Nursing is a highly challenging career, yet one that is also very rewarding. As a nurse, you have a direct impact on the quality of life of the people you treat. But, many nurses enjoy moving out of direct care and into managerial and administrative roles. Working as a nursing administrator is one such example.
If you’re considering a career change and feel up to the challenge of directing the daily activities of health care workers, nursing administration might be the job for you!
What is a Nursing Administrator?
A nursing administrator is an experienced nurse that also has training in leadership and healthcare administration.
The primary duties of a nursing administrator include:
- Staff supervision
- Staff training
- Staff evaluations
- Evaluating patient care
- Establishing and maintaining department budgets
- Creating staff schedules
- Devise continuing education activities for staff
- Policy and procedure development
- Establishing a strategic plan for the facility
- Recruiting new staff
These are just a few examples of what you might expect to do as a nursing administrator. The specific duties you’re assigned will vary somewhat from one facility to the next.
For example, if you’re a nursing administrator in a large hospital, you might be responsible for developing a training program for new nurses in the neonatal care unit. But, if you’re a nursing administrator at a nursing home, you might be in charge of developing a training program that enhances the ability of nurses to care for geriatric patients.
As another example, if you work as a nursing administrator in a small, rural hospital, you might be tasked with purchasing equipment that the nursing staff needs to carry out their duties. But, in a large hospital, that task might be left to the purchasing department.
To become a nursing administrator, you first need to be a registered nurse, which means having a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well. Most nursing administrators then work as a nurse for a number of years to get real-world experience on the job.
Then, the next step is to continue your education by pursuing a master’s degree. Usually, nursing administrators get a master’s of science in nursing, or MSN. With an MSN, it’s likely that you will qualify for many nursing administration positions at different types of facilities around the country.
But, if you want to really improve your qualifications, pursue a doctor of nursing practice, or DNP. With a terminal degree such as this, you’ll have an even greater likelihood of finding the ideal nursing administrator position.
Pros and Cons of Being a Nursing Administrator
Like any job, working as a nursing administrator has its benefits and detriments. The hope is that the positives outweigh the negatives from one day to the next.
Below is a list of some common pros and cons of working in this field. This is not a complete list, but gives you a solid idea of the good and bad things you might expect.
Pro No. 1 – It’s a Stable Career
Some fields of work are extremely sensitive to economic downturns like recessions. Nursing administration is not one of them. With the importance of healthcare and a population that’s aging, in addition to many different career paths available to nursing administrators, it stands to reason that it will be a stable career well into the future.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that jobs in this field will grow by 32 percent through 2031. This represents much faster than average job growth, and is an indication of how stable this career will be in the long term.
Pro No. 2 – Many Employment Opportunities
As mentioned above, nursing administrators can take any number of career paths. You can work in a hospital or for an HMO. You can also work in physician’s offices or nursing homes. Nursing administrators also work for government agencies, like the Department of Veterans Affairs, and long-term care facilities for developmentally disabled patients.
Pro No. 3 – Nurse Administrators Can Fill Many Positions
Not only are there many opportunities for working in different settings, but as a nurse administrator, you also have the opportunity to work in a variety of roles.
For example, you might work as a Nursing Director, a Chief Nursing Officer, or a Nursing Informatics Specialist. Nurse administrators also work in legal realms, human resources, and quality assurance, to name a few.
Pro No. 4 – Excellent Pay
As of June 2022, according to Salary.com, the median yearly salary for a nursing administrator is just over $97,000. However, with added experience and education, your salary could reach well into six figures.
For example, the most experienced and educated nurse administrators earn in excess of $117,000 per year. Even the least experienced workers in this field still earn a good salary in the range of $79,000 per year.
Pro No. 5 – Good Benefits
Alongside good pay, nursing administrators can look forward to an excellent benefits package. Paid vacation, retirement contributions, and healthcare are often included in the salary for positions like this. You might find that some positions come with a signing bonus!
Pro No. 6 – Less Stress Than Nursing
Since there’s little to no patient contact, working as a nursing administrator is a much less stressful job. This isn’t to say that there aren’t stressors associated with an administrative role – the stressors are simply different, and often are not as intense as you find in a patient-care position.
Pro No. 7 – Ability to Influence Outcomes
Nursing administrators handle tasks that range from training staff to considering budgets to communicating with management and executive-level members of the organization. That means that you can have a lot of influence on outcomes in the workplace – influence that can make the organization run more smoothly and effectively while providing improved care for patients.
Pro No. 8 – Fast-Paced Work
Nursing administration is certainly a different kind of work than being a practicing nurse. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy a fast-paced career. Each day at work will be a little different, and each day will be filled with a variety of tasks. Boredom is not something you will experience in this position!
Pro No. 9 – Satisfying Work
Working as a nursing administrator comes with a great deal of job satisfaction. The tasks you complete and the decisions you make can have a positive impact on everyone in the healthcare system, from the patients in your facility to the employees you oversee.
