Nurse Executive

The nurse executive usually begins their career as a licensed nurse and as such, they understand many of the issues that go with clinical nursing situations. However, most executive nurses also have advanced degrees that give them an insight into administrative, budgetary and program planning issues necessary for a health care situation. The nurse executive might be the administrator of the retirement community, the program director at a nursing school, or the head of a community health program.

Nurse Executive Job Description & Scope of Practice

The nurse executive will normally have at least a Bachelor of Science Degree in nursing and many years nursing experience or more commonly a Master or Doctorate level degree.

This nurse’s duties are generally all devoted to the administrative side of the health care field rather than bedside nursing and direct patient care.

Depending upon the situation a nurse executive might design new programs for the delivery of patient care or might balance a hospitals’ nursing staff requirements with the budgetary limitations that most health care settings struggle with on an ongoing basis.

The nurse executive’s duties may require proposal writing, funding acquisition, allocation of available human resources, policy designs and more. Depending upon the situation the nurse executive may be required to be the spokesperson for the facility.  The level of business, and administrative knowledge required of the nurse executive is why most employers prefer a candidate with a Master level degree at least. A passion for nursing is what it takes to be an exceptional floor nurse, but the nurse executive must also possess a grasp of budgets and leadership.


How to Become a Nurse Executive

The nurse executive should have excellent communication skills both verbal and written. The floor or charge nurse must have 10 or more years experience in clinical nursing before becoming eligible in most hospitals. The nurse who plans to become an executive might want to take undergraduate courses in leadership and communication. Nurses who elect to continue past the 4-year degree and obtain a Master degree will usually have more choices in job opportunities. Master degree programs which contain a strong element of leadership and business, are popular choices for nurses who plan to become executives in hospital administration.


Nurse Executive Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

●        The nurse executive should earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

●        Pass the NCLEX-RN examination and obtain an RN license.

●        A Master level or Doctorate level Nursing or Business Administration, Hospital Administration or Leadership degree can help the nurse executive advance more quickly in the areas they prefer.

●        The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) certifies eligible executive nurses after they pass a certification exam. In order to sit for the exam, nurses must have held a position in administration, management, consultation or education for two of the five years prior to the exam. Applicants must also be up to date in regards to continuing education. Thirty hours are required for the three years before the exam. However, those with a master’s degree in nursing administration are exempt from the continuing education requirement. The exam takes four hours to complete and is administered through various testing centers throughout the country. Upon successful completion, examinees are rewarded with the Nurse Executive Board Certified (NE-BC) distinction.  Nurse executives are backed by the American Association of Nurse Executives (AANE).


Nurse Executive Salary and Career Outlook

The job growth for a nurse executive is likely to be slower than that of job growth for registered nurses in general. However, retirement, new facilities, and persons who leave the field for other reasons mean the nurse executive career will experience steady growth.

The average salary of a nurse executive is around $108,000 per year.