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“Flyover country – Middle-America.” “The Middle Ground.” “Middle Management.”

It’s easy to look past those things that sit in, well, the middle. Splitting the difference between extremes inherently means mixing and blending, doing the unheralded work that ties everything together. And being that connection point is extraordinarily difficult work.

So it is in healthcare.

Nurse managers – the epitome of middle managers – handle everything from the daily grind of scheduling and supply management to the strategic work of connecting organizational imperatives to department-level operations and budget to the relational work of coach and cheerleader. The most successful nurse managers are those who build meaningful relationships to get the most out of those around them. As we saw from our 2022 Nurse Engagement Survey, those relationships rank near the top of the list in terms of what nurses need to feel fulfilled in their jobs.

The challenge is that many nurse managers find themselves in the role, having transitioned from the bedside without any formal training, guidance or mentorship. Organizations haven’t traditionally spent the time and resources to learn what makes their best nurse managers be the best – and then use those lessons to create programs that help others reach their best.

So, how can your organization change the habit of flying past those in the middle and engage in the vital work of developing one of your most valuable resources?

Consider the following:

  • Develop new leader training focused on transformational skills. Do your training programs go beyond hammering home procedural requirements to equipping new managers with coaching skills? If you want long-term retention – of your nurses and your nurse managers – those on-the-ground leaders need training to help them build a culture of respect, support and innovation that will in turn help nurses find purpose and flourish. Invest in a yearlong education program with regularly scheduled meetings and check-ins to understand pain points and make actionable progress.
  • Build succession planning for frontline leaders. Do your nurse managers have confidence in their professional future and their ability – and opportunities – to continue to grow and develop? Consider implementing a leadership mentoring program that will teach nurse managers what a future at the organization could look like and empower them to pursue those roles if they want. Give them transparency into their journey to director and the c-suite, and they’ll feel far more connected to your organization and their place in it.
  • Build a culture of communications. Are there department-specific communications tools and resources available to assist middle managers? Build these critical resources so nurse managers are – and feel – prepared to pass key organizational messages to their staff in a way that doesn’t come across as out of touch. Allow for open lines of communication with feedback mechanisms to stimulate trust and nurse-driven solutions.

There’s no silver bullet when it comes to engaging, supporting and retaining your nurse managers. But given their essential role in helping maintain the health of the largest segment of your workforce, an investment in these unsung heroes will pay dividends across your entire organization.

Need help?

Jarrard’s experienced team of healthcare experts are ready to help build a customized nurse engagement strategy and nurse leader communication and training program. Contact us using the form below or follow our thinking to get the most up-to-date information affecting the healthcare industry and your workforce.

Author: Courtney Tedesco

Image Credit: Shannon Threadgill