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What Is a Unit Manager in Nursing?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Dec 21, 2023
Nursing Unit Manager With Other Nurses in a Health Care Facility.

What Is a Unit Manager in Nursing?

Experienced nurses who are looking to take the next step in their career can consider becoming a unit manager. Unit managers oversee health care staff in a unit, perform administrative duties, and can also work face-to-face with patients.

Those looking to advance into this role should understand the ins and outs of what it means to manage a nursing unit. Learn more about the duties, responsibilities, and educational requirements for unit managers in nursing.

What Is a Unit Manager? Roles and Responsibilities

Unit managers direct and supervise nursing staff during their daily duties. They are also responsible for administrative tasks, such as creating training programs and monitoring supplies. While the specific responsibilities vary depending on the type of health care facility, most unit management duties can be divided into the following categories.

Supervise the Unit

Unit managers oversee the daily duties of medical clerks, nursing aides, support staff, and licensed practical nurses. Managers must organize work schedules and evaluate job performance. Nurse mentoring is also a key part of the role. Managers often work with nurses to develop career goals, offer clinical advice, and promote overall performance improvement in health care settings.

Apply Evidence-Based Practices

Many managers in nursing units continue to work with individual patients to provide bedside care. While supervising the rest of the unit, managers must also continue to address patient questions, monitor care, administer medication, and review cases. They should also set the standards for evidence-based practice throughout the unit.

Oversee Administrative Duties

Behind the scenes, unit managers also manage administrative tasks, such as overseeing the budget and monitoring supplies. Some managers must create training programs and interview prospective employees. Other administrative duties may include working with senior management to offer suggestions for workplace, staff, and technology improvements.

How to Become a Unit Manager

The career path to becoming a unit manager in nursing includes gaining relevant experience, education, and leadership skills. While the specific requirements can vary depending on the health care facility, managers typically need the following qualifications and experience.

Education

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited university is typically preferred for a unit management position. In addition, unit managers will likely need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and become registered nurses. Some positions may also require a graduate degree in nursing or a related field.

While some positions do not require any management-specific certification, there are a few to consider for prospective managers to enhance their resume and improve their application. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers a Nurse Unit Manager certification. Another option for prospective managers is the American Organization for Nursing Leadership Executive Nursing Practice certification. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader certification.

Hands-On Experience

Unit managers need to have hands-on nursing experience. Direct patient care is not only an ongoing duty in the role but is also essential for offering mentorship and supervision to other nurses. In many settings, managers need at least two years of experience in the nursing field before applying for a unit management role.

Because managers are usually registered nurses, experience is beneficial for a career in unit management. It can also benefit prospective managers to have experience in the specific type of facility they are seeking to join, such as an assisted living facility, critical care facility, or another setting.

Skills

Some applicable skills can lead to success in a unit manager position. These include:

  • Leadership. Supervising a unit requires managers to assign tasks and delegate responsibilities while also leading by example.
  • Teamwork. Unit managers aren’t the only leadership role in a clinical setting, so they must also work closely with other managers at all levels and doctors to provide care.
  • Clear communication. Managers must find ways to communicate clearly, respectfully, and efficiently to patients, nurses, support, and administrative staff.
  • Time management. Many duties are time-sensitive, so managers must know how to prioritize essential tasks and manage time successfully.
  • Problem solving in a fast-paced environment. Meeting patient care goals isn’t always straightforward, so managers need to support their nurses in making difficult choices in a fast-paced workplace.

Salary and Job Outlook for Unit Managers in Nursing

Unit managers in nursing earn a median annual salary of approximately $75,530 as of October 2023, according to the compensation website Payscale. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates jobs for medical and health services managers, which includes managers of nursing units, are expected to increase by 28% between 2022 and 2032. This is much higher than the projected job growth estimates for the U.S. employment market as a whole.

Pursue a Leadership Role in Nursing Today

Are you ready to learn more about becoming a unit manager in nursing? Learn more about the online RN to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) program at The University of Tulsa today. With one-on-one faculty support and a well-rounded curriculum, you can foster some of the most sought-after soft skills to become an effective nurse leader.

Find out how to take the next step at TU toward a rewarding nursing unit leadership role.

Recommended Readings:

The Most Important Leadership Skills for Nurses

Nurse Retention Strategies: Ways to Retain Nurse Talent

The Benefits of Nurse Mentoring

Source List:

Houston Chronicle, “Nurse Unit Manager Position Description”

Climb, What Does a Nurse Unit Manager Do?

Indeed, “What Is a Unit Manager? Responsibilities and Skills”

LeaderStat, Unit Manager: Resources and Facts

Payscale, Average Unit Manager Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

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