Question: What Can You Do With an MSN in Nursing Administration?

Answer: MSN in nursing administration degree programs prepare RNs to advance into management and leadership positions in the nursing field. RNs who graduate from an MSN in nursing administration program may pursue careers as shift supervisors, unit managers, staff coordinators, and directors at clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.

What is a Nurse Administrator?

Nurse administrator is a term that refers to a broad range of clinically trained RNs who occupy administrative positions in the nursing hierarchy and within the larger system of healthcare organizations, agencies, and providers. It is not a formal professional designation: nurse administrators may hold a number of different titles, including Head Nurse, Charge Nurse, and Shift Supervisor at the entry level of nursing administration. Further up the hierarchy in mid-level administrative positions there are Nurse Managers, House Supervisors, Unit Managers, and Nurse Staffing/Scheduling Coordinators. At the top of the ladder there are executive positions, which include Chief Nursing Officer, Director of Patient Care Services, and Director of Nursing Operations.

Depending on the specific job description and the level of the position, nurse administrators may have a number of different roles and responsibilities. These can include: human and material resource management; budgeting and fiscal oversight; hiring and training staff; maintaining medical records systems; controlling quality and implementing evidence-based patient care improvements; and coordinating the deployment of teams of clinical healthcare professionals. In order to operate effectively in these roles, nurse administrators require knowledge of advanced clinical protocols, familiarity with the complexities of the healthcare system and healthcare technologies, and skills in areas like professional communications, organizational leadership, and management science. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs with a specialized curriculum in nursing administration offer instruction in these areas to RNs aiming to move into management and executive leadership positions.

MSN in Nursing Administration Degree Programs

An MSN is a master’s level degree that provides advanced training to RNs in various areas of nursing, including nursing administration. MSN programs with a specialization in nursing administration offer a curriculum tailored to address subjects that are relevant to managing staff, coordinating care services, and overseeing the administration of nursing departments at hospitals, clinics, residential care facilities, and other healthcare institutions and agencies. Students who enroll in these programs learn to apply theories and principles of organizational leadership to the challenges of hiring, training, managing, and coordinating nursing staffs. They study healthcare policy, the healthcare system, and how these factors impact budgeting, resource allocation, and other aspects of nursing administration. They are also introduced to healthcare informatics, patient data management, and the IT systems that are part of the nursing profession. And they cultivate communication, decision-making, and leadership skills that are applicable in the fields of healthcare management and nursing administration.

MSN in nursing administration programs, like other types of MSN programs, are designed for RNs who possess an active and unencumbered license to practice. While nursing administration MSN programs may include up to 500 hours of supervised clinical experience, they do not prepare students for additional licensure in an NP/APRN specialization. However, graduates from a nursing administration program may opt to pursue one or more of several professional certifications offered by two organizations: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE).

Identifying MSN in Nursing Administration Degree Programs

There are no formal naming conventions for MSN programs that specialize in nursing administration. However, these programs can typically be identified by the focus of the curriculum, which includes courses that target operational aspects of nursing, professional management and communication skills, and organizational leadership proficiencies. Common designation for these programs include:

  • MSN – Executive Nurse Leader
  • MSN – Healthcare Leadership
  • MSN – Health Systems Management
  • MSN – Nursing Leadership
  • MSN – Nursing Administration
  • MSN – Nursing Administration Management
  • MSN – Nursing Administration and Leadership

AONE, a professional advocacy organization for nurse executives that provides resources for nurse managers and executives, delineates many of the subject areas covered by an MSN in nursing administration curriculum in its Nurse Leader Competencies. There are also two professional certifications programs administered by AONE: Certified Nurse Leader and Manager (CNML) and Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP). The ANCC, which is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA), also offers two types of credentials for nurse administrators, Nurse Executive-Board Certified (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive Advanced-Board Certified (NEA-BC), as well as additional resources for RNs aiming to pursue a career in nursing administration.

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