Nursing leadership degrees are ideal for practicing nurses who are interested in helping other nurses reach high standards and goals. Nurse leaders are able to energize, motivate, and inspire their teammates. They are also dedicated to high standards of practice and tend to seek new, innovative ways to improve patient care. Graduates of nursing leadership programs may pursue management positions in which they would be directly responsible for the training, development, and education of a nursing team. It is an exciting time for nurse leaders, and as the health care industry prepares to take on millions of new patients, their roles will be even more important in upcoming years.
Nursing leadership is similar to health care administration as both professions draw from the fields of medicine and business. However, nursing administration programs are unique in that they require students to be licensed RN’s and include nursing theory in the curriculum. Earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing leadership also provides students with a strong foundation in business principles, preparing them for the basic administrative and organizational duties of health care management.
Why a Bachelors Degree?
Although the medical community strongly recommends advanced education for nurses, an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is still the first step for most nursing careers. After earning RN licensure, nurses can qualify for bachelor’s degree programs in nursing administration. In some cases, credits from the ADN will contribute to the requirements of a four-year program, allowing full-time students to complete the program in as little as two years. For careers in nursing leadership, a bachelor’s degree is the entry-level educational requirement. Some medical facilities are even more selective, requiring candidates to hold at least a master’s degree for supervisory positions. After earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing administration, students may choose to enter the profession directly or continue their studies at the graduate level.
Getting Into a Bachelors Degree Program
Students applying to a bachelor’s degree program in nursing administration must meet admissions requirements for both the college and the degree program. Some universities offer pre-nursing programs that prepare students for the RN exams. After receiving the RN licensure, typically after sophomore year, students may then enroll in a nursing administration program to complete their bachelor’s degree. Similarly, a registered nurse who has already earned an ADN may be able to transfer education credits and enter a nursing administration program directly.
College Admission Requirements
- High school diploma or equivalent
- High school transcripts showing the desired GPA
- ACT, SAT, or other college entrance exam scores
Nursing Administration Program Requirements
- The equivalent of third-year college status, typically 60 credit hours
- RN licensure
Inside a Nursing Leadership Bachelor Degree Program
For students enrolled in a traditional four-year university, nursing administration programs may not be available. Instead, students may major in nursing, pass the RN exams, and continue their BSN with a minor in health care administration. A double major in nursing and health care administration is another common path for future nursing leaders. A practicing RN who is hoping to advance her career will most likely benefit from an online nursing leadership program that is designed for working adults. Although online programs offer students more flexibility, they are usually just as rigorous and challenging as on-campus programs.
Because nursing leadership programs are reserved for RNs, they are designed as segments of a four-year degree program instead of a comprehensive degree path. For example, a pre-nursing or nursing major may transition into a nursing administration program in her junior year. Alternatively, a practicing nurse may gain admittance directly into the program. Topics covered in nursing leadership programs include business principles such as organizational behavior and human resource management; leadership skills such as interpersonal communication and professional role development; and nurse theory topics such as case management and research in nursing practice.
What’s Next for Nursing Leadership Bachelor Degree Holders?
In many ways, all nurses are leaders. They must work quickly and accurately, striving to do the right thing and to do things right. Communication, team work, and continuing education are all essential to a successful nursing career. Earning a nursing leadership degree is an excellent way for an RN to develop professional skills that are marketable to employers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cited the average national salary for registered nurses at $67,930 in 2012.
A nursing leadership degree can also open doors for career advancement and increase earning potential. The BLS reported that medical and health services managers earned $98,460 on average in 2012. Registered nurses may also choose to enter a MSN program in nursing leadership to pursue higher level administrative roles such as a nursing director or chief nursing officer.