What Is a Nurse Administration Degree?

If you’re not sure what a nurse administration degree entails or what careers the education prepares students for, you’re not alone. This degree path is different from the Master of Science in Nursing that focuses on providing advanced clinical care and prepares students for jobs like nurse practitioner. A nurse administration degree is a graduate degree awarded upon completing a program designed to prepare experienced registered nurses (RNs) for leadership roles. Senior nursing roles are often administrative in nature, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Nurse administration degree programs exist online and on campus, though they may require in-person clinical practicum experiences in order to graduate.

A Nurse Administration Curriculum

To develop the skills necessary to fulfill a leadership role, nurse administration degree programs often cover a wide variety of subjects.

Some courses are obviously nursing focused. Classes in nursing theory, advanced health assessment, management of the care environment, advanced nursing practice, management of clinical outcomes and research methods are a few examples.

Other common coursework blends business and management topics with an emphasis on nursing. These courses include financial management for nurses, contemporary issues in nurse administration, health policy, nursing informational management, health care finance, human resources in health care and structure and design of nursing services.

Then there are other subjects often studied in nurse administration degree programs that are still more general. Some examples are classes in conflict management, leadership theories and strategies, managing organizational behavior, ethical decision-making and strategic planning.

Leadership Roles in Nursing

If some of the courses that are common in a nurse administration curriculum seem more at home in the field of business than nursing, that’s no surprise. Nurse administrators already have an undergraduate education – typically a bachelor’s degree – in nursing. They already know the theories and practical applications of providing nursing care to patients. To succeed in high-level administration roles, they need the business skills to manage clinical programs, promote the medical facility, hire and train employees for nursing roles, develop hospital policies and procedures and establish realistic budgets for the nursing services their employer provides.

Chief nursing officer, director of nurses, president of nursing and nurse executive are just a few possible titles a nurse administrator might hold, according to the Houston Chronicle. Nurse managers also work in management roles, though they generally work under the supervision of a nurse in a top leadership position, like nurse administrator. Hospitals are just one type of employers with a need for qualified nurse administrators. Nurses also find leadership positions in clinics, nursing homes and home-based healthcare.

Leadership roles in nursing can present many challenges. Today, a growing number of employers require master’s degrees for advancement into management roles in nursing, the BLS reported. Given these factors, earning a nurse administration degree is often a smart decision for RNs who aspire to roles like director of nurses and chief nursing officer.

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