Hello everyone, welcome to another interesting guide that explains who a Chief Nursing Officer is!

This article will not just define what the role is, it will also detail other things you need to know about this exciting professional Nursing career.

At the end of this guide, you will have understood what this career path involves in terms of clinical skills and education requirements.

You will also be able to determine if you are cut out for it.

Here are some points we will cover in this guide:

  • What is a CNO?
  • What does a Chief Nursing Officer do?
  • What skills are needed to succeed as a Chief Nursing Officer?
  • Chief Nursing Officer job description
  • How to know if you are a good fit

Without wasting any more time, let’s get to it!

What is a CNO?

What is a CNO

There is that Chief Nurse who leads the entire Nursing team in a healthcare organization; that Nurse is known as the Chief Nursing Officer.

The CNO is not directly involved in patient care, but on a typical day, the CNO helps other Nurses implement modern treatment plans, schedules the Nurses and assigns tasks, onboard new Nurses into different departments, and manages finances within the healthcare organization.

The CNO position requires the highest form of Nursing education and about 6 to 8 years of clinical experience in various Nursing duties.

What is a CNO?

Top of the list of qualities required of them is strong leadership skills because they must be able to manage many employees.

In some localities, the CNO role is often known as the VP of Nursing and it is often used in referring to someone who ensures that the highest level of patient care and policies is strictly adhered to by the healthcare facility.

Each career has some sort of a ‘ladder’ and for Nursing, the top in its hierarchy is the Chief Nursing Officer.

If you love to pursue this career, you must be willing to give up bedside patient care for a nonclinical or administrative Nursing position.

Nurses who aspire to become CNOs can follow several paths to become one.

Chief Nursing Officer Job Description

Chief Nursing Officer Job Description

The duties of Chief Nursing Officers vary.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, below are some of the roles they fulfill:

  • They help in improving the quality and efficiency of patient care in hospitals
  • They come up with goals, objectives, and deadlines for each departmental unit
  • CNOs ensure that the facility is up to date with the latest treatment techniques and that each department is complying with them
  • CNOs onboard, train, and keep an eye on Nurses within the organization
  • The financial management within the health care organization falls on their shoulders, responsibilities like patient fees and billing
  • They create daily nursing schedules
  • They monitor the organization’s budget and expenditures, making sure that each department is not operating beyond the financial limits of the organization
  • A CNO represents the healthcare organization at board or investor meetings
  • Keeping the overall records and informatics of the organization of the hospital safe and easily accessible by authorized personnel
  • Regularly communicating with staff, heads of departments, and other external consultants
  • Corresponding with the board executives or presidents of the organization on how each treatment plan is coming along and suggesting necessary improvements if needed
  • Releasing or sacking Nurses if there is a need for such, in addition to recruiting new Nurses
Chief Nursing Officer Job Description

Of course, the list is not exhaustive, there are other administrative duties of a CNO, and they will fill in the role when needed.

Their goal is to help all staff within the facility connect with their patients and ̣provide the best possible patient care options.

Looking at a typical Chief Nursing Officer job description, you will easily figure out how much it emphasizes two requirements:

  • Nursing Leadership
  • Nursing Administration

Nursing Leadership

Here are some areas of their duties that require good Nursing leadership or departmental oversight:

Directing hospital staff, supervising Nurse Managers, recruiting new Nurses, facilitating clinical training for new hospital staff, supervising the work of Nurses and their respective departments, and managing other administrative departments like the records departments.

When needed they also make very important decisions that affect not just the facility but individual Nurses.

An example of this is when disciplinary actions ought to be taken.

Nursing Administration

Apart from working with the facility and the healthcare staff, CNOs also organize collaborative efforts with other healthcare professionals.

Here are some organizational leadership duties that fall under this category:

Working with another medical professional to help patients in need of treatments, liaising between facility administrators and the hospital staff, and ensuring that the facility is complying with government regulations on healthcare facilities.

They exhibit organizational leadership in creating better working treatment strategies or initiatives for patients, adjusting the facility’s expenditures to accommodate the overall budget, actively promoting the purpose of the facility, and recommending healthcare professionals to other hospitals and government agencies.

Where do CNOs work?

Where do CNOs work?

