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Difference Between a Nurse Administrator Vs. Nurse Manager

by Ellie Williams

Both nurse managers and nurse administrators play supervisory roles at a hospital or other health care facility. However, their jobs differ in terms of the required skills, knowledge and the scope of their duties. Nurse managers, for example, typically oversee a single unit within a facility, while nurse administrators manage several departments or even the entire organization.

Titles and Authority

Job titles for both nurse managers and nurse administrators vary by organization. Nurse managers typically fall under the category of middle management, which can include head nurse, charge nurse and unit manager. Nurse administrators hold a variety of executive-level positions, including director of nurses or of nursing services, clinical coordinator and chief nurse executive. A nurse administrator plays a larger role in an organization than a nurse manager, overseeing several departments and reporting directly to a member of senior leadership such as the chief medical officer. A nurse manager, on the other hand, typically supervises a single department and reports to the director of nursing.

Experience and Education Requirements

Nurse managers typically need only an undergraduate degree in nursing, though some hold graduate degrees. Many come to the role with no prior management experience. Nurse administrators, on the other hand, need both advanced training and extensive managerial experience. Many hold graduate degrees, such as a master of science in nursing administration. Many facilities require past management experience, such as Bethesda Lutheran Communities, which only considers candidates with at least two years of administrative or supervisory experience.

A Day in the Life

A nurse manager oversees day-to-day operations within a department and ensures that everything runs smoothly. Her duties typically include recruiting and hiring nurses and other health care staff. She also supervises her team, which might consist of not only nurses, but also office staff, nursing aides, technicians, social workers and others responsible for providing physical and emotional care. She also manages the budget and provides mentoring and coaching. A nurse administrator concentrates primarily on policy and organizational operations issues such as nursing shortages. She spends much of her time attending meetings, preparing reports and developing programs and policies.

Who They Work With

Nurse managers primarily interact with nurses and other health care staff who provide hands-on care to patients. They might also collaborate with nurse managers from other departments. While they don’t routinely treat patients, they might offer guidance on a particularly challenging case or consult with a physician on a patient’s care. They also address questions, concerns and complaints brought forth by patients or their families. Nurse administrators almost never deal directly with patients or family members, instead supervising mid-level managers and working with fellow members of the senior leadership team.

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