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Nurse Manager Succession Planning: Sustaining the Well-Being of the Workforce

Creative Health Care Management recognizes Marky Medeiros, MSN, RN for her publication in Nursing Management on “Nurse manager succession planning for unit health”.

Even before the pandemic began, there was already an increasing number of nurses quitting their jobs and leaving the industry behind altogether. In fact, Healthcare IT News reports that more than 90% of nurses are considering leaving the profession in the next few years. As the numbers continue to increase, healthcare organizations must address issues of moral distress, burnout, workforce trauma, and retention to avoid the collapse of the healthcare system.

One of the most effective ways to ensure healthy work environments is strong leadership, which nurse managers take on. However, these figures of authority must also be competent leaders to address the issues of their units, especially as newer replacements take over the nurse manager roles of retiring leaders. That’s where nurse manager succession planning comes in.

We will discuss why nurse manager succession planning is important, how it can be executed successfully, and the intricacies of this essential aspect of nursing leadership.

The Role of Nurse Managers

In the healthcare industry, it’s been long understood that nurses don’t leave their jobs — they leave their leaders. That’s why a nurse manager can make or break the culture of a unit. They are the ones that cultivate the culture and well-being of the team, hopefully building a competent and compassionate workforce. However, this is nearly impossible without the appropriate leadership competencies among leaders of nursing staff.

According to Sharon Pappas in “The Role of Nurse Leaders in the Well-being of Clinicians,” a healthcare unit’s well-being relies on three factors: relationships, accountability, and community — considerations that must be addressed during succession planning.

Three Key Factors in Leadership

Relationships

Establishing professional relationships between every member of the workforce is essential. This builds a cohesive team that’s attuned to one another, which is especially important during crisis situations where stress levels rise beyond the usual. Strong and respectful relationships are thus important additions to nurse manager succession planning strategies.

Accountability

This refers to the organization’s responsibility for the effective guidance, work system, and well-being of the entire workforce. To achieve this, the organization must have solid structures and streamlined processes in place that make leaders accountable for the team’s success in all aspects.

Community

Community refers to the teamwork that exists in the work system, especially as applied to the individuals performing as leaders in the organization. If the community values and supports leadership, then leader onboarding and the ongoing competence of nurse leaders will be more successful.

The Problem With Current Leadership Development Programs

The current strategies for training new nurse leaders are focused on administrative tasks and competencies. These include managing finances, labor procurement, and developing a budget. Unfortunately, the skills that could address current problems in the profession aren’t prioritized. That’s why it’s essential for leadership development programs to include relational competencies.

Nurses need leaders that have:

  • Communication Skills
  • Approachability
  • Compassion
  • Visibility

Finding leaders with these skills requires strategic planning for nurse manager succession.

The Importance of Nurse Manager Succession Planning

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The current models used for leadership training must move away from developing nurse managers for administrative tasks and focus instead on competencies that create a healthy work environment. This transformation will address the most pressing problems faced by nurses, allowing for higher retention rates and lower attrition rates. Frameworks such as the Pathway to Excellence and Magnet Recognition Program are great blueprints to follow.

Some Considerations for a Succession Planning

Succession planning will involve a lot of mentoring and coaching, identifying gaps in key positions, resource allocation, and evaluation. While these are all important, your organizational leadership shouldn’t lose focus on aligning their succession planning strategies with your mission, vision, and values as a company.

You’ll need to create short-term and long-term goals regarding leadership succession. In addition, you’d benefit from having a solid and streamlined process for assigning individuals to leadership roles, particularly in nursing management.

Frameworks and Strategies for Training the Next Chief Nursing Officer

There are a few established approaches that help organizations find and train their next chief nursing officer or nurse manager.

AONL Nurse Manager Competencies

According to the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), the AONL Nurse Manage Competencies framework focuses on three domains: the science of managing the business, the art of leading the people, and the leader within. This framework is more of a proactive method that identifies and trains individuals who will eventually take on leadership roles.

Nurse Manager Residency Program

The Nurse Manager Residency Program focuses on formally preparing candidates who want to take up nurse leadership roles. Under this framework, they can join their company’s leadership development programs and take advantage of many other opportunities. This program also makes it easier for organizations to evaluate the competencies of candidates before they\’re assigned a formal management role.

The Bottom Line

Nurse manager succession planning is essential to ensure that your organization has competent nurse leaders. By using time-tested frameworks and focusing on developing relational competencies, you can have leaders that know how to create a healthy workforce and drive your organization to success.

References

The Journal of Nursing Administation | The Role of Nurse Leaders in the Well-being of Clinicians

Healthcare IT News Report: 90% of nurses considering leaving the profession in the next year

GRID | Nurses are not OK: Why they’re quitting their jobs