4 Nursing Leadership Roles at Every Hospital

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Nurses were once looked upon as mere servants, but as the health and medical fields have changed, so have the roles. Nurses now can aspire to obtain many positions of leadership, through advanced education, knowledge of patient care and inside knowledge of how every cog in the machine interrelates.

Even within a given hospital, there are significant opportunities for career advancement through leadership. Here are four positions that are likely to provide those chances in almost any hospital.

Chief Nursing Officer

The Chief Nursing Officer is one of the hospital’s top administrative positions and is the premier position for nursing leadership within the hospital setting, particularly if there is not a separate director of nursing. The responsibilities of the chief nursing officer encompass every facet of nursing care within the hospital. The chief officer is the liaison for nurses to the medical staff, the administrative staff and the community. Nursing officers direct and organize care across the hospital spectrum, so all nursing managers will report to them.

A chief nursing officer will often have advanced degrees in health science as well as classwork in management or finance.

Director of Services

Nursing takes place not only on the patient floors, but also everywhere else, from the operating room to cardiology to the emergency department to employee health and respiratory services. These directors oversee employee management and staffing, submit departmental budgets, report on department admissions, quality control and improvement and act as a liaison to administration and department physicians. The director usually reports to the chief nursing officer.

Chief Compliance Officer

The Chief Compliance Officer makes sure the hospital complies with conduct codes such as ethics, care and conflict of interest. These codes will include integrity and compliance in billing, employee education and patient care. The compliance officer will develop and implement these plans and also will insist that any breach of conduct be investigated. The compliance officer is therefore the administrative liaison to the state inspector general.

The position usually requires an advanced degree and a background in health care.

Nurse Manager

Within each hospital service, there are managers who supervise the functions within that department. The oversight is otherwise similar to what a director of services performs. Responsibilities include staffing, patient care, budget, reports, adherence to billing practices and quality improvement. Nurse managers often can prepare for opportunities to move up in management.


The role of nurses within the hospital setting is no longer limited to emptying bedpans, administering medication or direct patient care. While those tasks are still highly important functions, nursing leadership has moved nurses to the forefront of medical care and hospital operations. They are the people who are shaping and forming the direction for health care of the future. Advanced degrees in nursing and nursing management, coupled with coursework in business, information technologies, ethics and compliance assure that nurses will continue to advance in nursing leadership roles in every hospital.

edited by Colin Seymour

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