RN Management Careers for Master’s Degree Graduates: Associate Chief Nursing Officer

A position as an associate chief nursing officer is a rewarding, high-profile role within nursing.

An excellent career option for registered nurses (RNs) with previous management experience, it provides opportunities to apply creativity and leadership skills while making a real impact on the quality of care that patients receive. Because this job requires extensive knowledge of both the clinical and administrative aspects of nursing, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in Nursing Administration is the perfect stepping-stone to this role.

Responsibilities of an Associate Chief Nursing Officer

As a member of the administration team for a healthcare facility’s nursing unit, an associate chief nursing officer works under the direction of the chief nursing officer (CNO) to create an environment in which nurses are able to perform their jobs effectively. Associate CNOs are responsible for ensuring that patient services are in compliance with nursing care standards as well as state and federal regulations. They are also involved in developing and revising nursing policies and procedures, and they often assist the CNO with nurse recruitment, retention, training and quality assurance.

Among other duties, associate chief nursing officers may be required to:

  • Contribute to organizational goals and direction
  • Work to ensure nurses provide quality, evidence-based patient care
  • Ensure proper allocation of financial resources, and monitor department budgets and spending
  • Evaluate and implement special projects
  • Assist nurse management with leadership and decision-making
  • Assess the organization’s nursing practices to promote better safety and patient-care delivery
  • Oversee record-keeping and documentation
  • Monitor service quality and procedures, and evaluate outcomes
  • Analyze areas of planning and operational efficiency and make recommendations for improvement
  • Assist in planning new services and programs
  • Represent the organization at professional and community-related events
  • Collaborate with other departments and units to improve services

Skills Needed for This Position

In addition to in-depth knowledge of nursing practices, associate chief nursing officers need to have good management and people skills, as they help to supervise nursing staff and frequently collaborate with other department heads. They must also be able to maintain patient confidentiality and establish professional relationships with staff and patients.

Other important qualities include strong organizational, analytical and communication abilities, as well as excellent problem-solving and decision-making and skills. An associate chief nursing officer should exhibit good judgment and remain calm in stressful or challenging situations. Emotional stability is essential within this role. In addition, an associate CNO must understand key business management and financial planning principles. Finally, candidates for this position should have previous clinical and supervisory experience in a hospital or other healthcare setting.

Salary Potential for an Associate Chief Nursing Officer

Salary reports compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicate that the median annual income for all medical and health services managers – including associate CNOs – was $81,850 as of May 2009. The middle 50% of professionals in this role earned between $63,700 and $105,980. National salary data compiled by showed that associate chief nursing officers had average earnings of $84,000 as of September 2010. Associate CNOs typically receive health and retirement benefits as well as paid time off, and some may be eligible for bonuses.

Education and Training

An associate chief nursing officer typically starts out as an RN, which requires obtaining licensure through an accredited nursing school. RNs with clinical and supervisory experience will typically work their way up to this position after serving in such roles as charge nurse or clinical nurse manager. Employers often give preference to candidates who hold or who are pursuing an MSN degree. With its emphasis on managerial and leadership skills, an MSN in Nursing Administration program can provide excellent preparation for a career as an associate CNO.

Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the job outlook for medical and health services managers – including associate chief nursing offers – is expected to be good over the coming years. The BLS predicts that employment in this field will grow 16% between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. MSN in Nursing Administration graduates will have outstanding job opportunities, and can position themselves as strong candidates for roles such as associate chief nursing officer.

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