Nurse Administrator Career Guide

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    A career in nurse administration carries a great deal of responsibility but can be extremely rewarding. The role of a Nurse Administrator can mean a variety of different things depending on the healthcare institution. Most commonly, Nurse Administrator refers to a Nurse Manager. These terms can be used interchangeably. 

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    Part One What Is A Nurse Administrator?

    Nurse Administrators create schedules for employees, give annual performance reviews, and help create policies within the unit. Nurse Managers are licensed registered nurses who more often than not have advanced nursing degrees, such as a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) and strong clinical nursing experience.

    Additional responsibilities include:

    • Interview and hire new nurses
    • Function as a liaison between hospital administration and employees
    • Collaborate with medical staff
    • Manage unit budgets
    • Handle disciplinary action
    • Help carry out the mission of the healthcare facility

    Nurse Managers function primarily in an office setting and away from the clinical unit. They attend administrative meetings, work with new employees, and serve on different committees throughout the hospital. A nurse manager can work in a hospital, urgent care clinic, doctor’s office, home health care services, and/or a nursing home. 

    Part Two What Qualities Should a Nurse Administrator Possess?

    Not all nurses are destined to work in a leadership role. Individuals must be prepared to step away from bedside nurses and take on a role that supports the department. 

    Strong nurse managers should possess the following traits:

    • Good listener
    • Clinical expertise
    • Flexibility
    • Organized
    • Analytical
    • Problem Solver
    • Leadership

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    Part Three What is a Nurse Administrator’s Salary?

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median expected annual salary for healthcare administrators is $109,370. It is important to note that this does vary depending on the setting. General medical and surgical hospitals have the highest median pay at $117,630, while home health care services have the lowest median pay at $98,690. 

    Some health care systems pay nurse managers on an hourly scale while others have a fixed annual salary. Those paid on an hourly scale are able to earn overtime pay whereas salary employees would need to discuss that with the hiring committee. This can be extremely important as nurse managers generally work more than 40 hours a week. 

    Currently, the following states have the highest pay scale for nurse managers according to the BLS.

    • District of Columbia $68.45/$142,380
    • New York $65.21/$135,640
    • Connecticut $62.36/$129,710
    • California $59.04/$122,800
    • Alaska $58.43/$121,530

    Metropolitan areas tend to pay higher for nurse administrators. Some of the highest paying cities include:

    • San Francisco, CA $162,530
    • San Jose, CA $159,300
    • Nassau County-Suffolk County, NY $147,640
    • Ithaca, NY $139,210
    • Athens-Clarke County, GA $139,070

    Nonmetropolitan and/or rural areas with the highest employment of Nurse Managers are: 

    • North Northeastern Ohio nonmetropolitan area
    • Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area
    • North Texas nonmetropolitan area
    • Southern Ohio nonmetropolitan area
    • Northeastern Wisconsin nonmetropolitan area

    Despite a large number of nurse manager positions in the aforementioned areas, the pay scale is amongst the lowest in the country. Areas that have less nurse manager positions tend to pay more according to the BLS. 

    Most Nurse Administrators are required to hold at minimum a Bachelors in Science in Nursing (BSN). Most major health care institutions will also require completion of an MSN degree or current enrollment in a master’s level program. Those individuals holding a master’s degree will earn more than their counterparts without an advanced degree. Furthermore, some nurse managers find is helpful to obtain a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) if they intend on continuing to further their career. 

    Part Four What is the Career Outlook for a Nurse Administrator?

    Nurse Managers are currently in high demand. This number will only increase as the baby boomer generation ages and there is an increased demand for additional long-term nursing care facilities. Furthermore, nurse managers are generally older in age as this job requires years of bedside experience. 

    As the rate of employment for nurses is expected to grow, nurse managers will continue to be needed to manage theses nurses. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in health care administration is projected to grow 17 percent through 2024. Prospective applicants will find that the need for nurse managers will grow faster in outpatient settings versus inpatient hospital units. 

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    Part Five What are the Requirements to Become a Nurse Manager?

    Besides bedside nursing experience, the most important requirement is at minimum a BSN degree. With the increasing popularity in nursing administration and healthcare management degrees, it is becoming more common for nurse administrators to hold advanced degrees. 

    Nurse Administrators are advised to take masters level classes that focus in advanced nursing practices as well as ethics and policy. Some programs include a practicum where students must apply their knowledge in different administration situations. Other classes will include organizational management, leadership, and human and fiscal resource management. 

    Part Six What Certifications Can Nurse Administrators Obtain?

    The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification exam in Nurse Executive and Nurse Executive, Advanced. The exam is 175 questions and the certification is valid for five years. 

