Administrative Nurse Career Guide


There may not be a bigger joy than serving to heal those in distress and pain. Nursing is a career that has been serving the industry of healthcare since ages.

It all started since the time Florence Nightingale offered her services to heal the wounded soldiers of the Crimean War. The work has continued over the ages and today it happens to be diversified industry, solely dedicated to the improvement of healthcare.

Imagine you visit a relative in the hospital and find that that the care they’re receiving is top notch. Not only are the nurses on the floor friendly, compassionate, and responsible, but they are also available whenever your loved one needs anything – no matter if it’s a big or small request.

You’re impressed by the smoothness with which the nursing staff is run. Everyone seems to understand what they need to do and when. They’re cool under pressure, can manage multiple tasks at once, and work hard to ensure that your loved one is cared for and comfortable. That makes you wonder, “How does this all happen so efficiently?”

Though there are many factors as play, a primary reason why hospital nursing staffs operate with such precision is the work of the nurse administrator – an experienced nurse who oversees the management of the day-to-day tasks of the nursing unit.

What is Administrative Nursing?

Administrative nursing is a field of work in which experienced nurses take on a managerial or administrative role in a medical setting. Administrative nurses typically manage teams of nurses on a particular floor or unit.

For example, an administrative nurse in the Intensive Care Unit would manage the entire nursing staff for that unit. That includes ensuring that each patient receives top-quality care, helping make policy decisions for the unit, floor or hospital at large, and evaluating the performance of nurses under their purview.

Though administrative nurses are fully trained and experienced nurses, they typically do not work as much directly with patients as floor nurses do. As a result, administrative nursing is much more focused on the day-to-day operation of the facility, leadership tasks, and the like.

It is a career that can lead to other occupations in this field, such as Director of Nursing, Nurse Supervisor, Health Care Services Manager, and perhaps even executive positions within the medical facility in which they work.

What is a Certified Nurse Administrator?

A certified nurse administrator is a “nurse executive” that oversees a team of nurses and other related medical staff members. Their duty is to ensure the smooth operation of the nursing and medical team in a healthcare setting, such that each patient receives the care that he or she needs to be comfortable and make a recovery.

For example, a primary duty of a certified nurse administrator is to develop, implement, and evaluate nursing policies at their place of employment. These policies can be wide-ranging, from guidelines for administration of medicine to patients to policies relating to meeting medical standards.

Another way in which a certified nurse administrator performs as a nurse executive is that they are responsible for evaluating nursing staff regarding their performance and education. Additionally, certified nurse administrators work as advocates for patients, consult with members of other departments in the healthcare facility, and conduct research.

What Does an Administrative Nurse Do?

When one thinks of nursing, they typically think of nurses that directly attend to the needs of patients in clinics, hospitals, and other medical settings. And though that’s completely accurate, the job description for administrative nurses is a little different.

Though administrative nurses certainly have hands-on experience as a floor nurse, the bulk of their time is spent not in working directly with patients, but instead with conducting the day-to-day business of running the clinic, treatment center, hospital unit, and so forth.

That is, an administrative nurse is not unlike the administrator in a school – much like a school principal isn’t in the classroom teaching kids directly, they nevertheless are responsible for the smooth operation of the school. An administrative nurse fulfills a similar role.

Instead of tending to patients, most of the workday for an administrative nurse is occupied with managerial functions. That includes overseeing the nursing staff, making staff assignments to patients, and directing the activities of staff members.

Additionally, administrative nurses handle financial and record-keeping tasks like creating budgets and allocating resources, ensuring proper maintenance of patient records, and ensuring that the services being provided meet applicable regulatory standards.

There is a leadership component to the position of administrative nurse as well. As the ranking administrator, it’s their job to ensure that everyone under their supervision is following the policies and procedures outlined by their employer.

What’s more, it’s important for administrative nurses to have the capacity to encourage the people they supervise, improve morale, and motivate others to provide high-quality services to each and every patient.

Administrative nurses also act as go-betweens, for example, communicating with administrative nurses on other floors or units, working with doctors and other medical staff to ensure proper care is given, and even working with patients’ families to provide details about their care or offer services like counseling to families in need.

Why Do We Need Administrative Nurses?

Administrative nurses typically do not provide direct patient care, but their role is essential. Administrative nurses are needed to ensure healthcare facilities run as efficiently as possible.

Healthcare continues to become more advanced and complex. Although direct patient care nurses are on the frontlines, administrative nurses work behind the scenes to ensure optimal patient care is provided.

Nurses who provide bedside patient care need the support, training, and tools to do their job effectively. Without that support and assistance, nurses cannot do their job as well, which means patients pay the price. Inefficient care also can be costly to hospitals and lead to nursing burnout.

Administrative nurses are leaders in their facility who work to meet the needs of their nursing staff so that nurses can meet the needs of their patients.

Whether they are involved in budgeting, staffing, or training, administrative nurses help medical facilities operate competently and cost-effectively. We need administrative nurses to promote staff development, implement protocols, and ensure safety standards are being met.

Without administrative nurses, staff nurses might not have what they need to do their job well, which in the long run hurts both staff and patients.

What are the Educational Requirements to Become an Administrative Nurse?

To become an administrative nurse, one must fulfill various educational and work-related requirements. First and foremost, administrative nurses must be a registered nurse, which is typically a designation given to nurses that hold a four-year degree in nursing. However, nursing diplomas and two-year degree programs in nursing can also lead to an R.N.

