The role of a Chief Nursing Officer

When you enroll in a nursing degree program, you are preparing yourself for a long-term career that could take many directions depending on a variety of factors. You may begin your nursing journey with a focus on becoming a manager in the future, or that desire may grow as you gain experience and qualifications.

A Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) is vital to any healthcare organization. A non-clinical administrative position mostly based in hospitals across the country, they oversee other nurses and patient care and can run a single hospital within a healthcare system or multiple hospitals depending on their size. They can also work in outpatient clinics, group physician practices, rehabilitation facilities, insurance company corporate offices or government agencies.

A CNO might manage nursing budgets, work with facility executives or develop recruitment programs, in addition to using their clinical knowledge to look at strategies to improve nursing practices and enhance patient experience.

Day-to-day duties

A CNO will work to create the best environment for their nursing staff so they can offer high-quality patient care and ensure they have the right support and resources. Although they do not work directly with patients, a Chief Nursing Officer will oversee all aspects of the nursing departments.

Their duties may include coordinating daily nursing operations, managing human resources, planning new patient services, maintaining compliance approval and accreditations, and creating and implementing safe staffing schedules. In addition, CNOs might work with the board of directors and other executives on recruiting, training and monitoring nursing and ancillary staff and developing and managing budgets.

Qualities and skills required of a CNO

In addition to having clinical knowledge and experience, a CNO will need leadership skills and qualities. They should show a conscious concern for patient care, be a proactive presence in fast-moving and sometimes stressful environments, respond to emergencies decisively and have a good sense for business and strong organizational skills. A positive approach to mentoring is also a useful quality, as is the ability to focus on quality and safety and a strong commitment to the highest level of competency.

General leadership tasks will include an ability to solve problems, setting both short-term and long-term goals, implementing processes to make sure patient welfare and the business side of healthcare run smoothly, and balancing the needs of the patient with administrative management concerns.

The path to becoming a Chief Nursing Officer

There are many steps in becoming a Chief Nursing Officer. A commitment to education and personal development and experience in the nursing profession are absolutely essential to achieve your goal. In addition to gaining the right qualifications, it is recommended that potential CNOs obtain as much leadership experience as possible during their previous employment, such as serving as a nursing mentor or a preceptor.

You will need to attend nursing school and earn a BSN from an accredited nursing program to take the first steps to becoming a registered nurse, then study for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to begin work.

Undertaking specific leadership training in nursing is another good step toward becoming a manager. It is also essential to be aware of new developments in the healthcare world, whether clinical or broader, and ensure you are connected to relevant publications and websites to broaden the scope of your knowledge

Baylor University’s DNP nursing leadership courses will provide future CNOs with the tools they need to progress to the level they are aiming for. The Doctor of Nursing Practice – Executive Nurse Leadership (DNP-ENL) program is 100% online and will provide students with executive competencies and knowledge regarding issues such as data-driven business strategy, transformative care models and influential leadership.

In order to enroll, students should have a Master of Science in Nursing from an accredited school of nursing, or any master’s degree in business or health-related fields, such as an MPH, MBA or an MHA, along with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited school of nursing. A GPA of 3.0 or above (BSN) is necessary, as is a current unencumbered RN license and two years of supervisory or management experience at the director level or above, with budgetary, financial and strategic planning responsibilities within the past five years.

The benefits of taking the right courses

Health organizations are complex environments that need comprehensive, strong and collaborative leadership. According to a paper published by the National Library of Medicine, formal training in the components of leadership is desirable for healthcare leaders because some core competencies should be formally taught or refined.

While some people are regarded as born leaders with excellent instincts, it is still important to undertake training in the different competencies required to learn new skills and refine existing ones. This includes laws, governance and rules but also personal competencies that are vital to performing these roles effectively.

Job outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of managers in the health services is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations at 28% between 2021 and 2031. As the large population of baby boomers grows older, there will be an increased demand for healthcare services and a growing need for workers within all roles, including managers to organize and oversee staff and operations.

Therefore, entering a career within the field is almost a guarantee of longevity and the reward of a fulfilling and desirable job. Once you have experience and decide that a role within management, such as becoming a CNO, is the route you want to take, researching the options available to get you there is vital.

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