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10 Traits of Highly Effective Nurse Administrators

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Nursing school can lead to hundreds of different types jobs and dozens of careers, including the challenging and higher-paying ($60,000 for entry-level head-nurse jobs to more than $150,000 for executive manager positions) avenue of nursing administration.

Most new nurse administrators begin as department managers or staff supervisors and can seek to work-up to becoming department heads or assistant administrators.

Eventually, such professionals may even become administrators or chief executive officer of a facility.

Sure he or she needs to be a confident and decisive communicator, organizer, and consensus-builder with a vast knowledge of nursing science and professional nursing in-practice.

But there’s more.

Whether you’re looking to go through college at the graduate level in hopes of becoming a nurse administrator or looking to do so through retraining, here below are a few traits to aspire to.


More times than not, and at all levels, a highly-effective nurse administrator is:

1. a pragmatic realist…

…someone who recognizes the talents and limitations of themselves and their people, who works within those boundaries, seeking to expand them when appropriate.

2. a time-management guru…

…who has mastered his or her own schedule and those of the people he or she organizes and empowers to be organized (whether it’s scheduling nurses in for shifts or estimating the time needed to implement a new policy)

3. an expert in knowledge of business principles…

…including the ability to develop a departmental budget and operate a section, department or facility with a bottom-line that’s sustainable for the facility and its people

4. someone with a solid knowledge of organizational behaviour and resource management

…Good nurse administrators have this knowledge. Great ones use it to empower people, their talents, and an array of resources to get (and keep) a department or entire medical facility firing on all cylinders

5. a relationship cultivator

…realizing that the single most important aspect to successfully leading a medical staff is building positive relationships with people. An excellent nurse administrator will resist the instinct to think at times that something else is more important and realize that if staff are valued, respected, and communicated with, everything else just gets easier and easier.
…as opposed to “problem-oriented”. A highly-effective nurse administrator wants to find a way to succeed, rather than dwell on areas of management that may not be successful right now. Rather than ask “what” a nursing team member wants in a situation, a solid nurse administrator might ask “why” they want it in an attempting to more thoroughly understand the situation.6. solution-oriented

7. a keen observer

…this includes being a keen listener. By listening more than talking, a good nurse administrator will have done the research to better understand staff situations and larger challenges. Being a good listener and watcher will also help such a leader have a rock-solid grasp on how the facility and nursing team are functioning.

8. someone with the ability to develop, implement, and evaluate written nursing plans, objectives, and policies

…Beyond just being a top-notch nurse with natural or developed leadership ability, effective nurse administrators should have skills to strategize and oversee. While this sounds fairly straightforward, one could argue that it’s a skill-set that many leaders could improve on.

9. someone with the ability to develop, implement, and evaluate people (heavy on the “develop” part)

…A great nurse administrator not only has a firm hand on the logistical tiller, but – far more importantly – on the human one. Truly great nurse administrators will take the time to help, teach, mentor, and otherwise develop the human beings that make everything possible in their workplace.

10. a nurse

…Above all, a highly effective nurse administrator should never forget where he or she came from (assuming they were once serving as a nurse themselves) and always put themselves in the shoes of the folks on the floor of the facility in which they oversee nursing operations. Such empathy helps an administrator understand the needs and challenges of their team and their patients.

Contributor Tera Rowland

Tera Rowland is the vice president of Soliant and has worked in the healthcare staffing industry for almost 20 years in public relations, social media, marketing and operations. In addition to Soliant, Tera worked at the Mayo Clinic as an internal communication manager and for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the American Staffing Association. Also, Tera has served on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum as part of the communication committee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations as well as a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of North Florida and has been published in the Huffington Post, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare Traveler Magazine, and Scrubs Magazine. Make sure to read the rest of Tera's blogs!