1. Cohen, Shelley RN, CEN, BS

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For a new manager, being uncomfortable with financial matters is normal. After all, most novice managers get little or no training about the budget or budget process. Making the time to learn some of the basics regarding financial planning in the world of healthcare will help bolster your confidence in your role.


Step by step

As you review these basic steps, consider the benefits to staff and patients when you take the time to understand and learn your responsibilities in the financial planning of your department(s).


[white diamond suit] Ensure that you're receiving monthly reports of income/expenses for the areas you oversee.


[white diamond suit] Start a filing system by month for your budget reports. Create a simple one-page form that acts as a budget tool. Use it to identify each month's validation for areas that don't meet the budget and attach it to each month's report.


[white diamond suit] Schedule an appointment with either your manager or a representative from financial services to learn how to interpret the monthly reports and to discuss how the budget process works at your facility. Continue to nurture your relationship with this person so you consult him or her on an ongoing basis.


[white diamond suit] Once you're comfortable with the data, start educating staff members about it at your department meetings. Don't hesitate to show them numbers directly from the reports. You can talk about the budget all you want, but showing it to them and teaching them to understand it offers a better chance of improved compliance regarding overtime, supplies, and equipment usage.


[white diamond suit] Request an alphabetical computer printout of the most common items the department purchases, from dressings to patient beds. Share the printout with staff members and then leave it readily available for them to reference on an ongoing basis.


[white diamond suit] Schedule yourself for a specific time to work on budget planning:


-Monthly: Identify what's over/under budget and question why. Make notes in your budget report form you developed.


-Weekly: Look at the payroll portion of the budget and note overtime, etc. Validate use of overtime in your budget report form for future reference.


[white diamond suit] When questions arise regarding a financial report from inside sources such as dietary or pharmacy, request a detailed report from that department so you can see exactly what was purchased.


[white diamond suit] Plan for your annual budget on an ongoing basis; don't wait until a planning sheet arrives in your mailbox. Maintain a sheet called annual budget notes in your budget folder. On a regular basis, you should make a notation here whenever you realize you'll have to replace items, such as stretchers. If you find that you're constantly over budget every month, this will be the place to note that the monthly budgets for repairs aren't set high enough.


[white diamond suit] Don't get caught in the "budget frenzy," which many managers find themselves in each year. They're spending endless hours backtracking why certain periods had more overtime or why they had an increase in surgical supplies in March. Your monthly reports, planning sheets, and other forms will track all of that information for you on a regular basis.



The budget is much more than a page with financial figures and information. It becomes a reflection of your ability to effectively and efficiently manage resources. Managing resources to optimize patient care is what sets apart good managers from bad ones.