August 04, 2011 | | Comments 2
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Making the leap from “one of us” to “one of them”

One day you’re part of the group. Helping each other out, complaining about never having the supplies you want when you need them, and chipping in for pot luck holiday meals. The next, you’re promoted to manager and suddenly you become “one of them.”

Becoming a nurse manager is a tough transition for anyone, but it’s even harder when you become manager of the same unit where you worked as a staff nurse. Suddenly, you’re the one with the power—you can finally make the decisions you’ve always wanted to—but you also have all the responsibility.

One of the hardest issues to navigate is reconfiguring the relationships between yourself and your former peers. It’s key to acknowledge that the relationship has changed and that your new role is quite different.

Shelley Cohen, RN, MS, CEN, president of Health Resources Unlimited, and staunch nurse manager advocate, has written that the first things to do is obtain a copy of your job description and share it with staff. That was, they understand what you’re accountable for and what your priorities will be.

Lay out your plans for how you will manage and your expectations for the staff. As time progresses, hold yourself and the nurses to those expectations. If you said you want staff to be involved in decisions, be sure to follow through and engage them. Find tasks or projects you can delegate tasks to those interested in gaining leadership experience.

Meet with staff regularly to hear their concerns and ideas. Be on time for meetings and arrive prepared. Show that you value their time.

If they trusted you as a peer, they will soon trust you as a manager. You build trust by:

  • Managing expectations and being consistent
  • Delegating appropriately and honoring agreements
  • Sharing information and telling the truth
  • Maintaining confidentiality
  • Admitting mistakes
  • Involving others and seeking input
  • Respecting the knowledge, skills, and abilities of those with whom you work
  • Encouraging openness and mutual respect (i.e., having no hidden agendas)

Every new manager should find a mentor either within or outside the organization. Mentors can advise you about dealing with staff and will be supportive and encouraging guides. In addition, be sure to introduce yourself to your new peer group of managers within the hospital. Solicit advice from other managers who have been in your shoes.

When becoming manager of your own unit, avoid gossiping or complaining about the organization. Be sure you don’t appear to favor any team members. Above all, if you maintain a professional and respectful attitude, your staff will do the same.

Entry Information

Filed Under: Career developmentLeadership


Rebecca Hendren About the Author: Rebecca Hendren is product manager for the nursing group at HCPro, where she oversees new product development focused on training and education resources for nurse managers and nursing professional development specialists. Contact Rebecca at

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  1. I’m at this situation right now. i just got promoted as an assistant manager after 15 years of working in the unit. I just don’t know where to start and how to start. The expectations of my nurse manager from me is so vague. Can you suggest a good reading materials to develop my leadership skills, Thank you so much!

  2. How to develop leadership skill needed in responding to the social changes?

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