There are many books and courses written on how to manage finances and budgets for nurses and nurse managers. Lots of them go into great detail about the terms you need to understand and give you various models you can use to manage a budget wherever you are in the world.
There are not too many articles though on why this is important, and what it means for you as the person in the role of managing budgets.
Money is possibly the most value-laden commodity in our society. There are many who would say that we are obsessed as a society with money and what it can give you at the expense of actually enjoying a life and being in the present. Not that there is anything wrong with striving for something you need or want. I raise this to highlight one of the many silent issues brought to the table at budget time.
Despite our wish to think otherwise decision-making is not just about the issue that is on the table. Every single person involved brings their own point of view, perspective, personal history and values, good or bad, to the table. As a nurse you bring these things as well but what you also bring is the added bonus of your thoughts and feelings through the lens of the people you care for.
Being focussed too much on caring has often been seen as a weakness in the business acumen of nurses. Whether or not this is gender driven is a topic for another day. In a healthcare system, possibly the toughest, and definitely the most complicated, financial management system on earth this can work to your detriment if you are not prepared.
So how might you prepare yourself or manage yourself so your patients get the best care they deserve? The very first thing of course is that you need to be prepared to engage in the battle. I don’t think this is an optional extra as a nurse leader; I think it is a given.
Ok. So here’s the 3 most important things you need to know as a nurse manager entering the battle field of budget time:
- Equip yourself with the necessary understanding of budgeting and resource management techniques, terms and process is a good first step. Let’s face it sometimes it can feel like people are speaking different languages none of which is English.
- You also need to be intimately familiar with the areas for which you are responsible. Understanding incident data, monitoring equipment availability and use, all of your human resource data and of course your outcomes or outputs, depending on your unit. All of these combine to give you an overview and background so you are well prepared to negotiate for what you need.
- Above all else, though, you need to be aware of yourself. Understanding your own values and also your own relationship with money will give you greater insight into how you might negotiate, what you are prepared to fight for and what you are prepared to lose. In other words what is your bottom line, and hence what is the bottom line for the patients in your care.
Every single one of us in leadership positions will at some time be challenged by a financial decision we don’t like or agree with. Nurses are in a unique position as the overseer of total care for a patient and therefore a very powerful position from which to argue your point. The art of win-win is a vital skill for a nurse leader and it is one you can learn.
I always believe that even if you lose the battle you can still win the war by being prepared and using your very powerful position of influence.
If you want to learn more about financial management and being a great nurse leader why not come along to the next workshop on Making Your Management Count – Money Management for Nurse managers.
Author: Jennifer Gale