Nursing Administration: Job Description, Requirements & Career Outlook
Thanks to the strong growth of the healthcare industry, nurse administrators are often in high demand. They serve a vital role as both a leader and a team builder while planning and overseeing medical services and helping to deliver the best possible care to their patients.
Many nurse administrators start their careers as registered nurses, so they understand the day-to-day tasks and challenges of nursing. At the same time, they’re expected to deliver on an organization’s high-level goals by directing and coordinating a team of medical staff.
The nurse administrator role blends business acumen with the emotional intelligence needed to build trust and positive rapport with staff, patients, and families. Nursing administration goes beyond clinical knowledge and experience to encompass skills in management, budgeting, human resources, and strategic planning—just to name a few.
If you’re motivated, analytical, possess leadership skills, and are interested in the business side of healthcare, becoming a nursing administrator could be for you. Read on to learn more about the nursing administrator job description, education requirements, and salary outlook.
Nursing Administration: Combining Management with Patient Care
“Nursing administration” is a general term that can apply to a number of job titles, including charge nurse, nurse manager, director of nursing, and chief nursing officer. Each of these positions involves different levels of responsibility and varying job duties.
Some nurse administrators are more focused on administrative tasks such as budgeting, scheduling staff, upholding policies, and hiring new employees. Others are more closely involved with direct patient care while also supervising the day-to-day work of other nurses.
Nurse Administrator Job Description
There’s a spectrum of opportunities available for those who are interested in nursing leadership. As your career progresses over time, you may be put in charge of 1 department, or you may oversee several medical units at once. Some nurses even hold executive-level roles working alongside the CEO to manage organization-wide systems and initiatives.
The best nurse administrators aren’t in this career for the glory; instead, they go to work each day to fulfill a mission and advance patient care. A nurse administrator needs to be passionate about their role and be dedicated to providing the optimum care to as many people as possible.
What they do on a daily basis
The nursing administration job description may include a variety of important tasks:
- Recruit, interview, hire, and train staff members
- Create work schedules and approve leave requests
- Direct, supervise, and review work activities of staff
- Conduct performance evaluations
- Manage budgets, order medical equipment, and approve spending
- Maintain records on facility services and resources used
- Undertake tasks to ensure efficiency and cost savings
- Initiate quality-improvement measures
- Communicate with other department heads
- Ensure compliance with laws and regulations
Do nurse administrators still care for patients?
Some nurse administrators provide direct patient care and others do not. A senior director that holds a higher position within an organization will likely spend most of their time on administrative duties and big-picture goals. These top-level managers may be more removed from day-to-day clinical activities, but they can make a positive impact on a wider scale.
In contrast, a first-level manager that supervises a team of nurses over the course of a shift may still work 1-on-1 with patients. In addition, they may be called upon to handle more complicated cases that require consultation with other types of clinicians.
How they fit into a healthcare organization
Nurse administrators might oversee an entire healthcare facility such as a nursing home or rehab center, or they might help run a specific department within a hospital. They serve in a range of positions as supervisors and first-line managers, middle managers, and top-level directors.
Helpful personality traits and skills
Nursing leadership qualities and behaviors include:
- Communication and collaboration: Conveying policies and procedures to staff and serving as a partner and liaison to other departments
- Strong attention to detail: Planning, organizing, and managing budgets, schedules, and other complex tasks that require accuracy and consistency
- Problem-solving: Assessing risks, creating best practices, and implementing systemic improvements
- Management: Mentoring and motivating staff, addressing performance issues, and hiring new employees
- Clinical knowledge and experience: Keeping up with the latest research, technology, and healthcare practices as a dedicated lifelong learner
- Analytical thinking: Understanding and applying laws and regulations to the workplace and ensuring compliance
Education & Certification Requirements
To qualify for a nursing administrator position, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is almost always required. You can earn a bachelor’s degree through a traditional BSN program, an RN-to-BSN program, or an accelerated BSN program.
However, more and more employers now prefer job candidates to have a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), particularly for more advanced leadership roles that focus on the business side of healthcare.
These types of MSN programs are offered both online and in traditional classroom settings. The coursework is more advanced than a bachelor’s degree program and specifically focuses on topics related to healthcare economics, finance, strategic planning, ethical considerations, and organizational behavior.
A few advanced degrees and certificates that could help prepare you for a role in nursing administration include:
- RN-to-MSN in Nursing Administration: Advance from an associate’s degree in nursing to an MSN without having to earn a BSN beforehand. Most programs require 24–36 months.
- MSN in Nursing Administration: Move from a BSN to an MSN, and learn about healthcare economics, policy, and leadership practices. Programs usually take 12–36 months to complete.
- Graduate Certificate in Nursing Administration: Expand your credentials beyond a BSN or MSN and gain specialized knowledge of healthcare administration. These programs can often be completed in a year or less on a part-time schedule.
- Dual Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Health Administration (MSN/MHA): Complete a dual degree that combines advanced nursing practice with courses in business operations and organizational behavior. Most programs require 18–24 months.
- Dual Master of Science in Nursing/Master of Business Administration (MSN/MBA): Enroll in this type of degree program for a chance to gain advanced nursing and business management skills. These programs often take 24–36 months.
- Postgraduate Nurse Administrator Certifications: You can earn a designation as a Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) or a Nurse Executive Advanced (NEA-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) by completing a series of prerequisites and passing an exam. In addition, the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) offers 2 other certification programs—Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) and Certified Executive Nursing Practice (CENP)—which can help you demonstrate your knowledge in these areas.
How Much Will I Get Paid?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labors Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers earn a median salary of $98,350 per year.
Pay rates vary by level of responsibility, years of experience, location, and type of employer. Hospitals tend to pay the highest median salary of $107,230 per year, while nursing and residential care facilities pay the lowest at $82,950.
In addition, your level of education can also impact your salary potential and help you qualify for more advanced positions. Master’s in nursing administration jobs may include middle manager, director-level, and executive roles.
For a point of reference, here’s how the nurse administrator salary compares to other related jobs:
Career Paths: What Can I Do with a Nursing Administration Degree?
You can find jobs in a variety of healthcare settings, including:
- Outpatient care centers
- Physicians’ offices
- Nursing and residential care facilities
- Government agencies
Nurse administrators might manage a large team of nurses in a city hospital, or they may work with a small team at a skilled nursing facility. They might also broaden their reach and manage multiple teams and departments for an entire hospital or facility.
While searching for nurse administrator jobs, you may hear several titles used, including:
- Charge nurse or nurse shift supervisor
- Nurse manager
- Clinical nurse leader
- Director of nursing
- Chief nursing officer
- Vice president of clinical operations
- Nurse executive
Whatever type of job you’d like to pursue, nursing administration can challenge you to think beyond your own individual job performance and help a larger team of staff succeed. You will guide staff members to work together to achieve critical organizational goals such as high-quality care, financial responsibility, and legal compliance.
Are Nurse Administrators in Demand?
The need for qualified nursing administrators is expected to grow a great deal in the coming years. According to the BLS, job opportunities for medical and health services managers are projected to grow 20% from 2016 to 2026—nearly 3 times the average for total occupations across the U.S.
The aging baby boomer population will continue to drive the need for healthcare services in a variety of settings, and more jobs will continue to open up as the baby boomers retire. Candidates that have a master’s degree in health administration or nursing administration could be well positioned to fill these roles in the future.
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