What Is a Nurse Administrator?

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A nurse administrator working on a laptop computer.

Are you a practicing nurse considering returning to school for an advanced degree? Do you want to coordinate patient care while assuming a leadership role in your healthcare organization? Does working to change, influence, and implement policies and procedures appeal to you? If so, earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) may be the perfect way to achieve your career goals.

An ongoing nursing shortage, a larger aging patient population, and a surge of retiring nurses have fueled the demand for nurse leaders who can oversee high-level care. Learning what a nurse administrator is can be the first step toward a rewarding career that combines clinical expertise and business skills.

What Does a Nurse Administrator Do?

Nurse administrators supervise and manage a staff of nurses, provide leadership as a member of the administrative team, and work closely with senior management to create or change policies at their healthcare organizations. In this leadership role, nurse administrators are responsible for ensuring the delivery of top-quality patient care by managing staff scheduling, department budgets, and employee recruitment and retention, as well as maintaining quality standards.

These responsibilities contribute to a single primary goal: to provide the best patient care possible and improve outcomes. Staff management and employee retention, for instance, are directly linked with the patient-provider dynamic in care delivery. Duties such as maintaining legal compliance and budget management help a facility administer effective, efficient care delivery that protects the interests of patients and providers.

How to Become a Nurse Administrator

The path to becoming a nurse administrator includes pursuing the right education, experience, and skill development.


Nurse administrators are required to have a bachelor’s degree, usually in nursing or health administration, but it can also be in a discipline such as social services or public policy. Many prospective nurse administrators pursue a higher degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing. This level of education can deepen candidates’ knowledge and skills and help them advance their nursing careers, as some employers prefer that senior-level managers have an advanced degree.


Most aspiring nurse administrators gain work experience either in a clinical role, such as registered nurse (RN), or an administrative role associated with healthcare. Typical positions can include administrative assistant, financial clerk, and medical records technician for a healthcare facility.


Effective nurse administrators must have strong leadership skills, as a primary responsibility is to oversee and mentor staff. They must also have sharp analytical skills to implement various legal health policies and regulations as they evolve.

Because technology drives so much of modern healthcare innovation, nurse administrators need to have strong technical skills, so they can lead facilities in adapting to new methodologies.

Finally, nurse administrators should have well-developed communication and interpersonal skills to interact and collaborate successfully with other health professionals.

Licensing and Certification

Licensing and certification requirements vary by state, and some work environments, such as nursing homes, may have special demands. It’s important to verify the requirements in your projected state of practice prior to pursuing a nurse administration role. While certification isn’t usually required, nurse administrators may choose to earn the Nurse Executive-Board Certified credential from the American Nurses Credentialing Center to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Resources for Nurse Administrators

If this career path sounds attractive to you, becoming a nurse administrator may help you fulfill your career goals. This resource page contains many helpful articles that will give you a clearer picture of the responsibilities of this position, as well as an overview of some of the opportunities and challenges faced by nurse administrators. Additionally, it has information explaining the MSN degree and the reasons others have chosen to pursue advanced nursing education.

Make a Difference in Care Delivery

Becoming a nurse administrator provides you with the unique opportunity to drive change in the healthcare field. By guiding others through the ever-changing care delivery landscape, you can help a facility maintain excellence in care delivery and minimize the negative effects of the nursing shortage.

Ohio University’s online MSN program can be a consequential step in your professional healthcare journey. Our program can help you gain the skills and experience necessary to become a trusted leader in a critical field. Learn how we can help your career take a leap forward.

Recommended Reading

Nurse Burnout Prevention Strategies for Nurse Leaders

Nurse Leader Role: Career Options at Home and Abroad

What Can You Do with an MSN?


American Nurses Credentialing Center, Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC)

Association of American Medical Colleges, “Hospitals Innovate Amid Dire Nursing Shortages”

Health Leaders, “6 Innovations That Are Propelling Health Systems Into the Future”

Houston Chronicle, “Nurse Administrator Duties”

Indeed, “Nursing Administration: Primary Duties and Required Skills”

National Council of State Boards of Nursing, NCLEX & Other Exams

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers