• 13 May 2020
  • 6 min read

Why I went from Nurse to Nursing Manager

  • Paul TM Smith
    RCN Older Peoples Steering Panel
"The benefits are achieving what I came to do – make a difference to people lives."

Former Mental Health Nurse turned Manager, Paul Smith, talks about his career journey from nursing into management and why he thinks it could be right for you.

Topics covered in this article

Introduction

The hard facts about a life in management

Why did I choose this career path?

Why is management worth considering?

Introduction

I’ve had a diverse career with one constant as its northern star.

Having been managing director, director and head of dementia or mental health for some of the largest care providers in the UK, as well as a number of start-ups and turn arounds, and a former research fellow at the Green Templeton College University of Oxford, Registered Mental Nurse (RMN), researcher and author; in this blog I want to guide you through the possibilities for your career in what I consider ‘the most honourable profession is the world’.

I never wanted to be a manager and was always far too much of a rebel for that but, from early in my career I realised that without the trappings of ‘power’ both good people and great ideas often were either simply missed or deliberately side-lined by those with unbridled ambition and ruthlessness.

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I was fed up with being able to see solutions that others could not or would not see.

I was tired of seeing colleagues side-lined or worse, and I was angry at the petty politics of organisations getting in the way of effective patient care.

So, I decided to do something about it! If this story sounds familiar, if some of these same things concern you, if you are just starting out and wish to make a difference while avoiding the pitfalls of ‘career’ and if your full of ambition but concerned about the compromise’s success brings, read on.

The hard facts about a life in management - you'll earn more pay in nursing management than on the frontline

You will earn substantially more than your front-line counterparts with annual salaries typically around £70,000.

You will however stand separated from your peers and you will be challenged emotionally and ethically daily.

You will need to be able to work with a huge diversity of people and step into their shoes – you will need to learn to manage 360 degrees (those above you, those around you, those below you)

You will need to be a resilient leader and show courage and fortitude often with no one to turn too – as the leader, the buck stops with you.

Nurses already possess an academic underpinning to their skills, learning about both models of care and models of application.

You will however need to enhance these skills with a management type qualification so more study I am afraid and this time, while holding down a full-time highly demanding job too.

You will not work 9-5 and forget the 40hr week.

Early mornings, late nights, weekends, and holidays where you spend more time on the phone and laptop than soaking up the sun are the norm.

You will inevitably have times when you need to say ‘No’ and there may also be times when you deprive people of their livelihood (you should never ever become comfortable with this, if you do then you have become the very thing you placed yourself on this journey of fire for).

That is sobering.

Why did I choose this career path?

I am a seeker, some are home birds, this will dictate your career path.

I left home, left the NE and spent 30 years in the South.

Where you live dictates your opportunities.

It is a cruel fact if you are NHS based, love multi-disciplinary working, have family, and crave collectively and friends, make your career in nursing, climb the clinical ladder.

If you have the need to question, to assert, to create and disrupt and you don’t mind the loneliness and competitiveness of business approaches to the health and care of the nation.

Then the private sector offers a great environment for creativity, albeit in a niche.

You can still specialise, but it will need to be in the confines I found myself enabled to diversify within my specialism and due to my nomadic lifestyle, be able and willing to take on multiple challenges across multiple disciplines all at the one time.

This is what I love about my job.

I have the absolute constant challenge of remaining true to the ethics of my profession and my personal morels in a cutthroat business environment.

I could not do this and move around as I have done if I had dependents.

Listen to that advice.

But, my path has brought me so many diverse opportunities and if this is what you want, and you are prepared to make sacrifices and to work hard (ridiculously hard) it is so very rewarding.

The challenge is keeping a good heart, not selling out, always being person focused, being willing to sacrifice yourself for the right cause.

The benefits are achieving what I came to do – make a difference to people lives.

I thought I would be happy just to make a difference to one life, but I found it was not enough, so I chose my path so as change thousands of lives for the better.

What an epitaph – and I am not done yet!

Why is management worth considering?

Where we are now is forcing people to make choices about their lives and careers.

As front-line clinicians you are finally getting the recognition you deserve, to make that last, management and leadership will be required.

My story shows how both are possible and can be combined.

I am changing my life again now too.

I have been overwhelmed with pride at being a nurse all over again and now sitting as I do on a steering panel for the RCN, I intend to try to make life better for all my fellow nurse professionals and if not better, then perhaps simply more interesting and adventurous?

If my example is anything, it is that careers can be interesting and adventurous at any time.

Grasp this newfound appreciation and go and make your mark too.

About the author

  • Paul TM Smith
    RCN Older Peoples Steering Panel

I’ve been managing director, director and head of dementia or mental health for some of the largest care providers in the UK, as well as a number of start-ups and turn arounds. I’m a former research fellow at the Green Templeton College University of Oxford, Registered Mental Nurse (RMN), researcher and author.

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About the author

  • Paul TM Smith
    RCN Older Peoples Steering Panel

I’ve been managing director, director and head of dementia or mental health for some of the largest care providers in the UK, as well as a number of start-ups and turn arounds. I’m a former research fellow at the Green Templeton College University of Oxford, Registered Mental Nurse (RMN), researcher and author.

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