Nursing Leaders Needed

When it comes to transforming healthcare, the nursing profession is getting a lot of attention. Nurses have long been recognized for the critical role they play in patient care, and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) called them a “critical lynchpin” in transforming the nation’s healthcare system.

The focus on nursing includes a push to increase the number of nurse leaders at all levels. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a first step toward a future in nursing leadership.

Students can graduate from the RN to BSN program at the University of South Carolina Aiken in just 12 months. This 100 percent online program makes it possible for RNs to advance their education along with their practice. With coursework in leadership and management, RNs build the foundation they need for any healthcare leadership role.

How Can a BSN Pave the Way for Leadership Roles?

The push for BSN-prepared nurses is not new. More than 50 years ago, the American Nurses Association (ANA) recommended a bachelor’s degree as the minimum educational preparation for professional nursing practice. Despite evidence linking BSN-prepared nurses to improved patient outcomes, there continue to be different paths to licensure.

Nursing education is a focus of “The Future of Nursing,” the 2010 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) — now the National Academy of Medicine. To achieve improved patient outcomes, the IOM set a goal of increasing the number of BSN-prepared nurses to 80 percent by 2020.

A key message of the report demonstrates the need for higher levels of nursing education: “Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning healthcare in the United States.”

RN to BSN programs help RNs gain the tools and competencies to achieve this goal. At USC Aiken, for example, the course Nursing Research helps RNs develop essential skills for translating research into evidence-based care. Leadership and Management emphasizes knowledge and skills that RNs can apply in diverse healthcare settings, such as community health and geriatrics.

In particular, the aging population presents an opportunity for RNs to lead life-changing care trends. By 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 and older. Roughly 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease.

The Transitional Care Model (TCM) is an example of a nurse-led initiative that focuses on improving care for older adults with multiple chronic conditions. Evidence shows it is successful in reducing hospital readmissions and healthcare costs.

What Are Some Nursing Leadership Roles?

It has been many years since the ANA first called for a bachelor’s degree as the standard in nursing education. Now, a BSN is becoming the expectation. Some hospitals require a BSN for new hires. Others require that RNs earn a BSN within a certain period of time.

A BSN can pave the way to diverse leadership roles. At Magnet hospitals, for example, nurse managers must have a BSN. Similar leadership positions may come with higher salaries, including additional compensation such as bonuses. Based on PayScale data as of May 2019, here is a look at a few options.

Position Average Salary Details
Clinical Nurse Leader $77,126 Coordinates and supervises clinical nursing tasks, with a focus on evidence-based practice. Master’s degree or higher.
Head Nurse $70, 124 Oversees patients and nursing staff within the unit. Critical care skills may lead to higher pay. BSN or higher.
Clinical Nurse Manager $81,237 Higher-level managerial position; coordinates nursing staff. Experience in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is associated with higher pay. BSN or higher.
Nursing Director $88, 562  Nursing administrator; oversees nursing staff and patient care. BSN or higher preferred.
Chief Nursing Officer $126, 592  Directs nursing services at a hospital or other healthcare facility. May require master’s degree or higher.

A 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses points to the need for RNs in leadership roles.

  • Over 80 percent of nurses agree that more nurse leaders are needed.
  • Nearly 50 percent did not feel or were not sure they could trust their leaders.
  • Only 22 percent reported plans to pursue leadership positions.

Some nurse leadership positions require a graduate degree.

Attention to patient safety and care is also what makes nurses a valuable addition to hospital boards. RNs are underrepresented on hospital boards, yet nursing is the largest profession in the U.S. healthcare workforce. As the IOM noted in The Future of Nursing, “If decisions are taking place about patient care and a nurse is not at the decision-making table, important perspectives will be missed.”

Learn more about USC Aiken’s online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.


RWJF: Joint Statement on the Institute of Medicine’s Progress Report on the Future of Nursing

The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing: Education for Professional Nursing Practice: Looking Backward Into the Future

NCBI: The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health – Key Messages of the Report

National Academy of Science: The Future of Nursing – Focus on Education

United States Census: Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History

National Council on Aging: Healthy Aging Facts

RWJF: Nurses Lead Innovations in Geriatrics and Gerontology

American Nurses Credentialing Center: Eligibility Requirements

PayScale: Registered Nurse Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017 – Registered Nurses

AMN Healthcare: 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses

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