Nurse administrator standing with a clipboard

A nurse administrator supervises and manages all nurses in a hospital or healthcare facility. They are responsible for recruiting and hiring new nurses, organizing work schedules, and performing regular performance reviews for nurses on various floors. 

Nursing administrators are experienced registered nurses who focus on nurse management. They are strong leaders who understand what needs to be done to align nursing care with patients’ needs.

A nurse administrator helps nurses become the best possible caregivers; they create opportunities, build relationships, and ensure that the highest caliber of patient care is always a top priority.

What is the difference between a nurse administrator and a nurse manager? 

Nurse administrators oversee entire departments, while nurse managers manage individual floors and work different shifts. Nurse administrators focus more on healthcare policy, protocol, and nursing. The nurse manager focuses more on direct patient care, organization, and assignments during their shifts. 

Nurse administration is a step above nurse management in terms of scope. While nurse management focuses on daily operations and strategic goals, nurse administration focuses on executive development.

A nurse administrator must collaborate with internal and external stakeholders, human resources, and other administrative staff. They play a crucial role in ensuring a healthcare facility or medical office always adheres to protocol, stays within budget, and reaches its goals. 

What qualifications does a nurse administrator need?

First and foremost, nurse administrators have to be experienced nurses themselves. The average nurse administrator has six to eight years of nursing under their belt. They’ve worked extensively as a registered nurse, and they’ve undergone additional training and education to understand the unique responsibilities of nurse administration.

Nurse administrators must hold at least a master’s of science in nursing (MSN), usually with a concentration in nurse administration. They can also pursue several certifications, including the CNML (certified nurse manager and leader) and NE-BC (nurse executive, board certified).

These certifications are not required to become a nurse administrator, but they can help you qualify for higher pay and more job opportunities with enough experience. 

What work does a nurse administrator do day to day?

Nurse administrators are not directly involved in patient care. Instead, they perform more office-based tasks that relate to the overall nursing quality in a healthcare facility.

The nurse administrator writes reports, maintains budgets, establishes policies, does compliance checks, and collaborates with managers and administrators in other departments. 

Nurse administrators ensure that a hospital, clinic, or office provides the best work environment for its nurses and the best possible care for its patients.

Another large element of the nurse administrator's job is developing strategic growth plans for the development of the hospital or facility. They must align their goals with the overall vision of the organization.

Where do nurse administrators work?

Any facility that maintains a nursing staff needs a nurse administrator. Nurse administrators work at hospitals, medical centers, physician’s offices, and residential care facilities. 

Many nurses also oversee networks of hospitals, nursing homes, or rehab centers. In every healthcare sector, they work in an office rather than a hospital floor. 

What is it like to be a nurse administrator?

If you like working in a more business-centered career, then being a nurse administrator may be right for you.

You no longer treat patients but instead focus on managing the entire nursing operations within a facility. 

Nurse administrators must be analytical, logical, and good at communication. You spend a good portion of your day in meetings and talking to executives, administrators, and managers from other departments. 

To be a good nurse administrator, you must also have strong interpersonal skills. You will regularly engage with nursing staff, hire new nurses, and coordinate with nurse managers on a routine basis.

How much do nurse administrators make?

Nurse administrators are highly educated in nursing management and healthcare procedures. As such, they tend to earn higher salaries than typical RN. The average nurse administrator salary in the US is $76,104.25, though income often ranges between $80,000 to over $100,000 for experienced NAs. 

As part of medical and health services managers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports nurse administrators have a median pay of $101,340 annually or $48.72 per hour.

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Are there different specialties of nurse administrators? 

Being a nurse administrator is a nursing specialty! You specialize in nurse leadership, management, and healthcare organization. These roles combine nursing acumen with business and administration.

If you want to assume a more administration-focused role or are interested in healthcare management, you may enjoy specializing as a nurse administrator. 

Although you don’t directly treat patients, you bring immense value with prior RN experience. Your perspective helps shape the resources and support for nursing staff throughout a facility. This can be particularly valuable during high stress, trauma, or burnout. 

Knowing what you need and value most as a nurse can help you deliver better support to your staff.

Advantages and disadvantages of a career as a nurse administrator

You may be on the fence about leaving patient care in pursuit of an administrative position. It’s understandable, especially after spending so many years on the floor getting to know your fellow nurses. 

If you’re wondering whether nursing administration is the right move, consider some of these advantages and disadvantages to the career.

Advantages of choosing a career as a nurse administrator

1) Make a difference in nurse’s lives

Although they focus on patient care quality, a nurse administrator is heavily involved in their facility's nursing experience and work environment. You may enjoy this line of work if you want to improve healthcare delivery while giving nurses greater resources.

We know that nursing is far from easy. Sometimes, there are traumatic events that leave entire teams shaken. Nurse administrators are responsible for developing support resources for the nursing staff. 

2) Opportunity for growth

Most nurses pursue a given specialization and stay in their role for years. Nurse administrators, however, can gain promotions through hard work and demonstrated achievements. You can continually be promoted as an administrator and even have the potential to become a CNO (chief nursing officer). 

3) Detail-driven work

If you are interested in healthcare administration, you will love working as a nurse administrator. This role draws heavily from multiple disciplines, including business, nursing, and healthcare management. 

You will perform detailed reviews, draft work schedules, hire nurses, and oversee staff development. A running list of tasks falls to the nurse administrator, so you will always have something to focus on.

Disadvantages of choosing a career as a nurse administrator

1) No direct patient care

What makes nursing worth it for so many professionals? Their patients, of course. As a nurse administrator, you work in an office setting, so you will no longer be seeing any patients of your own. While this may be an advantage for some experienced nurses who want a change, it can be a significant drawback for those who love direct healthcare. 

2) Stressful responsibility 

As a nurse administrator, the entire nursing staff is your responsibility. Other executives look to you for answers when things go wrong, and you are held accountable if there is an issue with nursing regulations or compliance. 

The responsibility can be stressful, and you might often take your work home. From answering emails to responding to calls, you are always in demand and have something to do. 

3) Strict policies and regulations

A nurse administrator has to understand healthcare administration in-depth. They must ensure that their facility complies with codes, regulations, and protocols to protect their patients and staff. The sheer volume of detailed policies an administrator has to know can be daunting, to say the least. 

How to become a nurse administrator

You must earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree before becoming a nurse administrator. Furthermore, employers seek administrators with strong backgrounds in healthcare and nursing. In most cases, you will need several years of experience as a registered nurse to be considered for the position.

You can’t become a nurse administrator without first building a strong foundation in nursing. The reason is that nurse administrators represent an entire staff of medical professionals; first-hand knowledge of nursing makes a big difference in how nurse administrators manage their staff. 

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Frequently asked questions about nurse administrators

How long does it take to become a nurse administrator?

It takes 6 to 8 years to become qualified to work as a nurse administrator, though many nurses work for 10 to 12 years before assuming this role. It is not a career you enter as a new graduate or even a mid-level nurse.

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Is being a nurse administrator worth it?

If you enjoy administrative work and want to play a role in the large-scale strategy for a healthcare facility, then yes. In terms of earnings, nurse administrators earn good salaries. They can also take advantage of more flexible hours, working 9-to-5 instead of 12-hour shifts. 

Are nurse administrators in demand? 

The demand for nurse administrators is rising. It is expected to increase by 32% through 2030. This will create over 100,000 new nursing administration jobs in the next eight years. 

What degree does a nurse administrator have?

Nurse administrators have a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) or doctoral degree (DPN). Nurse administrators with DPNs tend to focus on executive-level careers and may also teach in universities or train other administrators.