Additionally, to become an administrative nurse, nurses must have on-the-job experience as an R.N. The amount of experience that’s required can vary from one location to the next, but at least three to five years of experience is typically required. Having experience in a supervisory role is helpful for nurses that wish to move up to an administrative nursing role as well.

It is highly recommended that prospective administrative nurses continue their educational studies in a graduate program related to the medical field. Specifically, a master’s degree in health services administration, business administration, or public health are viewed as ideal for administrative nursing positions.

Graduate studies in these fields typically require 1-3 years of additional studies after completion of a bachelor’s degree. Graduate programs in this field tend to focus less on the patient care aspect of nursing (as is the focus in undergraduate studies) and more on the business and administrative tasks required of an administrative nurse.

For example, a student in a graduate program in health services administration would likely take courses in business management, health records management, communications, and other courses that help them complete the duties of overseeing the day-to-day operation of a nursing staff.

What is an Administrative Nursing Degree?

An administrative nursing degree is an advanced degree that prepares nurses for administrative and managerial duties in a medical setting. In many situations, to become an administrative nurse, one must complete a master’s degree program in Nursing Administration.

That means that nurses – who typically must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing as well as licensure as a registered nurse to qualify for most programs – will have to complete a master’s degree, which typically takes two years or less and is comprised of approximately 30 credit hours of coursework.

Because administrative nurses focus more on overseeing other nurses and taking care of managerial duties on their unit or floor, the coursework in an administrative nursing master’s degree program focuses on things like human resource skills, nursing management, and administrative practices in health care.

Nevertheless, because nurses must have on-the-job experience before becoming an administrative nurse, they must also have demonstrable skills and experience in the field of nursing, working directly with patients.

An administrative nursing degree is usually all that’s required to become an administrative nurse, though some nurses in this field opt to gain certification in addition to their degree. There are different certification bodies, including the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

What is an Online Nurse Administrator Degree?

An online nurse administrator degree is a popular educational option for nurses that wish to advance their career. Given that these programs are online, they provide nurses that work full time with a much more flexible schedule to complete their studies than does a traditional on-campus degree program.

Online nurse administrator degree programs are graduate-level programs that require around 36 credits to complete after the completion of a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Depending on whether a student attends full time or part time, it could take from 2-5 years to complete such programs.

The focus of these online programs is to educate nurses in the daily activities associated with running a healthcare facility. Coursework might include business management, accounting, nursing theory, organizational leadership, and management.

Additionally, courses in financial resources management, health law and policy, ethics, and human capital management are common in these programs. Clearly, the focus of study is on business and administration much more so than on medical training.

What Does It Take to Become an Administrative Nurse?

If you’re interested in becoming an administrative nurse, the following skills and personal qualities may prove beneficial throughout your studies and career:

  • Work well under pressure – No matter if the employment setting is in a large hospital, a small nursing home or something in between, administrative nurses must be able to function well under a lot of stress. This includes not only handling emergencies of a medical nature, but also handling administrative tasks (i.e., resolving disputes between employees) in an effective, professional manner.
  • Problem-solving skills – Being able to look at a problem and quickly devise an effective solution is a critical skill required of a nurse administrator. Again, this applies both to the practice of medicine in determining how to resolve a medical issue as well as to the administrative side of the job in dealing with managerial tasks.
  • Communication skills – Administrative nurses must have excellent verbal and written communication skills. This applies not just to communicating with patients, but with doctors, other nurses, family members of patients, and other stakeholders.
  • Empathy – Nursing is a difficult, high-stress job at any level. Administrative nurses must have the ability to empathize with patients and their family members and be compassionate to them in their time of need.

How Much Does an Administrative Nurse Earn?

According to ZipRecruiter, an administrative nurse earns a median hourly wage of $41. The hourly wage for this position varies widely, however, from approximately $24 per hour up to about $63 per hour.

Total yearly pay for administrative nurses is also widely variable. Workers just beginning their careers might expect to earn in the low-$40,000s range. Workers with more experience and education can earn much more, though.

In fact, some administrative nurses earn nearly six-figures per year. At $132,000 per year, the top earners in this line of work are well compensated.

Becoming a top earner takes time, though. As noted above, the more work experience and education one has, the more money they can expect to earn in this field.

What’s more, the location of work influences how much one will earn. For example, administrative nurses in private facilities might expect a higher salary than nurses in the same position in a traditional hospital setting.

Administrative nurses working in Nebraska, California and Texas earn the highest average salary of $107,360, $103,631 and $98,498 per year respectively.

What is the Career Outlook for Administrative Nurses?

The career outlook for administrative nursing and other management positions in the medical field is quite strong.

Between now and 2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they expect demand for workers in this field to increase by 28 percent. The biggest reason for this expected rise in demand is the fact that the Baby Boom generation is getting older and requiring more and more medical care.

Another primary reason for the incredible growth in this field is the impending retirement of many people already working in health administration. As the ranks of administrative nurses begin to retire, there will be an increased need for new people to fill those positions.

A final factor in driving demand for administrative nurses is the growing use of electronic health records (EHR) and other health information technologies that require technological savvy and training. Positions in this field increasingly require applicants to demonstrate mastery of these technologies and skill sets.

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