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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!