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Big Responsibilities and Bright Career Paths for Nurse Executives

Nursing is a field that can afford individuals significant opportunities to expand into different facets of healthcare, including leadership roles. One opportunity that many seek is becoming a nurse executive, an umbrella term that includes positions such as Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Nursing Director and Executive Vice President of Nursing. Individuals in these positions create policies and systems while overseeing their implementation throughout a healthcare facility.

Saint Xavier University understands the many “hats” a nurse executive will be called upon to wear. It is essential for nurses in such roles to take the lead in articulating a successful vision for the organization and to implement it by promoting the collaboration of interdepartmental managers and staff. The job of the nurse executive can run the gamut from serving as a unit nurse manager to a broader role involving large-scale policy planning.1

Working with employees is a key part of the nurse executive’s job. This means developing strategies for improving employee satisfaction, increasing efficiency and productivity, and creating and communicating the policies to achieve these goals. The nurse executive must play a role in scheduling shifts, setting guidelines for vacations, leaves of absence and time off for continuing education, and in creating job descriptions and raises.2

Nurse executives also play an important role with patients. While they may no longer provide hands-on care, it is nurse executives who approve treatment plans for different classes of patients. For example, someone who has gestational diabetes may be sent to a nutritionist to institute dietary changes as well as to an endocrinologist who can teach her to monitor blood sugar levels during pregnancy. It is the nurse executive that puts that program into practice. In addition, nurse executives may create plans that are more wide-ranging, such as determining the type of insurance their facility will accept.

Certain aspects of financial accountability are the purview of nurse executives as well. It is often up to the nurse executive to establish an annual budget and ensure compliance. With such a budget the nurse executive must ensure proper allocation for new equipment, employee salaries, as well as facility repair and maintenance. The healthcare manager can command annual salaries ranging from $85,000 to $145,000 or more.

In order to obtain a position as a nurse executive, an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing with a concentration in administration or management is often needed. One of the goals at Saint Xavier's online Master of Science in Nursing in Executive Leadership program is to ensure those with an eye toward becoming executive nurses have the skillset they need to seamlessly step into such positions.

In addition to requiring an advanced degree, most institutions also require nurse executives to be certified to ensure they meet strong professional standards. The world’s largest nurse credentialing organization is the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Through this organization, students who have acquired advanced degrees through programs such as Saint Xavier’s are prepared to take the necessary exams for their Nurse Executive (NE-BC) accreditation as well as their Nurse Executive Advanced (NEA-BC) certification.

For those who would like to become a nurse executive, programs such as Saint Xavier’s will provide a platform for building a fulfilling career.