Skip to Content
Resource Articles //

Do You Know How to Become a Successful Chief Nursing Officer?

From nursing school to becoming a chief nursing officer, these key traits and online nursing degree programs can help facilitate your success.

A chief nursing officer is the highest-ranking administrative nurse in an organization. As a top nursing executive, you’d be part of the executive team in the “C-level suite” (where every executive’s title begins with “chief”). Just like the chief financial officer and the chief technology officer, you’d report directly to the chief executive officer. Most likely, you’ll have advanced from nurse to nurse leadership positions, such as nurse manager or director, with increasing responsibilities and influence.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Chief Nursing Officer?

These are five of the key characteristics you’ll need to be an effective chief nursing officer:

Do You Know How to Become a Successful Chief Nursing Officer?

  1. Eagerness to Lead—Natural leaders exhibit leadership qualities early in life, whether it’s organizing a new club at school or running for class president. If you’re a nursing professional who enjoys being in charge, making decisions, and thinking of new ways to do things better, consider the role of chief nursing officer as your ultimate career goal.
  2. Strong Vision—To succeed in an executive leadership role as a chief nursing officer, you’ll need to have a clear-cut vision of the future of your nursing department. The more detailed your vision, the better you’ll be able to communicate your ideas and get others excited. Use your vision to motivate and guide your organization’s actions toward fulfilling it.
  3. Excellent Decision-Making Skills—Making smart decisions is a fundamental part of leadership. Successful chief nursing officers are great decision makers. Timely, evidence-based decisions will establish the baseline for your finest accomplishments, and help you achieve your vision for your organization.
  4. Powerful Communication Skills—So much is accomplished through effective communication. A chief nursing officer must have the ability to clearly communicate ideas to board members, the CEO, executive colleagues, and subordinates. Whether you’re talking one-on-one with a nurse manager, developing a presentation about a new initiative for the board of directors, or submitting a year-end report to your CEO, the strength of each communication will help you achieve your nursing goals and vision for your organization. And don’t forget to reciprocate—effective leaders are active listeners, too.
  5. Results-Oriented Approach—As a chief nursing officer, you would be responsible for the results of your own decisions and their impact on your nursing team’s performance, as well as other organizational results. What really counts is not just the effort, but what you’ve actually accomplished. Spend your energy wisely on the most effective activities for achieving the best possible outcomes.

Planning the Transition From Nurse to Chief Nursing Officer

After you go to nursing school and become a registered nurse (RN), an excellent next step is to enroll in an online nursing degree program to earn your bachelor’s degree. You have two basic choices—you can enroll in a CCNE-accredited Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN-BSN) program or an accelerated RN to BSN to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program for a faster track to your master’s degree.

Some accelerated nursing programs online allow you to transfer up to 75% of your bachelor’s degree credits to the completion of your master’s degree, saving you both time and money. This approach puts you on a fast track to an MSN degree with a Nurse Executive specialization, the focused graduate training you’ll need to acquire nurse leadership skills. Beyond your MSN degree, you’ll have the opportunity to update your nurse leadership skills with a Post-Master's Certificate in Nurse Executive. You may also decide to pursue the top practice-based doctoral degree in your profession with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a PhD in Nursing with a specialization in Leadership.

It’s an exciting time to be in the nursing profession. Prepare for a rewarding career at the top of your field as a chief nursing officer.

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.

Walden’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) Completion program, Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program, and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 530, Washington, DC 20036. CCNE is a national accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and ensures the quality and integrity of bachelor’s and graduate education programs in preparing effective nurses. For students, accreditation signifies program innovation and continuous self-assessment.