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Analyzing a Leader
Adam Bennett & Cody Kryfka
Ferris State University

Analyzing a Leader
In the nursing profession, there are many opportunities for one to become a leader. Such
opportunities include charge nurse, unit manager, and hospital supervisors. Recently, a group of
nursing students interviewed a unit manager by the name of Valerie Tumbleson RN, BSN.
Tumbleson has been a unit manager at Spectrum Health Blodgett hospital on a neurological and
spine unit for three years. Originally, Tumbleson went to Grand Valley State University for a
bachelors degree in biomedical science. After realizing that nursing was the best fit for her, she
attended the accelerated nursing program at the University of Michigan where she graduated
with her bachelors degree. Tumblesons employment history includes working on a unit, being
a nightshift charge nurse, nightshift supervisor, and now a unit manager. Tumbleson specified
for this position is a BSN in addition, she also mentioned that two three years of experience as a

charge nurse is preferred. This essay will explore an interview conducted with Tumbleson about
her position as a unit manager and the necessary qualifications of an effective leader in nursing.
Roles and Responsibilities
There are many roles and responsibilities of a unit manager. One role is to be a mentor
and support system for nurses working on the unit to utilize as a resource. Tumbleson explains
that she does this in order to reassure nurses that they are supported and have help if needed.
The unit manager also has to work in interdisciplinary teams, within the hospital, to create a safer
environment for both patients and staff. As part of this team, she advocates for her staff telling
other professions in the healthcare field any problems her staff is facing. In addition, a unit
manger attend daily and monthly meetings to enhance team skills along with thoughts of
improving the moral of nurses in the hospital. Finally, the unit manager is in charge of creating
and maintaining a budget for the unit.
Spectrum Health has a unique organizational setup. The leadership teams are very close
and work well as an entire unit by supporting one another by performing daily check-ins that
notify mangers of a units concerns. In the daily check-ins, Tumbleson mentions that every unit
manager at Blodgett addresses any staffing needs, safety concerns, and falls that occurred in the
hospital the previous day. Nurses, nursing aides, and the unit secretary all have to report to the
unit manager regarding concerns about safety, patient satisfaction, and problems on the unit.
Tumbleson is one of two managers that report to her director with the issues of her unit.
Communication and Relationship Building
Tumbleson states communication is essential to the job. She also mentions that a
manger needs to be able to interpret changes in policies in order to communicate and relay
information clearly and accurately to staff. Communication and relationships with staff should
be collaborative and conducive to opinion sharing (American Organization of Nurse Executives
[AONE], 2005). This is crucial because it allows staff to be able to communicate confidently
and comfortably with the unit manager. The unit manager facilitates relationship building by

introducing team building exercises and supporting the workforce on the unit. The ability to
communicate with staff about patient concerns is important for a unit manager. This ensures
quality of care for the patient and increases patient healing time and satisfaction. The unit
manager must acknowledge and address some concerns with the patients directly in order to find
a reasonable solution. Without proper communication of the unit manager, the organization may
not be seen as successful thus decreasing accreditation.
Knowledge of Healthcare Environment
In the interview, Tumbleson states, You have to be willing to be transparent, sharing
both successes and failures. This exemplifies how unit managers gain knowledge of the
healthcare environment through their experience and the experiences of other managers. In the
healthcare setting, leaders must be able to find solutions to problems in a timely manner.
Increased costs can be a source of unrest in the healthcare environment (Yoder-Wise, 2015). One
instance that occurred on Tumblsons unit dealt with warm blankets. The unit was being
reprimanded for using an excessive amount of warm blankets. Once Tumbleson was informed,
she uncovered that her unit was charged for the use of blankets from multiple units. She alerted
the proper authorities and the problem was resolved.
It is important for managers to understand when help is needed and where to find the
necessary help. By addressing the problem of a unit as a team, unit managers are better prepared
to handle the situation in the future. In turn, this will decrease length of stay for the patient and
provide a positive experience creating a safe environment for the patient.
In order to demonstrate leadership as a unit manager, one must help with patient care,
demonstrate organizational skills, practice in a respectful and honest manner, and advocating for
patients and staff. According to Tumbleson, A sign of a true leader is being willing to rise to the
occasion even when one does not want to. Tumbleson encourages staff to resolve issues
amongst each other prior to coming to her with a concern to enhance therapeutic communication

among staff. This is a democratic form of leadership. With this leadership style, it is important
for the nurse manager to be a representative of the group(Yoder-Wise, 2015). This provides a
more unified nursing staff that utilizes strengths while focuses on improving weaknesses. Unit
managers advocate for their patients and staff by asking for more nurses when acuity level and
census is high but staff numbers are low. This ensures a higher level of care for patients and
decreases staff stress levels.
In the interview, Tumbleson mentions that it is important to be professional in all aspects
of her life. It is important for the unit manager to be the example of professionalism for their
floor to follow (AONE, 2005). This is portrayed by dressing appropriately, being respectful to
staff and patients, and maintaining a sense of self. If a unit manager is not seen to exemplify
professionalism, then it is a discredit to the entire organization. This could affect moral of the
staff resulting in a decreased quality of care for the patient which in turn, leads to a lot of
turnover amongst the staff increasing cost due to the orientation process of a new nurse. On a
floor in which professionalism is high, there is a better sense of patient comfort because these
patients feel like they are having the most qualified and experienced staff is caring for them. The
more comfortable a patient is, the better it reflects on an organization.
Business Skills
It is very important to have some business sense however; it is not a prerequisite for nurse
managers. One role of the unit manager is to develop business plans to help manage finances.
(AONE, 2005) An example is budgeting, which plays a critical role of the unit manager because
they want to make sure the unit receives an adequate amount of funding to fit the needs of staff
and patients. Tumbleson is cognizant of her budget and adequately prepares if major purposes
need to be made. If the manager is too far over budget, the manger needs sufficient evidence to
support their overspending. If the manager is too far under budget, funds can be altered so the

unit receives less money the following month. If funding is low, a unit may not have the
necessary amount of supplies in order to safely and effectively care for patients. This often leads
to higher stress levels among staff and the unit manager. Finally, this would reflect poorly on the
organization, decrease patient satisfaction, and hospital revenue could be decreased.
In an interview with Tumbelson, a unit manager at Blodgett hospital, the job and
credentials of a unit manager were discussed, as well as communication, knowledge of
healthcare environment, leadership, professionalism, and business skills. Overall, the unit
manager appears to be a small part of a big picture. When digging deeper, one would notice that
this role is important in the daily operations of the hospital. The unit manager is seen as a liaison
between units in a hospital. This interview gave insight to a group of nursing students on how to
be an effective leader, and how every aspect of being a leader effects the organization a nurse is
employed by and patient care. This assignment impacted the authors knowledge of leadership
skill and enhanced the students abilities of becoming an effective leader.

The American Organization of Nurse Executives. (2005). The AONE Nurse Executive
Competencies. In AONE: The Voice of Nursing Leadership
Yoder-Wise (2015). Leading and managing in nursing (6th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Saunders.