If you’re a registered nurse (RN), you might be wondering how to move into an administrative role. As much as you enjoy providing patient care, most opportunities for career advancement above roles like assistant head nurse, clinical nurse manager or charge nurse will require you to earn a graduate degree in a subject such as nurse administration.
A Degree in Nurse Administration or Nurse Leadership
Today, many registered nurses who move into administration roles need a graduate degree, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. The most direct path to a career as a director of nursing or chief nursing officer is a master’s degree in nurse administration or nursing leadership. These courses can be completed on campus or online, but many aspiring nurse administrators choose distance learning options so they can get their education without leaving their jobs.
What makes a degree in nursing administration so important? For a registered nurse to move into an administrative role, he or she will need the kind of business and management skills necessary to organize and direct nursing services. These aren’t typically the kind of skills taught in undergraduate nursing programs. No matter how good they may be at providing patient care, even the most experienced RN probably doesn’t have all of these skills. Learning them requires a formal education. A typical nurse administration or nursing leadership degree program will include coursework that combines nursing subject matter with business and management theories and applications. Different programs have different requirements, but common coursework includes nursing theory, nurse leadership and administration, health care economics, care management, health care finance, organizational management, strategic planning, health care law and ethical decision-making.
Gaining Experience in Nursing Administration
The knowledge you learn in the classroom matters, but a registered nurse who wants to move into an administration role needs more than theoretical knowledge to succeed. Fortunately, experience is often a big part of a nursing leadership degree program. Many nurse administration programs require students to complete hundreds of hours of a practicum experience before they graduate.
Schools are often flexible, allowing students to find placements and complete these hours at locations that are geographically close to their homes – or even at clinical settings where they currently work. This flexibility is particularly important for online students, who may live halfway across the country from the physical campus of the school where they’re studying.
Of course, there are different kinds of career advancement for nurses, just as there are different kinds of advanced educations available to them. If you aspire to a different role in nursing, like nurse educator or advanced practice nurse, then a different educational path might be right for you. However, with a master’s degree in nurse leadership or a related field, a registered nurse can move into an administrative role confidently, equipped with the skill that are necessary for success.