Nurse leaders are in a unique position to help create programs that successfully meet the needs of the United States’ evolving healthcare system.

This is a time of transformation in the delivery of healthcare in the U.S. The broad directives of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), along with the increasing complexities of healthcare technology and delivery, have created an unprecedented need for action. And nursing degree programs play a key role in developing healthcare thought leaders—leaders who will help navigate the landscape between where we stand now and where we plan to go.

Why the Triple Aim Initiative Needs Nurse Leaders

Developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), the Triple Aim initiative identifies three objectives:* (1) focus on patient experience; (2) improve population health, and (3) reduce per capita cost of care. Together, these goals represent a historic change from the traditional pay-per-service reimbursement structure to a specific, collaborative strategy for improving healthcare.

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The IHI emphasizes that the new model of care needs to be developed by healthcare executives who are both highly experienced clinicians and trained in financial and operational management.

In order to accomplish their objectives, administrators and clinicians must come together to form plans and take accountability. Physician or nurse executives are uniquely suited for initiating and maintaining effective new programs that advance the future of nursing and help improve patient care in the United States’ dynamic healthcare system. Nursing executives form an all-important thought leadership connection between the medical staff and the administration. Additionally, they may have financial acumen that can result in efficiencies and cost reductions without jeopardizing high standards of patient care.

The Role of Online Nursing Degree Programs

In order to become nurse leaders, registered nurses need the timely training and in-demand skills taught in graduate-level nursing degree programs like a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. Some MSN programs offer a variety of specializations to help you align your interests with your career goals. Those specializations may include leadership and management, nursing education, nursing informatics, family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner, and adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner, and public health nursing.

An online MSN degree can help open doors to a number of rewarding career options, such as nurse administrator, nurse educator, clinical supervisor, and adult-gerontology nurse practitioner.

Doctoral Degrees for Nurse Leaders

For MSN-educated nurse leaders who strive to work at the peak of their profession, a PhD in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree program is the next logical step in their online education and career strategy. A PhD in nursing is a terminal degree, with the main goal of adding original research findings to the scientific foundation of nursing and healthcare. Some nursing PhD programs offer specializations in high-priority areas that not only emphasize research but also teach critical attributes such as leadership, education, healthcare administration, interdisciplinary health, and public health policy.

A DNP is a terminal degree in nursing practice designed to help prepare nurse leaders for top management positions such as director of nursing and chief nursing officer. MSN-educated nurses who pursue a DNP learn executive-level skills for interacting successfully in interdisciplinary healthcare teams. Graduates of DNP programs typically have the experience and knowledge necessary to implement research-based practices, improve healthcare systems, and measure patient outcomes of groups, populations, and communities.

Whichever educational path you choose as a nurse leader, it’s an exciting time to be a positive change agent working at the leading edge of groundbreaking improvements in healthcare delivery in the U.S.

Walden University is the leading provider of advanced nursing degrees in the U.S., producing more MSN graduates than any other university.§ Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life. Explore Walden University’s online nursing degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. Continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.

*Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Triple Aim for Populations, on the Internet at

†Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of a degree program.

§Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Retrieved July 2017, using CIP codes 51.3801 (Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse); 51.3808 (Nursing Science); 51.3818 (Nursing Practice). Includes 2016 preliminary data.

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