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Foundational Concepts to Succeed as a Nurse Executive in Healthcare Leadership

The traditional role of a nurse is often portrayed as an individual in “scrubs,” tending to a patient’s bedside. However, that is only one side of a nurse’s role in a healthcare setting. In fact, nurses serve in many capacities throughout the healthcare environment — such as a nurse executive.

The role of a nurse executive is multifaceted, encompassing various aspects of healthcare management, administration and leadership. These professionals are responsible for guiding and overseeing nursing departments, ensuring high-quality patient care and contributing to the overall success of healthcare organizations.

Graduates of the Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU) online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Executive program are prepared to take on the responsibilities of this role.

Responsibilities of a Nurse Executive

Nurse executives play a crucial part in the healthcare system by managing nursing departments, overseeing budgets, developing policies and ensuring compliance with regulations. They are responsible for the accounting, administration, people management and representational aspects of a healthcare organization. This makes their role vital to the organization’s success.

At times, nurse executives serve as advocates for different groups they encounter. For instance, they may need to speak up on behalf of their nursing staff if operations aren’t optimized. Nurse executives may also need to advocate for patients under the organization’s care if care is subpar. However, nursing staff members are typically the first line of care and communication and are most likely to be the ones to alert nurse executives of a problem.

Exploring the Five Core Concepts of Leadership Among Nurse Executives

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) lists five core competencies as foundational for nurse executives: communication and relationship-building, knowledge of the healthcare environment, leadership, professionalism and business skills.

Nurse executives should understand the foundational concepts to excel in their roles. The following represents a quick synopsis of each.

  • Communication and relationship-building. Effective communication is essential for nurse executives to share information, provide feedback and foster collaboration among team members. Establishing strong relationships with colleagues, patients and other stakeholders is also vital for driving positive change and ensuring the organization’s success.
  • Knowledge of the healthcare environment. Nurses in executive positions must understand the complex dynamics of healthcare systems, including regulatory requirements, policy changes and technological advancements. This knowledge enables them to make informed decisions and contribute to the organization’s strategic direction.
  • Nurse executives must exhibit strong leadership skills to inspire, motivate and guide their teams toward achieving organizational goals. They must be able to adapt to changing circumstances, manage conflicts and promote a positive work environment.
  • Professionalism. Demonstrating a high level of professionalism is non-negotiable, adhering to ethical standards and nursing best practices. This involves upholding the values of the nursing profession, advocating for patients and maintaining a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.
  • Business skills. As nurse executives are responsible for the financial and operational aspects of their departments, they must have a solid grasp of business principles. This includes budget management, strategic planning and resource allocation to ensure the organization’s financial stability and success.

These foundational skill sets combine to ensure nurse executives contribute to their organization’s success — from well-rounded perspectives surrounding fiduciary responsibility, healthcare advocacy and patient outcomes. Therefore, any nurse executive candidate who possesses all five, and performs well, is an attractive candidate for hire.

What Do You Need to Step Into a Nurse Executive Role?

The nurse executive role may sound like a tall order given the robust set of skills and knowledge base explained above. However, it doesn’t have to be. Educational opportunities exist to prepare nurse executives for the position.

For example, Northwest Missouri State University’s online MSN Nurse Executive program is designed to equip graduates with everything they need to excel in healthcare leadership roles.

The program’s curriculum includes courses such as the Foundational Concepts for a Nurse Leader course and Leadership Effectiveness of the Nurse Leader course, which focus on developing the above-mentioned core competencies (communication, healthcare knowledge, leadership, professionalism and business skills). These courses not only prepare students for the challenges of nurse executive roles but also provide them with a strong foundation in the critical concepts necessary for success.

With this 100% online program, students can move at an accelerated pace and complete the program in as few as 12 months. This means graduates can progress quickly toward their career goals as nurse executives. Upon completion, graduates may explore positions such as nursing director, surgery center administrative director, practice administrator and chief nursing officer.

Learn more about NWMSU’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Executive program.

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