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As a continuation of our MSN in Administration and Management series, experienced nurse administrator and author, Maureen Bonatch answers the question “What can you do with an MSN in Nursing Administration?”


The physical demands of years of working as a floor nurse influenced my decision to return to school. I wanted to work toward obtaining a nursing position away from the bedside. This decision was exciting but led to questions regarding where to focus my education. 

The opportunities to improve the nursing environment and culture incentivized me to pursue a Master of Science (MSN) in Nursing Administration. I knew that a nursing administration position would offer opportunities to act as an advocate and change agent for nurses and patients. Although the nurse administrator’s roles and responsibilities still seemed unclear since many tasks and decisions occur behind the scenes.

An Average Day 

Often the best-laid plans for the day go awry when something else —  or someone else — requires your attention. Often nurse administrators refer to this task prioritization as “putting out fires” when they adapt their schedule for unexpected events. Every day can be different when you’re a nursing administrator, although as with any role, there are standard tasks and some predictability for the day. 

Nurse management and leadership titles can vary per organization and often reflect the degree of responsibility. The MSN – Administration and Management can be applied in many nursing areas. These can include: 

Charge Nurse

My initial experience in nursing leadership was as a unit charge nurse. This role involved shift supervision of nurses and direct care staff and caring for patients when staffing was limited. Initial tasks for the day usually included reviewing patient acuity to ensure adequate staffing and creating a work schedule that assigns specific tasks. 

Often nurses who have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) can work as charge nurses. Even though a charge nurse is a supervisory role, it usually involves performing some patient care, making it an excellent position to determine if you prefer a job away from the bedside. 

Nurse Manager

As I gained experience, I worked as a building relief Nurse Manager and would oversee the nursing staff on multiple floors. I’d start my day collaborating with the nursing unit supervisors to review and reorganize staffing based on call-offs and patient acuity needs. I’d also be responsible for approving time-off requests to create the schedule for upcoming weeks. Other tasks included ordering supplies, serving as a resource for unit supervisors, and planning nursing staff evaluations. 

If I wanted to grow and excel in my nursing leadership roles, I needed to acquire additional education in human resource management and budgeting. An MSN would allow me to gain a competitive edge over others who might seek similar nursing management positions.

Director of Nursing (DON) 

Obtaining an MSN degree in nursing administration increased my professional network. It gave me the knowledge and competitive edge for expanded leadership opportunities, such as the Director of Nursing.

I was no longer directly responsible for scheduling or administering patient care. This leadership role involved: 

  • Managing operations for an entire department
  • Human resource management
  • Regulation compliance
  • Budgeting
  • Marketing
  • Recruiting staff 
  • Create the policy and procedures

It was my role to hold others accountable for their actions and ensure that everyone adhered to policies.

Long-term planning included:

  • Identifying human resource issues that might lead to turnover
  • Acquiring appropriate patient care technology to increase efficiency
  • Reviewing patient satisfaction surveys
  • Exploring methods to improve the quality of care

Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)

This executive leadership role is usually responsible for the whole organization or multiple facilities. Sitting at the forefront of strategic planning requires critical thinking skills to implement policies and procedures while thinking globally about their organization to ensure that it stays viable. 

Nurse leaders must take in information, adapt, and develop creative solutions. CNO’s share their expertise by collaborating with other healthcare team members to review progress, address relevant issues, and provide guidance in seeking viable solutions. The CNO may participate in succession planning through mentorship while prioritizing time for networking, organizational or community committees, and involvement in professional organizations. 

Other Nursing Roles 

Nurses bring the patient perspective to healthcare. The broader strategic mindset expanded upon in nursing administration can be applied by serving on a board to impact public and community health, or contribute their voice in public policy where major healthcare decisions occur. 

The knowledge acquired from education and experience can apply across multiple healthcare settings and specialties. 

An MSN in nursing administration can permit expanding outside nursing management and administration to other roles such as:

  • Case report writer
  • Electronic medical records analyst
  • Equality data manager
  • Educators

What Type of Education is Required

Nurse administrators can have varying levels of education but often, at a minimum, require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Some employers or nursing leadership roles prefer an MSN degree — within the VA (Veterans Affairs) hospital system, for example — but may permit a BSN degree at minimum to get started within a leadership role and encourage the pursuit of additional education. 

Involvement in professional organizations can provide additional resources and an expanded professional network for a nursing administration career. A few organizations include the American Nurses Association and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

The Road to Success

Leadership skills can transfer to various nursing roles to meet the complex, changing demands of healthcare systems. When I obtained my MSN in nursing administration, it opened positions in nursing management, leadership, education, and healthcare content writing. Perhaps an MSN in nursing administration is your next step in your nursing career. 


Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN, draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership, and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her work has appeared in numerous health system websites and healthcare journals. Her experience as a fiction author helps her craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at CharmedType.com and her fiction books at MaureenBonatch.com


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