet the needs of the staff. Managers often get attacked when change is implemented. Change often elicits dissatisfaction with our management. Why is this?

Do we just complain and stomp our feet about any changes in our departments or institutions because we are feeling undervalued?  Is it really the changes that we are upset about?  Do we wish that our value would have been brought to light by asking our opinions before changes were implemented? Maybe we don’t have faith in our management team, maybe your management team repeatedly lets you down… or do we as nurses honestly just not like change?

We also have to be fair and keep in mind that our managers are not here just to keep “us” happy, they do have to answer to those above them, and not all decisions are directly made by your direct manager. That is why communication about what your needs are with your manager is so important. Whether they listen or not, email those problems and solutions. We also have the duty to make an attempt to be part of the team. If we have a legitimate problem or complaint, lets try to offer a solution or idea to guide the conversation with our manager towards a resolution. This might also give your manager an idea that they would not have come up with that will be more suitable as a “fix” to the problem.  With our managers support we CAN fix some of our own problems and concerns. How do our managers know what we need if we don’t tell them? Start talking nurses!

Tell your managers what you need and bring your concerns, its worth a try. Let’s hope our managers are listening and not just hearing.

So where does your management team or manager stand? Supportive? Not supportive?

Till the next time we have coffee. Cheers



Schmalenberg, C., & Kramer, M. (August 2009). Nurse Manager Support: How Do Staff Nurses Define it? Critical Care Nurse, 29(4), 61–69.

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