Nurses have one thing on their minds when they graduate: passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Nurse leadership roles may not even be a thought yet. But nurses can develop leadership skills, such as teamwork, right from the start. Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can further prepare nurses for high-level careers in leadership.
Nurse leaders need more than clinical expertise. They need to understand how to manage people. Coursework in the MSN – Nursing Administration online program at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) helps RNs build confidence in these essential human resources skills. UAH’s program is aligned with American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) competencies, which include human resource management (HRM).
What Is HRM?
An MSN can pave the way to wide-ranging leadership positions. Whether running a department or an entire hospital, these jobs require the knowledge, skills and abilities to manage people.
HRM is much more than hiring and firing. Also referred to as “human resources,” HRM involves managing and developing employees to meet an organization’s goals.
Employees can be thought of as “human capital.” A Forbes article describes human capital as “how people contribute to growth.” In this sense, human resources must “empower employees who want to help grow the company and evolve to achieve their goals, too.” In the case of a hospital, empowering nurses is a priority.
To appreciate the need for HR skills in nurse leadership, it helps to see just how much healthcare relies on nurses. According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing fact sheet:
- Nursing is the largest healthcare workforce
- Hospitals are the largest employer of RNs
- Nurses provide the majority of patient care in hospitals
- Nurses deliver the majority of long-term care
- Most healthcare services involve some form of care by nurses
AONL’s Nurse Executive Competencies report outlines five “competency domains” for nurse leaders. These include (1) communication and relationship management, (2) knowledge of the health care environment, (3) leadership, (4) professionalism and (5) business skills.
Business skills range from financial management to information management and technology. This category also includes HRM, which makes sense because people management directly impacts an organization’s performance. A sampling of these skills includes:
- Ensuring professional development
- Developing programs to enhance work-life balance
- Ensuring regulatory compliance
- Creating a healthy work environment
- Developing and evaluating recruitment, onboarding and retention strategies
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to managing people. For example, when developing retention strategies, a HealthLeaders analysis of top nurse leadership issues advises CNOs to “consider the wants and needs of a new generation of nurses.”
How Can HR Skills Help Nurse Leaders Succeed?
Healthcare is known for its high turnover rates. A 2019 survey puts RN turnover at over 17%. Employee retention is a measure of the health of an organization, and it is an HR priority.
According to the survey, the average cost of turnover for one bedside RN is $52,100. RN turnover can potentially cost a hospital millions of dollars a year. Improving nurse retention does more than improve an organization’s bottom line. It can improve patient outcomes and employee morale. Given the nursing shortage, the ability to retain nurses may be more important than ever.
Nurses could fairly be described as healthcare’s most important asset, which is what makes nurse leadership so important. It is also why nurse leaders will benefit from building an understanding of HRM, especially for higher-level leadership roles such as CNO. The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s MSN in nursing administration prepares RNs for these roles with coursework that emphasizes the essentials of management, including human resource management.