Nurse Executive

What Does a Nurse Executive Do?

Nurse executives design, facilitate and manage patient care delivery. Mainly involved in management and administrative issues, they plan and develop patient procedures and institutional policies, as well as handle the budgets of health care facilities, such as hospitals, nursing homes and health clinics. Serving in a leadership position, nurse executives carry out the mission of their organization and are responsible for being effective communicators who value diversity, encourage creativity and demonstrate financial accountability. To foster a positive working environment, nurse executives establish and continuously develop professional relationships with staff and fellow colleagues. They also serve as educators by providing learning opportunities for the staff, and must keep their knowledge of the health field up to date through continuing education courses and memberships in national nursing associations. Even though nurse executives have the opportunity to make a difference and shape nursing and health care policy, they also have no direct contact with patients and spend most of their times in offices working with colleagues.

How Can I Become a Nurse Executive?

To be a nurse executive, you need to possess leadership and management skills, as well as the ability to make critical decisions and communicate clearly. If you want to have a career as a nurse executive, you must first complete a nursing education program and earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Before you can practice independently, you will have to pass the NCLEX-RN examination to be certified as a licensed and registered nurse. Typically these types of nurses also earn a master’s degree in nursing, or hospital or business administration. After completing a graduate program, you will want to earn some experience working in an executive nursing role before you seek any type of certification. Certification serves as a validation of expertise in executive nursing and can be earned through professional nursing associations like the American Organization of Nurse Executives. This organization requires that you fulfill all eligibility requirements and pass an exam in order to become Certified in Executive Nursing Practice. The exam covers clinical and administrative topics and assesses one’s understanding of human resources, staffing, performance improvement, financial management, technology and strategic planning.

What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Nurse Executive?

While the duties of a nurse executive have related exclusively to nursing services in the past, they have expanded to include more responsibilities related to patient care services within the health care industry. Nurse executives are qualified to hold positions as chief nursing officers, chief nurse executives, associate chief nursing officers and assistant directors. With health systems and nursing schools needing advanced nurses in leadership positions, those who wish to pursue a career as a nurse executive can look forward successful careers with many job and advancement opportunities. These types of nurses who specialize in management and administration can work at hospitals, community clinics, ambulatory care centers, long-term care centers, health care organizations and home health agencies. The salary outlook of an executive nurse depends on the rank of their position, as well as the type, size and location of their employer. Those who choose to specialize in this area of nursing can most likely expect to be paid well for their qualifications and expertise. According to, in the United States the median expected salary for a typical Head of Nursing is $179,117.