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msn nursing administration

Nurse administrators draw from a blend of nursing, business, and leadership skills. Education levels, titles, and settings for nurse administrators may vary, but generally, they often oversee the nursing staff, patients, and administrative duties. 

Many nurses move into management or leadership roles with little to no experience. Some may have the misconception that working in an administrative role will not be any different if they are familiar with the nursing specialty. New responsibilities such as balancing costs, managing staff, and improving productivity can be challenging without adequate experience or educational preparation. A degree in nursing administration can enable a more seamless transition to the role and provide opportunities for a career away from the bedside.

Nurse vs. Nurse Administrator

A nurse administrator is a leader, collaborator, and positive change agent for long-term stability and success. The skills of a manager, leader, or a combination of both, allows for a different perspective. This broader view considers how everyday tasks can affect the big picture of the healthcare organization.

A role in nursing administration requires a shifting of focus to different priorities. The issues that arise may be the same but might be addressed in the boardroom instead of at the bedside. Responsibility does not end with individual tasks but extends to the patients, and all the supervised staff. 

Nursing Administration Roles

Nurse administrators are responsible for meeting high patient standards with safe, quality care, and can work in a variety of roles that generally require leadership skills. Responsibilities can vary from shift to the 24-hour responsibility for a unit, floor, or overall organizational responsibility. 

Nursing administrators are key orchestrators for driving and implementing necessary change in business, technology, and healthcare settings and can have roles such as:

  • Chief nursing officer
  • Nursing administrator
  • Director of nursing
  • Nurse manager
  • Nurse executive
  • Charge nurse
  • Health coordinator

Regardless of the role, the development of specific skills and competencies can help achieve success as a nurse administrator. 

Competencies for the Nurse Leader

The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) identifies communication, knowledge, leadership, professionalism, and business skills as essential competencies for the nurse executive. 

Nurse administrators help guide the nursing practice, ensure the quality of patient care, and influence the work environment’s culture. With the high-level responsibilities accompanying this position, if an answer is unknown, the nurse administrator is expected to know where to find it. 

  • Communication: Effective leadership is often rooted in robust communication and collaboration skills. These proficiencies can enhance the delivery of feedback, coaching, and encouragement to others. Clear, honest, and transparent communication can boost interpersonal relationships, nurture morale, and make a positive workplace culture difference. 
  • Knowledge: A nurse administrator can act as a role model, advocate, mentor, and positive change agent. They understand the challenges nurses face and can act as their voice. The knowledge gained from providing patient care can apply to different areas of nursing, such as to:

    • Assess new trends and their validity to the organization
    • Diagnose issues related to staffing, recruitment, and retention
    • Plan methods to improve staff productivity, patient outcomes, and navigate organizational change
    • Implement new technology based on staff and patient needs
    • Evaluate and create policies and procedures to direct and control healthcare, human resources, and quality improvement measures
  • Leadership: Regardless of the professional title, nurse administrators are generally in a leadership role. Nurse leaders often make decisions that impact the entire organization. The ability to reflect and analyze options is enhanced with the utilization of critical thinking skills. Leaders also require expertise in problem analysis, creative thinking, and organizational vision for strategic planning. Nurse administrators may engage in scholarly activities, support nursing innovations, serve on committees and advisory boards, or be a spokesperson for the organization. 
  • Professionalism: Professionalism is essential when consulting and collaborating with different health care teams and health care systems. Sensitive topics related to legal, ethical, and cultural issues may also require consideration. 
  • Business Skills: Often the most challenging aspect of stepping into a nursing administration role is learning the business skills that accompany the position.
    These can include:

    • Financial management 
    • Budget strategies to provide cost-effective care
    • Strategic planning
    • Inventory and the responsible use of resources
    • Human resource management and staffing

Benefits of an MSN in Nursing Administration 

Education-specific to nursing administration can assist in understanding this new role and its accompanying responsibilities. Coursework can also allow for the professional growth necessary for future positions and the ability to develop leadership competencies while developing a professional network of peers. 

Many nurses acquire their advanced education while they are still working. Flexible online courses make it possible to earn a degree while increasing professional opportunities and earning potential. Training on topics that may be unfamiliar such as contemporary management theory and application, can assist in gaining confidence to make the difficult decisions required to succeed in this new role. 

Topics to assist in the preparation to work in administrative or clinical settings can include:

  • Current nursing practice
  • Nursing theory
  • Management
  • Economics
  • Legal, ethical and cultural issues
  • Project development
  • Information systems technology 

Preparing for Success 

Nurse administrators utilize business and healthcare expertise to lead, guide, and motivate nurses to ensure that patients receive quality care. Whether it is working in a hospital, healthcare facility, or long term care, someone maintains a seamless transition for each nursing shift. Obtaining an MSN in nursing administration might offer the opportunity to be that person.


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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