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What is a Nurse Executive?

A nurse executive is a nursing administration leader in patient care who works on the management and administrative side of patient care services. Nurse executives focus on various aspects of healthcare administration, including collaborating with other health professionals and developing partnerships and networks.1 Nurse executives commonly work in health care organizations, community health agencies and hospitals. This leadership role requires a master's degree in nursing, which prepares candidates to work in a fast-paced administrator role.2

Executive nursing roles are also found in clinics and nursing schools. Additionally, some executive nurses opt to work as consultants.3 Common tasks include:

  • Designing and managing patient care
  • Providing continuing education courses and effective communication for the team
  • Shaping health care policies at the facility or organization
  • Developing patient care procedures
  • Creating and managing budgets
  • Supporting the team to provide optimal patient care4
  • Human resource management

How is executive nursing different?

Most regular nursing roles involve some form of hands-on nursing practice. An executive nurse primarily attends to the business side of health care. According to the American Organization of Nursing Leadership (AONL), core competencies in executive nursing include:

  • Leadership: Executive nurses do everything from building collaborative relationships with the medical staff within the organization in addition to working on community outreach and building a shared vision within their organization. Nurse executives need a flexible leadership style that can adapt to situations and implement change.
  • Communication and relationship management: Executive nurses do everything from holding discussions and health care conferences to creating written materials and managing the relationships between different members of their team.
  • Knowledge of the health care environment: An executive nurse has a strong foundation in clinical practice, health care economics, health care policy and governance. They may interact with board members or represent nursing and other disciplines at board meetings.
  • Professionalism: This job requires a variety of professional skills, including upholding ethical principles, maintaining corporate compliance, and having a good sense of personal and professional accountability. Additionally, a nurse executive should be equally comfortable coaching staff and helping to develop their careers as they are in advocating for patients and patient care within their organization.
  • Business skills and principles: Executive nursing combines clinical experience with financial management, strategic management, human resource management and the management of information and technology.5

Salaries in Executive Nursing

According to Discover Nursing, the average salary for an executive nurse ranges from $49,000 to $67,0006, although the pay scale varies depending on where this career takes you. For example, chief nursing officers make an average of $124,616 annually7, while some top nurse executives make up to $247,139.8

Preparing for the Executive Nurse Role

Saint Xavier University offers an online MSN in Executive Leadership degree that allows you to further your career at a flexible pace. Its coursework prepares you to sit for the Nurse Executive, Board Certification exam (NE-BC) and the Nurse Executive, Advanced Board Certification exam (NEA-BC). Request more information today to learn more about this exciting program.