Con No. 1 – Less Contact With Patients
One of the best aspects of nursing is having contact with patients. You care for them, provide support to their families, and offer encouragement in tough times. It’s a very fulfilling career, to say the least.
But when you move into an administration role, your time is mostly spent in an office. The increase in business-related duties and decrease in patient-related duties can be a difficult adjustment to make.
Con No. 2 – More Education and Training are Required
While nursing only requires an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree, a nursing administration position requires at least a master’s degree.
If you completed your undergraduate studies, you likely spent four years in school. To get a master of science in nursing, you’re probably looking at another two or three years in school.
Then, if you decide to get your doctor of nursing practice, you’ll need another two or three years of schooling. All told, you might be in school for a decade!
Con No. 3 – Lots of Red Tape
There are obviously very strict and thorough procedures for nursing practice, but as a nursing administrator, you have to work within a different set of guidelines that can be almost overwhelming.
For example, nursing administrators do a lot of paperwork. In fact, it’s one of the most common duties of this position. Everything must be documented, from budget expenditures to disciplinary actions you have to take to how you spend your time.
Likewise, there are strict guidelines regarding training. Some positions require you to have a doctorate, as discussed earlier. How you train your employees is guided by specific principles as well, including how much continuing education is required and the type of continuing education opportunities that are acceptable.
Con No. 4 – Potentially Long Hours
When you’re in a management position, you often have to be available during off-hours to tend to emergency situations. As a nurse administrator, you might be needed in the evenings, on weekends, or during holidays to address serious situations in the workplace.
Though a 40-hour workweek might be the norm for most of the year, there will be times when the hours you work far exceed the 40-hour limit. Working long hours is tiring, stressful, and takes you away from spending time with family and friends.
What Makes a Good Nurse Administrator?
As a nursing administrator, you should possess a variety of hard and soft skills that enhance your ability to direct patient care and oversee the daily operations of the healthcare facility.
Below is a list of some of the most important skills you’ll need to be successful in this career.
- Effective Communication Skills – Nurses must be able to communicate clearly and succinctly, while remaining calm in tense situations. Nurses should also have excellent listening skills and possess the ability to understand nonverbal communication as well. All of these skills are necessary for nursing administration. While you won’t communicate directly with many patients, you will be in constant communication with your staff, other administrators, executives, and loved ones of patients.
- Time Management Skills – Nursing administration is a time-intensive job. You’ll have many different tasks to complete, often simultaneously. Nurse administrators also have many duties that can make you feel stressed and spread thin. Having excellent time management skills will help you address the most pressing duties in a logical order, and complete those duties in a timely fashion and with great effectiveness. This is one of the most important hard skills of nursing administration.
- Cool Under Pressure – Being cool under pressure is less a skill and more of a personality trait. Some people love stressful situations and thrive in them; others wilt under the pressure. If you want to start a career as a nursing administrator, you’ll need to be ready to handle tense, stressful situations on a daily basis.
- Effective Leadership Skills – As a nursing administrator, you’re in a managerial position, which means staff members will look to you for guidance, direction, and feedback. Effective leaders have strong communication skills, excellent organizational skills, and the ability to bring out the best in each person under their supervision.
- Problem-solving skills – One of the most important soft skills you should possess as a nursing administrator is problem-solving skills. You’ll face an array of problems – budgets, scheduling, conflict among staff members, and so forth, that you’ll play a central role in solving.
- Emotional intelligence – While you might not have much direct contact with patients, it’s still necessary to have the ability to recognize the emotions other people are feeling and relate to their emotional experiences. With solid emotional intelligence, you can help patients and their families through difficult times.
- Solid business acumen – Much of a nursing administrator’s job is in the business world. Setting budgets, disciplining workers, and communicating with managers and executives are just a few business-related tasks you’ll encounter. You can develop a greater set of business skills in your master’s or doctoral degree program.
What is the Difference Between Nursing Administration and Nursing Management?
Nursing administration and nursing management are very similar roles, but they are also distinct roles in a healthcare setting.
A nurse administrator is responsible for overseeing their department. This includes managing the nursing staff, handling human resources-related duties (e.g., hiring new workers and training new workers), and acting as a liaison between the nursing staff and executive-level workers within the healthcare system.
A nurse manager reports to the nurse administrator. To use a school analogy, think of a nursing administrator as the principal and the nursing manager as the vice principal.
Nursing managers are much more involved in patient care and the daily functioning of the nursing unit. They typically have more patient contact than a nursing administrator. Nursing managers are also deeply involved in ensuring the day-to-day functioning of the facility aligns with its strategic goals.
In addition to these clinical-related tasks, nursing managers also work in the executive realm of a healthcare facility. As noted above, nurse managers often report to nurse administrators. But nurse managers are also part of the management team and help in the development of budgets, hiring practices, worker training, and facility policies.
There is also a difference in the educational requirements for these positions. Nursing administration requires a minimum of a master’s degree while nursing management requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. In both cases, though, an even higher degree (a doctorate for nurse administrators and a master’s degree for nurse managers) is a good idea.
In both cases, you can look forward to a challenging, yet fulfilling career!