There are approximately 3.1 million registered nurses in the U.S., and the nursing field offers one of the highest paying careers nationwide, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. It is important to note that a wide variety of nursing jobs exist, which provides a lot of room for salary growth. Additionally, nurses who opt to extend their education will be well-positioned to advance into one of the numerous leadership roles within their field.
Five of the Best Nursing Leadership Opportunities
1. Head Nurse
The head nurse is still responsible for providing patient care, and she or he will also take on several administrative duties. It is typically necessary to have a minimum of five years of nursing experience to be qualified for this position. Head nurses help maintain patient records, monitor inventory levels and build performance reports. They are usually in charge of one team or department, and the person in this role is held accountable for the performance of every nurse working underneath them. Communication with middle and upper level management is another integral piece of a head nurse’s day-to-day operations.
2. Patient Care Director
Individuals who rise to a patient care director position will have executive level oversight of an entire nursing unit. The role requires a mixture of strong management and clinical skills, and it is common for each patient care director to oversee as many as 40 patients and lower-level nurses at one time. Other regular tasks include maintaining a services budget, meeting with patients and their family, establishing staff protocols, scheduling and staying up to date with medical regulations. An advanced nursing degree may be required for you to reach this level, but the six figure salary that often accompanies this promotion is great compensation for your educational efforts.
3. Middle Level Management
This stepping stone to higher level positions fulfills a critical role that makes communication between higher level management and the nursing staff more efficient. Middle level nursing managers also take on a lot of administrative duties, including building departmental budgets, maintaining medical records and tracking inventory. These leaders are usually responsible for interviewing and hiring new nurses. Although middle level management nurses are not typically directly involved in patient care, they do step in to assist highly complex medical cases.
4. Chief Nursing Officer
Nurses who transition through middle management and are ready for an executive level position may excel as a chief nursing officer. This highly influential position enables leaders to make vital decisions that impact patient care, along with ensuring the continual training and progression of staff nurses. A chief nursing officer does not provide hands-on patient care, but they oversee the nurses who do and may make suggestions based upon a review of a client’s file. Administrative and managerial skills are imperative, and it is usually necessary to have an advanced administrative degree. It may take 15 or more years to be qualified for this position, but the median U.S. salary of $178,884 makes it a very worthwhile goal.
This position is also sometimes referred to as COO or President, and it gives highly experienced and educated nurses the ability to lead an entire hospital or other health care delivery organization. Ascending to this position will require at least one applicable master’s degree and extensive hands-on experience in the fields of nursing, administration and leadership. The CEO of a hospital is ultimately responsible for an extended list of functions, including patient care, finances, clinical procedures and policies, setting operational standards and ensuring safeguard compliance.
Related Resource: Top 15 Best Online Master’s in Nursing (MSN) Leadership Degree
As you can see, a career in nursing can take you much further than a basic RN position. With the right education, experience level and dedication, you could eventually be in charge of an entire hospital.