Nursing Executive: A Leadership Career in Nursing
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Nursing Executive: A Leadership Career in Nursing

Published on December 4, 2009.

Job Duties

Nursing executives combine their extensive experience in healthcare with business management expertise to ensure their organization operates at peak efficiency. In leading a hospital, clinic, or care facility's nursing staff, nursing executives determine how best to allocate beds, staff resources, and organizational policies that positively affect the quality of patient care and staff improvement. Nursing executives ideally provide the interface between the professional staff and the patients who receive care. Their roles include fostering staff education, interdepartmental communication, and teamwork between the nursing staff and other medical professionals. They coordinate work schedules so that the facility receives adequate staffing without compromising the staff's ability to provide coverage. Finally, they provide indispensable mentoring of the nursing personnel, setting up ongoing staff training for organizational readiness.

Job Skills

Nursing executives must have significant healthcare experience to best understand the demands on the nursing staff, the required level of patient care, and the interconnected professional roles of the hospital or clinic workforce. They bring to the role strong communication skills, management-level observation, evaluation, and record-keeping skills. They're often required to be the voice of stability and calm during times when the facility and its employees are overwhelmed by the patient load or staffing shortages. Nursing executives must know how to listen, access the scope of staff problems, and take decisive action when necessary. They not only enforce organizational policy--they are part of the leadership team that establishes and evaluates policy.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of nursing executives in 2008 was $80,240. The median annual wage for the top-ten percent of nursing executives in 2009 was $137,800.

Training and Education

First and foremost, nursing executives must have earned their registered nursing (RN) license. Every state in the nation requires that nurses graduate from an accredited nursing degree program from a college, university, or nursing school and pass the national nursing examination in order to receive a license. Nursing degree programs in the United States are either two-year associate's nursing degree programs or four-year bachelor's of science degree in nursing (BSN). BSN programs are designed to offer additional training that leads to advanced roles in professional nursing. Following years of extensive nursing experience, candidates typically pursue a graduate degree in nursing or healthcare management. The master's or doctoral degree program provides direct staff and facility management training to prepare nurses for executive roles. Nursing executives may choose to pursue certifications in management by the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE). In addition to learning how to manage human resources, nurse executives must also learn budgeting skills.


In 2008, nurses and nursing executives held 2.5 million jobs in the United States. Nursing comprises the single-largest professional group within the healthcare professions.

Job Outlook

Employment of nursing executives is predicted to grow faster than the average for all professions during the 2006-2016 decade. The need for qualified nurses and nursing executives should grow as the current generation of nurses and nursing executives move into retirement during the decade. Job growth will also be fuelled by the aging American population that may require more health care as well as an increasing demand for preventative care. The employment of registered nurses is predicted to rise by 23 percent between 2006 and 2016, while jobs for healthcare administrators are predicted to grow by 16 percent during the decade.

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