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Chief Nursing Officer: Providing a Voice for Nurses

One of the highest nursing management positions within a healthcare organization is that of the chief nursing officer (CNO). A CNO is responsible for overseeing and coordinating an organization’s nursing department and its daily operations. As the primary spokesperson for nurses, the chief nursing officer also works to align the nursing staff with the mission, values and vision of the organization.

Responsibilities of the Chief Nursing Officer

Chief nursing officers are charged with ensuring that patient-care, clinical and staffing standards are met. They advise senior management on best practices in nursing and patient care, work with healthcare leaders to establish compensation and benefit programs for nurses, and are involved in nurse recruitment, training and retention. CNOs may also develop patient-care programs, manage nursing budgets, plan new patient services, establish nursing policies and procedures, participate in cross-departmental decision making, conduct performance improvement activities and represent nursing services at board of director meetings. They often manage multiple departments of an organization and report directly to the chief executive officer or executive director.

Other duties of a chief nursing officer may include:

  • Create a nursing environment that fosters collaboration
  • Partner with physicians to ensure a smooth workflow
  • Ensure that nursing standards are upheld
  • Maintain regulatory and compliance approvals and accreditations
  • Work with senior management and medical staff to develop strategic plans
  • Cultivate relationships across functions and departments
  • Serve as a spokesperson for nursing

What Do Employers Look for in CNO Candidates?

In order to be considered for a chief nursing officer position, you must have extensive clinical nursing and management experience. You will also need to understand the operations of a healthcare organization, current trends and changes within the healthcare industry, and state and federal compliance and regulatory standards. Excellent leadership and mentoring abilities are also required. Skills and qualities that employers look for in a chief nursing officer candidate include:

  • Ability to lead and motivate others
  • Proven strategic-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills
  • Flexibility and willingness to adapt to change
  • Strong written, oral and interpersonal communication skills
  • Knowledge of medical technology improvements and advancements

Education and Training

Chief nursing officers typically start out as an RN within a hospital or healthcare organization, and are promoted into leadership roles of increasing responsibility. Management-level nursing roles usually require a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. However, in executive-level positions such as CNO, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the standard.

Chief Nursing Officer Salaries

CNO salaries vary by location, as well as the size and total revenues of the hospital or healthcare organization. According to data published by PayScale.com in October 2010, chief nursing officers earn a base annual salary between $90,466 and $134,680. Like other chief executives, CNOs are eligible for incentives and bonus pay that can increase their total compensation to between $90,987 and $143,368.

CNO Job Outlook

In the 2010-11 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment in nursing and healthcare administration will grow faster than other occupations. Management and administrative opportunities will typically go to experienced RNs with at least a BSN or, more commonly, an MSN degree. In addition to an advanced degree, employers generally look for a strong clinical background, as well as leadership and management experience.

Earn Your BSN or MSN Degree Online

If you are an RN aspiring to an executive management position within nursing, you should take steps to enhance your management experience and advance your education. To position yourself for a chief nursing officer role, it is essential to obtain a graduate degree in nursing. The good news is that you can earn an MSN in Nursing Administration or Nursing Education online from Jacksonville University (JU), which is ranked as one of “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report. JU’s flexible MSN degree online programs allow you to earn a world-class degree on your schedule, without interfering with work or family obligations. Apply today, and you could be on your way to a chief nursing officer career!