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'Mastering' Nursing Leadership

Created Jan 10 2019, 09:38 AM by Lippincott Solutions
  • nurse executives
  • education
  • MBA
  • leadership competencies
  • DON
  • CNO
  • MSN

Nurses who are interested in taking their careers to new heights might consider an advanced degree to expand business skills in general, or to learn more about healthcare operations and management.

While many go on to achieve the Master of Science in nursing (MSN) degree, the other route is the Master of Business Administration (MBA). The joint MSN-MBA program at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif. combines the two and allows nurses to take administrative jobs within a hospital or explore entrepreneurial interests as an independent service provider to hospitals.

As up-and-coming nurse leaders wrestle with decisions about which advanced degree to pursue, they should ask themselves: “What is your passion and what do you want to learn?”

MSN Career Options

Some BSN-accredited nurses go on to attain an MSN so that they can become nurse educators or nurse practitioners. MSN programs allow nurses to specialize in a variety of different areas, such as clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or nurse anesthetist. Schools also may offer a nursing administration track within the MSN program, which covers everything from financial management to health law and ethics.

These courses position nurses for jobs such as clinical coordinators, clinical managers, nursing departmental directors, and directors of quality and safety. Graduates have also gone on to work in state and federal government agencies, such as the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The MBA Path

An MBA degree is often overlooked by nurses, but can be an invaluable way to advance in the field. An MBA helps nurses achieve an understanding of core business principles and allows them to come up with comprehensive solutions to complex leadership challenges in the healthcare field.

Nursing is just as much a business as it is caring for people. Nurses must understand the driving forces behind the financial decisions made by hospital CEOs and CFOs if they want to gain a seat at the table, and a foothold in the decision-making process.

For example, nurses at Washington, D.C.'s George Washington University Health Care MBA program learn about financial accounting, marketing and business development, human resources, leadership, and other important areas of expertise.

MBA degrees can also open the door of opportunity to more leadership positions, such as director of nursing. Nurses with their MBA may even advance to senior leadership positions and executive-level roles, such as chief nursing officer, chief financial officer, chief operating officer, or chief executive officer.

A Combined Approach

For nurses who are seeking leadership roles at the corporate and executive level, the combined MSN and MBA is ideal. Combining clinical knowledge with an MBA allows nurses to understand both the clinical and financial sides of the business.

Preparing nurses for leadership positions is why Holy Names University launched the MSN-MBA program, according to Edith Jenkins-Weinrub, MSN, EdD, Dean of the School of Nursing, Health and Natural Sciences.

Graduates of the program are succeeding in roles as directors or nurse executives in large healthcare systems, or as deans of universities. To ensure success in the top leadership roles, nurses need to understand and speak the financial language.

Nurses are typically on the front lines of patient care, and their continued education in business gives them even greater context that could be useful in the public sector. Many nurses who have both degrees gravitate toward advocacy work in healthcare policy, allowing them to work with elected leaders to create new policies that make life easier for nurses and their patients. Whether it’s cutting through red tape, championing reforms in the workplace, or offering ways to increase the efficiency of care delivery and funding, nurses in this position are a key asset to state and federal government agencies.

The nursing industry is full of unique opportunities, and nurses who hold both an MSN and an MBA are positioned to take advantage of many of them. The combined skills of patient care and business management present countless opportunities for the nurse executives of the future. 

The world of healthcare is evolving, and more qualified nurses are needed to step into key positions and lead the way for change.  This is a great time for nurses to pursue an advanced degree and extend their voices beyond the bedside.

Have you ever thought about pursuing an MBA?  Leave us a comment below.  

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