Strategies to make time for the next wave of leaders

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Almost all nurse managers want to spend more time with their staff, but they have so many responsibilities that they have trouble finding the time to do so. This situation leaves the nurses on the floor with the perception that managers are too busy pushing papers in their offices to spend time with them, not seeing what they have to do deal with.

Time management is always a popular topic at meetings for nurse managers, and although they get some training in this area, many tend to go back to habits they are comfortable with. These old habits are what usually prevent managers from using their time effectively.

All nurse managers must develop an understanding of staff perceptions and how staff relate their importance in the overall picture to how much time their manager spends with them. Help develop other managers to understand this concept and then to ask themselves how they can change this perception. Many opportunities present themselves at your regular manager meetings, so consider this topic for discussion amongst the nurse manager peer group.

You might also want to look at what you spend time discussing at these meetings. Save the memo reading for another time and focus on leadership development topics. Start the discussion with helpful suggestions for the nurse manager, such as:

  • Be available at shift changes several times per week. This doesn't have to be a formal arrangement—just be available.
  • Schedule to meet with a different staff person one day a week for coffee or to sit with them at lunchtime. Pre-schedule and post this information so staff can look forward to it.
  • Keep a Rolodex file or computer file with each staff person's particulars related to their personal life. When you make time to take someone aside and ask how his or her ill family member is doing, you show that you actually care.
  • Set up a calendar that lists each staff member's birthday. At the beginning of the month, sign one large card with everyone's name on and post it in the department.
  • Post dates and times when you will have an "open door" for anyone who needs to talk. Be sure to stagger the times so all shifts can benefit.

Source: This excerpt was adapted from HCPro's book, A Practical Guide to Recruitment and Retention: Skills for Nurse Managers. For more information about the book or to order a copy, visit