• action-theory;
  • confirmatory theory;
  • elderly care;
  • first-line nurse manager;
  • leadership;
  • nursing

Aim.  The aim of this case study was to acquire understanding concerning the first-line nurse manager's goal-profile, i.e. prioritization of goals in her work as a first-line nurse manager, through use of an action-theoretic and confirmatory theory.

Background.  The first-line nurse manager's pivotal role regarding quality of care and development in relation to on-going changes in the health care sector is stressed by many researchers and the transition from nurse to manager is described as a demanding challenge for the first-line nurse manager.

Methods.  The case study described in this paper concerns a first-line nurse manager in an actual working environment in care of older people. Data collection comprised interviews, observations, a job description and policy documents. A hermeneutic interpretation was used for data analysis.

Results.  The results showed that the first-line nurse manager had three goals in her goal-profile, in the following order of priority: (i) a nurse goal that she had strongly accepted and in which she had excellent control, (ii) an administrator goal that she had accepted and in which she had control, (iii) a leadership goal that she had not accepted and in which she did not have control. Both the administrator and leadership goals were based on her job description, but the nurse goal was a personally chosen goal based on her own self-relation/goal-fulfilment.

Conclusion.  The first-line nurse manager's prioritized self-identity, based on successful realization of goals in her goal-profile, was decisive in the manifestation of her work.

Relevance to clinical practice.  This study contributes to a new understanding of the first-line nurse manager's self-identity related to work in terms of goal acceptance and goal control of prioritized goals. This action-theoretic approach could be a valuable ‘key’ for understanding leadership (or lack of leadership) in clinical practice.