Career & Finances | Hospitals | Specialties

The Importance of a Chief Nursing Officer Role

  • A chief nursing officer (CNO) has big shoes to fill in a healthcare facility.
  • They are an invaluable asset, and their educational and work experiences alone make them an expert in their role.
  • Interested in what a CNO role entails? Keep reading!

NCC News & Content Team

November 05, 2021
Simmons University

Have you been offered a chief nursing officer (CNO) position?  

Or are you wondering what it takes to get there, or why it’s an important role to fill in a healthcare facility? 

Are CNOs still providing bedside care? If not, what do they do and how does it impact nursing? 

These are all valid questions! Let’s get to the bottom of them! 

What is a Chief Nursing Officer?

A chief nursing officer (CNO) is a top-level, nonclinical official who provides administrative advice, nursing expertise, and assistance within a healthcare facility.  

In short, a CNO represents and speaks on behalf of the nursing staff; what exactly does this entail, though? 

From managing budgets allotted to the nursing department, developing recruitment and retention programs to working collaboratively with facility executives, it is evident that a CNO has large shoes to fill.  

On top of this, a CNO’s plethora of clinical knowledge allows them the opportunity to modify, implement, and oversee more efficient nursing practices that will enhance future patient experiences.  

How Do I Become a Chief Nursing Officer?

If a career as a CNO is something you see yourself working toward, there are a few things you should know!  

First, be prepared to dedicate several years to earning various educational degrees. For example, Top Masters in Healthcare suggests that CNOs should not only obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), but a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) as well as a Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA).  

If you currently possess only a BSN, you are only four years away from a CNO candidacy – two years to obtain an MSN, and two for either an MHA or MBA. However, there are some accelerated programs that can shave off a year, but the pace is much faster. 

Additionally, it is recommended that potential CNO candidates receive as much leadership experience as possible prior to applying for the position. Serving as a preceptor or nursing mentor is a great way to start!  

To sum up, there is no tried-and-true way of becoming a CNO, however, the more education and experience obtained, the better your chances of landing the job are! 

What is the Salary Like?

Online job resource, ZipRecruiter, states that the national average for a CNO is currently $136,250. 

chief nursing officer with nursing staff

Why is the Role of a Chief Nursing Officer Important?

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) highlights five major competencies in nursing leadership that all CNOs must embody for success. These include: 

  • Communication (and Relationship Management) 
  • Knowledge 
  • Leadership 
  • Professionalism 
  • Business Skills 

A CNO represents the healthcare facility’s nursing staff, so it is vital that they establish trust among their team members and ensure that they communicate effectively.  

Following, whether it is through sole experiences as a previous clinician or through many years of schooling, a CNO must possess the knowledge necessary to apply meaningful and successful programs within the facility. Having a general understanding of patient care delivery and normal processes is essential. 

As an executive administrator, leadership is one of the most important qualities that a CNO can possess, and in most cases, one without this skill will not be hired. From foundational thinking skills to planning and change management, a CNO must be confident in his or her ability to lead a team while also maintaining professionalism.  

At this point you might be thinking, “this all sounds great, but how does a CNO impact nursing care and patient experiences long-term?” Let’s break it down! 

How Does a CNO Impact Nursing Care and Patient Experience?

As previously stated, a CNO is a nonclinical member of a healthcare facility. However, they must have prior hands-on clinical experience.  

The influence of a CNO over nursing staff has a direct impact on patient care delivery and its outcomes. For example, Lamar University outlines a few factors that are heavily influenced by the CNO. These include,  

  • Workplace morale, environment, and culture 
  • Clinical and patient standards 
  • Delivery of care methods 
  • Educational incentives such as mentorship programs 

Although these are just a few examples, it is evident that the role of a CNO is invaluable to the healthcare facility and its daily operations.  

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a CNO, go full steam ahead!

You are unstoppable. Go out and make meaningful and insightful change in our healthcare system! 

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