Modern-day nursing is the glue that holds the entire healthcare journey of patients together. Across the healthcare sector, nurses work relentlessly whenever anyone requires medical care to recognize the problem and address it adequately. However, beyond these compassionate and dedicated individuals lies a specialized profession that incorporates several career paths, from clinical nursing to nursing education, consultation, and even legal aspects, to mention a few. In this article, we explore one of the highest positions in the nursing field – nurse executives.
Who is a nurse executive
Nursing executives are the most senior nursing professionals in a healthcare setting. They engage in administrative roles to ensure all facilities, healthcare processes, and technologies operate smoothly. A nurse executive’s responsibilities also include leading a nursing team, supervising the management aspect of healthcare, and making administrative decisions that foster the organization’s goals.
Nurse executive is a broad term that incorporates several job titles. A clinical nurse leader, nurse manager, chief nursing officer, and healthcare director, among others, are all considered nursing executives. As a nurse executive, you can work in several healthcare institutions, including hospitals, home health agencies, nursing schools and homes, consulting firms, and other healthcare organizations.
What do nurse executives do?
The responsibilities of a professional nurse executive have gone from essential nursing services to more managerial and administrative roles. Typically, these professionals promote creativity in a nursing team, exhibit financial competency and encourage staff through educational courses and participation in industrial organizations. An outline of some of the duties of a nurse executive includes the following:
- Developing and supervising patient care.
- Creating a healthcare budget.
- Communicating diverse needs effectively.
- Developing networks of efficient healthcare and wellness.
- Advocating for patients and staff.
- Structuring healthcare policies.
- Be accountable for the financial aspect of a healthcare institution.
- Supervising, planning, and developing policies and processes for healthcare facilities.
- Collaborating with other professionals.
How to become a nurse executive
A career as a nurse executive requires high-level knowledge and competency in nursing as well as leadership and management proficiencies. To become a nurse executive, you must complete the following steps before becoming certified.
- Obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
- A double major in business or additional business classes is required to develop managerial competency.
- Complete the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
- Obtain an advanced degree and executive certification, such as the American Organization of Nurse Executives.
In summary, a high-level nursing degree, business degree, and substantial experience are required to break into the role of an executive. Alternatively, professionals can opt for advanced nursing specialization degrees, which provide all these requirements in one program
That said, Baylor University Online offers an online DNP-Executive Nurse Leadership program for a nurse seeking to achieve a degree and become an executive. A DNP-ENL program helps to develop executive knowledge and competencies in influential leadership, data-driven business strategy, and transformative care models.
Characteristics of nurse executives
According to the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONL), a nurse executive’s role is to develop the vision for nursing practice in delivering effective, timely, safe, and patient-centered care. To achieve this vision, a professional must exhibit five core characteristics.
Nurse executives constantly communicate with patients, staff, and other professionals, from discussions with staff members to conducting training and coordinating with other professionals. As such, they must develop and exhibit strong written and oral communication skills.
Effective communication is non-negotiable across the nursing industry. However, it becomes much more important for professionals who manage relationships with a wide range of people, including team members, patients, external stakeholders, and community members. Therefore, to thrive as a nurse executive, effective communication is required to create an environment that promotes diversity and includes staff in decision-making.
- Industrial knowledge
Nurse executives are nurses first. As such, it’s a criterion for every nurse executive to be trained in the foundation and principles of evidence-based practice, as well as patient-centered healthcare, quality improvement, risk management, and patient safety.
Nurse executives develop a comprehensive knowledge of direct patient care through training and their experiences as nurses before earning advanced degrees and landing a leadership role. Professionals must also understand healthcare economics, policy, governance, industry regulations, and medical technology.
Effective nurse leadership is vital for strengthening and integrating safe, effective, and top-quality care into any healthcare setting. It also improves employee engagement, encourages a positive work environment, and increases collaboration. Having said that, the importance of effective leadership for an executive cannot be overstated.
Every nurse executive oversees large teams; thus, they must understand and apply practical leadership skills in motivating employees and reaching organizational goals. These leadership skills include conflict resolution, presenting, adaptability, negotiation, critical thinking, and creativity. Additionally, nurse executives remain composed in pressure situations and make quick and effective decisions.
- Emotional intelligence
Conflict resolution is a crucial aspect of a nurse executive’s responsibilities, and their reaction and responses in conflict situations determine the outcome. Therefore, executives must employ empathy to understand the perspective of each party.
Nurse executives who lead with emotional intelligence exhibit sensitivity to their own and other people’s mental health. It also becomes easier to achieve a common goal while developing effective personal relationships with colleagues and team members.
- Business skills
Alongside a deep understanding of the nursing practice, nurse executives also have a solid grasp of the business side of healthcare, such as budgeting, marketing, policy development, and networking. A comprehensive knowledge of human resource management and information technology should accompany this.
Nurse executives are the top professionals in any healthcare setting. As such, they represent role models for the entire organization. As with role models in other industries, these professionals maintain a certain level of professionalism that other workers can imitate.
Professionalism in nursing means providing top-quality healthcare to patients while also upholding the values of accountability, respect, and integrity. They must hold themselves and others liable for conforming to the industrial standards of ethics. Nurse executives should also serve as advocates of premium healthcare in any community they find themselves in.
Understanding the qualifications and possessing these key characteristics are essential for a nurse executive position. Aside from being a top nursing position, the path to becoming a nurse executive will offer several opportunities to develop as a professional, leader, and human being.