Any facility that employs nurses also typically employs a nurse executive.  They may also be called director of nursing (DON), chief nursing officer (CNO) or vice-president of nursing.  The nurses employed in these roles are typically nurses with excellent leadership skills.

What is a Nurse Executive?

According to the American Organization of Nurse Executives, “The key roles of nurse executives include facilitating the design of patient care delivery; advancing the discipline of nursing; building relationships and connections with staff and colleagues; and fostering stewardship.”  The nurse executive is a part of the senior leadership team of their facility, and are ultimately responsible for the nursing staff and subsequent patient care administered.  They also work to improve patient outcomes and are tasked with keeping track of finances related to the nursing staff.

What Does a Nurse Executive Do on a Daily Basis? notes that a nurse executive may be employed in a variety of nursing settings – hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory clinics, nursing schools and education departments.  He or she will oversee all nursing staff, including nurse managers.  They will develop policies, ensure that their facility is operating under established standards, and prepare budgets.  Ultimately, the nurse executive spends their day supervising staff and ensuring that patients are satisfied with their care, and if they are not, developing policies and procedures using evidence-based practice.

How Do I Become a Nurse Executive?

The minimum educational requirement for employment as a nurse executive is a BSN.  However, certain institutions will require a MSN.  Typically, past employment in a leadership role is required, with skills “in strategic planning and development, supervising and budgeting.”  Obtaining a job as a nurse executive is something that would not happen to a new nursing graduate; this is a nursing position that is acquired after years of experience.  If you desire a job as a nurse executive, it is a good idea to gain experience in an entry level position and slowly rise in nursing management; for example, first becoming a charge nurse, then a clinical nurse manager and then a nurse executive.  Developing leadership skills throughout this process is key.  In addition, continuing for a master’s degree may be helpful. If you are interested in leadership roles, the clinical nurse managercharge nurse, or nurse case manager are other options you may want to explore.

What is the Job Outlook for Nurse Executives?

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for RNs in general is bright; employment is expected to rise 16% from 2014 to 2024.  For healthcare management in general, the job outlook is also rising; employment is expected to rise 17% from 2014 to 2024.

Nurse Executive Salary Expectations

Nurse executives are amongst the highest paid RNs.  Payscale notes that nurse executives can expect to earn about $119,000 per year; this is a sharp increase from the average salary of RNs in general, which is about $69,790.

For the RN who seeks to be in a management role and who also desires to improve patient outcomes, a position as a nurse executive may be the way to go.  This position is high stress, so it is definitely not for everyone.


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