Preparing Millennial Charge Nurses To Be Successful Leaders

In a busy and stressful nursing unit, the first-level supervisor nurse is very important. The Charge Nurse is responsible for care delivery and ensuring procedures are running smoothly. They look for outcomes, think about success indicators, and are responsible for a team. Clinical knowledge alone is not enough for a nurse to fulfill this role. Charge Nurses need to be prepared to lead teams and manage different viewpoints, personalities, and motivations.

As Baby Boomers retire and younger generations fill in more of these roles, there can be a talent crunch in many U.S. health systems. Older nurses leaving means years of insight and experience is lost, and this hurts an organization’s performance and efficiency. Talent loss is one of many barriers which young Charge Nurses need to overcome as they manage teams. For more information on this subject, see our article 9 Leadership Barriers Charge Nurses Face.

How can U.S. healthcare organizations set up the Millennials, our younger generation of nurses, for Charge Nurse success?

Prepare Young Charge Nurses! Provide Leadership Courses with Actionable Content Built Directly for that Role

The best way to set up millennial nurses for leadership success is to directly teach Charge Nurse situational leadership in your organization. Role uncertainty or ambiguous job responsibilities leads to confusion, so build defined job responsibilities for the first-level supervisory nurse and teach to it. Prepare Charge RN’s with the behavioral skills they will need, including communications, critical thinking, switching from peer to leader, supervisory skills, and financial awareness. Early preparation for the Charge RN role will also boost retention and encourage your next wave of leaders to apply for Nurse Manager roles in the future. If a nurse has a bad first leadership experience, they are often unlikely to pursue further management roles, or could even pursue other employment.

Consider a curriculum like NCharge®: “Nurses Learning to Lead” to prepare nurses with the leadership and behavioral skills they will need to be successful. Courses like Charge Nurse Fundamentals, Critical Thinking for Charge Nurses, and Supervisory Skills for Positive Outcomes will help boost behavioral skill learning. These courses also teach business objectives in nursing, like using critical thinking to make informed decisions, the financial implications of value-based purchasing, and implementing strategies to improve staff productivity. Another course, Managing Multigenerational Conflict, can help young Charge Nurses to understand other generations’ work tendencies, and how to apply a 3-step framework to communicate effectively and motivate high performance on work teams.

Teach Conflict Resolution and Communication

When Catalyst Learning surveys Nurse Directors and VPs about skills they need from a Charge Nurse, we see that dealing with conflict is usually top of list. Conflict is unavoidable and problematic, so nurses with strong conflict resolution skills are better able to deal with challenges quickly and reduce potential errors stemming from it. Teach young nurses how to gain trust before conflict arises, how to separate the person from the problem, and how to demonstrate empathetic listening. Conflict resolution will help young nurse leaders to be more successful. See our article, “Nurse Conflict Resolution Strategies.”

Also encourage (or teach) communication skills to new Charge RNs. This will help with decision-making and will help that nurse build trust with a team. Part of communication is delivery of information; delivering bad news to a team is part of the job, so doing so without ruining team morale is critical to the role. Plus, if the team leader can effectively communicate information, the team will follow her example. Teaching nurses how to communicate and resolve conflict is very important in setting up Millennial nurses for leadership success.

Ease Transitions to New Leadership Roles

The experience for a new nurse leader in past decades may have felt a little bit like a “sink or swim.” But with growing demands on Charge Nurses, plus with Millennials craving more feedback than prior generations did, health systems should find ways to ease the transition to leadership. One way to do that is help new Charge Nurses to find a mentor who can offer support and encouragement. The mentor can be another Charge Nurse or manager within the organization. They do not need to be in the same specialty, but should be someone who can provide support and help build leadership ability, emotional intelligence, and confidence.

Another way to ease transitions to leadership roles is a nursing residency program. This can help create the nursing workforce pipeline needed to provide experienced and quality care. These longer-term programs enable participants to hit-the-ground running, and build a solid foundation for future leadership roles.

Set up Realistic Expectations, and Plan for Success

A first time Charge Nurse can fail if an administration does not give clear goals and role expectations. Sit down with a first time nurse leader and discuss issues that can arise, ask what concerns a new Charge has about the role, and set up any applicable goals that are necessary. One part of setting up realistic expectations may just be talking about delegation and how a leader is not expected to take on all the work themselves. See our article, “Charge Nurses & Delegation.”

Make sure your new leader is comfortable with policies and procedures. Discuss with her how to communicate with Nurse Managers, and what success looks like from management’s eyes. Discuss with your new leader how her unit supports the larger goals of the organization, and what internal resources are available to her if needed.

“Charge nurse: What’s in a name?” Beckers Hospital Review, Nich Chmielewski and Larry Faulkner, May 17, 2018

“Staffing challenge: How to manage a new generation of nurses” Beckers Hospital review, Marcia Faller, June 2017

“The best strategies to engage millennial nurse leaders,” Beckers Hospital Review, Laura Dyrda, February 2016

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