The making of a nurse manager: The role of experiential learning in leadership development

Eloise Balasco Cathcart, Miriam Greenspan, Matthew Quin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: To articulate the experientially acquired knowledge, skill and ethics embedded in nurse manager practice and describe the ways in which they were developed. Background: The role of the nurse manager is usually described in lists of competencies, talents and traits which fail to capture the experience-based judgment and practical knowledge in this pivotal organizational role. Method: Using Benner's methodology of practice articulation, 32 nurse managers wrote and interpreted first person narratives of their practice. The experience level of the group ranged from new nurse managers to those with more than 10 years' role tenure. The seminars were facilitated by a seasoned nurse executive and nurse manager with expertise in narrative interpretation. Results: Interpretation of the paradigm case of one nurse manager suggests that complex leadership challenges can be a source of significant experiential learning for the individual and for the group. Conclusions: Articulating and reflecting on experiential learning elucidates the skilled knowledge and judgment embedded in nurse manager practice which cannot be accessed in any other way. Implications for nursing management: Articulating the practical knowledge which is necessary for effective nurse manager practice can hasten the development of role incumbents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-447
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nursing Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2010


  • Benner
  • Experiential learning
  • Leadership
  • Narrative
  • Nurse manager practice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Leadership and Management


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