    Requirements for Nurse Executive certification include:

    • Active RN license
    • Bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing
    • Have a mid-level administrative or higher position OR a faculty position teaching graduate students nursing administration OR a nursing management or executive consultation position full time for at least 24 months (or the equivalent) in the last 5 years
    • If you don’t have a MSN in nursing administration, 30 hours of continuing education in nursing administration within the last three years. 

    The requirements for the Nurse Executive, Advanced vary slightly and can be found on the ANCC webpage.

    Another certification option for nurse managers is taking a certification exam to become a Certified Nurse Manager and Leader. The Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers this certification in conjunction with the American Organization of Nurse Executives. 

    • Eligibility requirements include: 
    • Bachelor’s degree or higher in nursing
    • Two years of experience as a nurse manager OR a non-nursing bachelor’s degree and three years of experience in a nurse manager role OR an associate’s degree or nursing diploma and five years of experience as a nurse manager.
    • Experience should be a minimum of 1,040 hours for all scenarios.

    What Schools are Best for a Degree in Nurse Administration?

    In 2017, US News & World Report ranked the best nurse administration graduate schools in the country.

    The top 5 include: 

    1. Johns Hopkins University (tie 1st)
    2. University of Pennsylvania (tie 1st)
    3. University of Maryland - Baltimore
    4. University of Pittsburgh
    5. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

    MSN programs are offered both online and in the traditional classroom settings. Coursework is generally more advanced than undergraduate programs and focuses on using undergraduate curriculum as a foundation. 

    The length of time it will take to complete a master’s level program varies greatly on the individual. If a student is able to focus solely on their advanced degree it can be done in two years; however, most have family and work obligations and attend school on a part-time basis. Most programs require students finish a program within five years. 

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    Part Seven Where can Nurse Administrators Work?

    Nurse Administrators can work in a variety of settings. As the field of healthcare and nursing continue to evolve, the opportunities for Nurse Administrators will continue to grow. 

    Currently, Nurse Administrators can work in the following areas:

    • Urgent Care Centers
    • Medical and Surgical Hospitals
    • VA Hospitals
    • Private Doctor’s Offices
    • Home Healthcare Agencies
    • Nursing Home
    • Outpatient Treatment Centers

    Essentially, Nurse Managers can work anywhere with a staff of nurses. The job possibilities are endless for this career. 

    Part EightWhat are the CEU for Nurse Administrators?

    Continuing Education Requirements vary depending on the state. All Nurse Managers are required to maintain an RN license. This license carries its own continuing education requirements which differs for each state. Monetary fees are also associated with all license and certification renewals.  

    Examples of continuing education requirements are as follows: 

    • District of Columbia - 24 contact hours every 2 years
    • Illinois - 20 contact hours every 2 years
    • Minnesota - 24 contact hours every 2 years
    • Pennsylvania - 30 contact hours every 2 years 

    Some states do not require CEU’s to maintain a RN license. Example include Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, and Indiana. It is important for nurses to check their state’s RN credentialing body for exact CEU requirements. 

    Nurse Administrators with advanced certifications must also complete a required number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours. The American Organization of Nurse Executives which sponsors the CNML exam allows individuals to recertify two ways. Nurses can stay credentialed if they complete at least 45 contact hours of eligible continuing CPE hours within three years prior to the current certification expiration date OR nurses can retake the CNML examination one year prior to the expiration date.

    The CEU requirements for the Nurse Executive and Nurse Executive, Advanced certifications through the ANCC are more complicated. All certification renewal candidates must complete 75 hours of mandatory CEU’s as well as one or more of the eight ANCC Renewal categories. More information regarding these categories can be found here.  

    Part Nine Where Can I Learn More about Nurse Administrators?

    A great resource for nurses interested in learning more about nurse managers/nurse administrators is the American College of Healthcare Executives and American Organization of Nurse Executives. Information ranges from professional development conferences to research articles regarding nurse administrators.  

    These professional associations provide support to individuals throughout their career as nurse managers. It is important to join credible associations to stay up to date on the most current changes to healthcare administration and have the resources necessary to implement the changes in your job.   

    Part Ten Where can I Find the Best Nurse Admin Jobs?

    The BLS projects an upward growth for this job market. As with all jobs, employers will seek the most qualified candidates. For this reason, it is highly recommended to earn an advanced nursing degree and sit for a certification exam. 

    Despite the need for nurse managers, some job markets are saturated and currently do not have many available openings. It is important to search the surrounding area and consider a longer commute or even relocation in order to broaden the job opportunities.

    Nurse Administration jobs can often be found in the following metropolitan areas according to the BLS:

    • Philadelphia
    • New York City
    • Los Angeles
    • Chicago
    • Boston
    • Washington, D.C.

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