Nursing

Ask the expert: Starting a nurse succession planning program

Nurse Leader Insider, September 12, 2011

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This week, June Marshall, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, director of advancing professional nursing practice at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, discusses strategies for engaging in constructive coaching with staff nurses.

Q: We don't really have a succession program in place. How do you suggest we get this off the ground?

A: Succession planning requires a supportive framework for matching nurses' professional goals, competencies, and strengths with role expectations. Having conversations with nurses about their career goals and passions is the first step in identifying successors. Managers must also clearly identify the nurses on the unit they would most hate to lose to other career opportunities.

Succession planning is a complex process that requires four major elements of the organization and the nurse leaders:

  • Assessment strategies for identifying successors
  • Professional development program that clearly defines role expectations, competencies, and developmental milestones
  • Leadership development programs that provide role-related education and practical experiences
  • Mentors and coaches that can guide nurses on their career paths


Coaching nurses along their career paths in fulfilling their professional goals and dreams is one of the most rewarding experiences for managers. All too often, we often promote expert clinicians into management positions without matching their passions and strengths to the new role. Sound succession planning creates a win-win solution for everyone involved.

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Editor's note: Do you have a question for our experts? E-mail your queries to Editor Rebecca Hendren at
rhendren@hcpro.com and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts. 



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