How to Become a Chief Nursing Officer

In-Depth Guide to Becoming a Chief Nursing Officer

At the front of every team is a leader. This is true in the health care industry as well as in other fields. Chief nursing officers (CNOs) represent a health care facility’s entire nursing staff and play a vital role in making sure patients receive the best care possible.

If you have a background in nursing and want to pursue a more executive-level role, a career as a chief nursing officer could be for you. Check out the following article for more information.

What Is a Chief Nursing Officer?

A chief nursing officer is the highest position for nursing management in any organization. CNOs are responsible for overseeing and coordinating all activities of the health care facility’s nursing department. They plan, direct, organize, and oversee all nursing and patient care services.

CNOs can be found in many organizations, including hospitals, clinics, rehabilitation centers, surgery centers, government agencies, doctors’ offices, and more.

What Does a Chief Nursing Officer Do?

CNOs have a complex job overseeing all activities in a nursing department. Each day can hold entirely new tasks and responsibilities. Generally, CNOs carry out the following duties:

  • Creating a positive nursing environment
  • Overseeing employee engagement, recruitment, and retention
  • Ensuring that nursing standards are followed
  • Developing and managing department budgets
  • Designing and implementing strategic goals
  • Coordinating daily nursing operations
  • Serving as a spokesperson for the nursing department
  • Planning new patient services
  • Organizing, directing, and administering best practices for patient care
  • Working closely with executives
  • Maintaining quality assessment and improvement
  • Ensuring that the department complies with regulations
  • Establishing and monitoring nursing performance
  • Partnering with physicians to ensure a steady work environment

How to Become a Chief Nursing Officer

The first step to becoming a chief nursing officer is earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Then, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. If you did not earn your bachelor’s before taking the NCLEX-RN, you’ll want to do that as your next step. Once you have done that, you must earn your master’s degree in nursing. From there, it’s all about gaining a lot of nursing experience. You may also consider becoming certified in nursing management, leadership, administration, or a related field.

Chief Nursing Officer Experience Requirements

To become a CNO, you must earn the appropriate amount of education. However, you also need a certain amount of on-the-job experience to stand out with potential employers. You should have at least five years of administrative or management experience before you start applying for CNO positions. Also, it’s a good idea to showcase your knowledge and experience by earning a certification. While certifications are not required for a CNO position, there are certifications that can help you stand out in leadership roles, including Executive Nursing Practice Certification, Nurse Manager and Leader Certification, Clinical Nurse Leader, and Nurse Executive, Advanced Certification.

Chief Nursing Officer Education Requirements

You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then pursue a master’s in nursing if you wish to become a CNO. A master’s degree in nursing administration, health administration, business administration, or other related field is appropriate.

Excelsior’s Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Administration of Health Care Systems program empowers you with the skills and knowledge you need to play a vital role in health care systems, have a seat at the executive table, and have an influential voice when essential decisions are made about health care. The dynamic and challenging curriculum provides a flexible means for registered nurses to earn a master’s degree and preparation for advanced professional roles as a nurse leader.

Chief Nursing Officer Career Paths

Registered nurses can follow one or two paths on their way to becoming a chief nursing officer. One, they can work as an RN for several years before pursuing their master’s degree or, two, they can immediately start pursuing their master’s degree while working as an RN. Whichever path you choose, note that you must have five to six years of administrative nursing experience before you apply for any CNO positions.

Does becoming a CNO sound like the right career for you? Get started today on your master’s degree with Excelsior!