Head Nurse

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December 17, 2012
DEGREES ↓ SCHOOLS ↓ CAREERS ↓ COURSES ↓
Glossary of Career Education Programs / Medical and Health Professions / How to Become a Chief Nurse:... How to Become a Chief Nurse: Step-by-Step Career Guide
Learn how to become a chief nurse. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a chief nurse. To find schools with Nursing programs, browse these popular options.

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Requirements for Becoming a Chief Nurse
Chief nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who work at the administrative level. They ensure that nurses throughout a medical facility consistently provide patients with quality care. Nurses in this supervisory role also work with other healthcare professionals to establish overall goals and objectives for their health care facilities. The following table outlines the core requirements for becoming a chief nurse:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree is required*; master's degree or higher is preferred*** Degree Field Nursing at the bachelor's level*; nursing, health administration or business at the graduate level*** Licensure and Certification RN licensure is required; voluntary certification is available* Experience Clinical experience is required*

Key Skills Communication, personnel and time management, active listening, critical thinking, decision making and writing** Computer Skills Scientific, classification, database user interface and query, document management and medical software** Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online, ***October 2012 job listings

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Although diplomas, associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees all qualify one as an RN, those who would like to become a chief nurse need a bachelor's degree if they plan to pursue graduate studies. Nursing students receive both clinical and classroom instruction, which typically includes courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, microbiology, nursing and psychology. Students gain supervised clinical experience in a number of areas, including pediatrics, surgery and psychiatry.

Step 2: Pursue and Maintain Licensure as an RN
Graduates of approved nursing programs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed RN. Specific requirements for licensure can vary by state. A current RN license is usually required to obtain employment as a chief nurse.

Success Tip
Take continuing education courses. Chief nurses typically must engage in lifelong learning since continuing education credits are required by some state boards of nursing to maintain licensure. Step 3: Pursue a Master's Degree

Based on job listings from October 2012, employers often prefer, and sometimes require, at least a master's degree in nursing, business or health administration for chief nurse positions. Master's degree programs generally take two years to complete. Graduate-level nursing students learn advanced nursing concepts and leadership skills. They also learn to analyze health problems and apply nursing solutions, as well as evaluate nursing and healthcare systems. Both business and health administration students study leadership, finance, information technology and business operations, but health administration programs are tailored specifically to the healthcare industry.

Step 4: Become Certified
Chief nurses can seek voluntary national certification in nursing management. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers the Nurse Executive (NE-BC) and Nurse Executive, Advanced (NEA-BC) certifications. The NE-BC designation is available to registered nurses who have at least a bachelor's degree and have held a mid-level administrative position or higher, a graduate-level faculty teaching position or a nursing management or consulting job for at least two years. Those who don't have a master's degree also must complete...
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