One of the most important roles open to nurses these days is that of nurse executives. While hands-on patient care is minimal in these positions, these nurses do more than anyone else to affect the culture in the nursing unit, improve patient outcomes and change the quality of nursing care in the facility. While this job may not be right for everyone, it can be the perfect fit for the nurse who dreams of bringing change to a health care organization and who wants to rise to the top of his or her career.

The Path to Becoming a Nurse Executive

The first step to becoming a nurse executive is obtaining a bachelor’s degree and becoming a registered nurse. Next, the individual must complete a master’s program, and many go on to obtain their doctorates. Additional certifications are important for showing off one’s knowledge and skills, and most choose to become Nurse Executive Board Certified or Nurse Executive Advanced Board Certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Many opt to take ANCC Nurse Executive practice tests to prepare for the challenges of the actual exam.

Nurse Executives: Leaders and Administrators

A nurse executive is a senior nurse in a health care organization. He or she may be called the vice president of nursing, the chief nursing officer or something similar, but the job requirements are usually comparable across the board. As a leader for those providing hands-on patient care, nurse executives not only must understand the changing world of health care but also must understand the financial and business needs of the organization.

Duties and Roles of the Nurse Executive

Although many choose to work in hospitals and larger health care organizations, nurse executives can work in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, universities, home health agencies, and outpatient care centers. As managers of the nursing side of the organization, these individuals are leaders for all of the nursing staff under them, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nursing assistants.

Because nurse executives almost never provide direct patient care, they’re able to direct their careers toward supporting the overarching mission of the health care organization. They may help to build, define and implement new policies, direct staff toward providing superb patient care and solve staffing issues. Depending on the exact role of the nurse executive, this individual may also be in charge of the nursing budget, education and patient care plans. They are both leaders as well as advocates for nurses and patients.

A Critical Role

Because of the many administrative responsibilities of individuals in this field, the nurse executive holds a critical role in any organization. He or she will set the tone for all of the work accomplished on each unit and will help to create a positive nursing culture. This makes daily work quite meaningful as the executive will be able to indirectly impact patient care outcomes.

The need for qualified nurse executives who can work in top-level roles is expected to grow significantly over the next decade. In fact, in most areas of the country, job growth for this role is predicted at more than 20 percent, which is much faster than average. Once one has the education and qualifications to be a nurse executive, the sky is the limit for career advancement. No matter which job title one chooses, the ability to improve health care norms will ensure that this remains a rewarding and exciting job.