Nurses looking to work in the area of administration may want to learn more about becoming a chief nursing officer. A chief nursing officer is the highest administrative role in nursing, so preparation for this work will take a number of years to complete. Working as a chief nursing officer will afford you the opportunity to oversee other directors and managers in a healthcare organization or system.

Requirements and Experience Needed

Since a chief nursing officer is an executive level role, it requires a good deal of education and experience. It is generally a position you will find in big facilities such as hospitals or nursing homes, but chief nursing officers sometimes also work for a health system, coordinating care in multiple facilities. Sometimes a chief nursing officer is given another title, such as vice president or chief nursing executive, but the duties are similar. A chief nursing officer must combine skills and knowledge in nursing with business and administrative skills, and often reports to the chief operating officer of an organization.

With such a wide scope of responsibilities, it's probably not surprising to find that one must hold one or more graduate level degrees along with at least five years of leadership experience. In order to work toward a graduate degree, you will need to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and of course be a certified registered nurse (RN). Then there are several graduate degrees, or combinations of degrees, that can help prepare someone to be a chief nursing officer, including the Master of Science in Nursing with a focus on Management and Organizational Leadership or a dual Master of Science in Nursing degree with either a Master of Healthcare Management or MBA. In these days of growing complexity in healthcare delivery, when administrative roles are expanding and becoming more important to provide excellent and consistent standards of care, other pertinent degrees might include the Master of Science in Nursing Administration or an Master of Science in Nursing with emphasis on Leadership in Health Care Systems.

Certification and Ongoing Professional Development

Once you have obtained your graduate degree in one of the above mentioned areas, you should be well on your way toward working as a nursing executive. There are three different credentialing centers that offer various certification processes that will allow you to obtain different professional designations. The decision to work toward one of these certifications, and which one, may depend on the job you're seeking. You can look into Nurse Executive and Nurse Executive Advanced certifications at The American Nurses Credentialing Center. Certifications in Executive Nursing Practice and Management and Leadership can be obtained from the American Organization of Nurse Executives. The American College of Healthcare Executives is another credentialing resource. Certification of any type usually requires that you pursue ongoing professional development, and these organizations can be good resources for learning more about those opportunities as well as tracking your continuing education so that you stay on course for certification renewal.

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Although the work of a chief nursing officer is varied and demanding, it can also be rewarding, both professionally and practically, since executives tend to make high salaries. Administrative roles for nurses are expanding, so the job outlook in the field is strong. If you have an interest in healthcare administration, it could be a good time to consider becoming a chief nursing officer.