Chief Nursing Officers can function in several healthcare settings.

If an organization that relies on Nurses to treat patients needs a CNO as part of its workforce.

Below are some settings that require the role of a qualified CNO:

  • Hospitals
  • Group Physician or Nurse Practitioner practices
  • Healthcare system corporate offices
  • Trauma centers
  • Government healthcare organizations and services
  • Outpatient clinics and surgery centers
  • Insurance company corporate offices
  • Rehabilitation facilities

Education requirements for CNOs

Education requirements for CNOs

All Chief Nursing Officers are Registered Nurses (RNs).

To become a Registered Nurse, you must have either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

On completing any of the degree programs, they must sit for and pass the licensure exam or the NCLEX-RN license exam.

An ADN certificate is another path to becoming a Registered Nurse, however, most hospitals prefer Registered Nurses with BSN.

A BSN program will typically take 4 years of full-time study or maybe more with part-time study.

Only make sure that the Nursing undergraduate program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Another advantage of the BSN over the ADN is that it furnishes you with the best education and training.

With BSN, you do not need an RN to BSN transition program.

Although an ADN offers a softer path to becoming a Registered Nurse, you may not have enough clinical experience need to start your journey as a CNO.

After you become a Registered Nurse and you have obtained the required license, you can apply for an advanced education through a Master of Science Nursing degree program.

You can pursue your MSN degree on a part-time basis while working.

Be sure to choose an MSN course that is healthcare-related or that focuses on any leadership role, management position, or administrative role.

Although not a requirement, an advanced education in a Doctoral Nursing Program will not just boost your experience but also your earnings.

Skills needed to succeed as a Chief Nursing Officer

Skills needed to succeed as a Chief Nursing Officer

Each Chief Nursing Officer should balance their duties as a Chief Nurse with understanding the business ad administrative part of their job.

This calls for the highest of skillsets for each CNO.

For now, let’s concentrate on the required skill set that’ll help you make a success in your prospective role as a CNO:

Time management

In addition to clinical leadership, time management tops the list of skills required of a CNO because they have to shuffle between several running projects within a very short time.

This is not an easy feat to pull off, so they must know how to multitask.

If you are skilled at organizing your activities and allocating time for each task, you have one of the most important skills for the role of a Chief Nursing Officer.

You must also understand how to schedule your activities and how to stick to a schedule.

Execute tasks in order of priority

As a CNO, you must know how to arrange your assignments on a scale of priority.

This will help you give attention to the most pressing of tasks so that the facility will continue to function as it should.

A recent survey of CNOs in the United States identified stabilizing patients and the Nursing forces as a top priority of CNOs.


Each CNO must have a good understanding of the organization they work for.

This understanding must be thorough because obtaining the desired result depends on focusing on the organization’s core values and objectives.

When there are several ideas on how to approach a task, a CNO must be cool-headed and put things into the right perspective.

You must also know the significance of each staff and what they bring to the table, so to speak.


In a healthcare facility, there will always be problems that are not related to direct healthcare.

It could be that some staff are not working as much as they should or maybe some are using old treatment plans instead of a recently adopted treatment plan.

In all of these, CNOs must be ready to tackle these challenges effectively.

As a Nursing team leader, you must also be on hand to help any Nurse solve the problem each Nurse within your organization faces.

You must also be on hand to make vital decisions on behalf of the Nursing team.

More importantly, you must be ready to identify which decision is yours to make and which is not yours to make (where you must seek the guidance of the facility’s board).

Business Orientation

As noted earlier in this article, the role of a CNO is mainly non-clinical.

You must understand the business part of the job and must be committed to helping the facility make profits, even though delivering patient care in the healthcare facility’s main goal.

Business Orientation

Without profits, the company may not continue to function.

You must earn to weigh each decision you are about to make on behalf of the organization and consider how that will affect the finances.

Each plan you create must also be influenced by your key administrative and business kind.

Computer Literacy

Because you have to safeguard thousands of hospital and patient records, you must have strong computer literacy skills.

You must be adept at using software like Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and PowerPoint presentations.

You must know how to use these tools to correspond with the board of directors.

You must also learn how to use all the standard electronic medical record (EMR) software and any other online tool that is employed in delivering quality patient care in the ever-changing healthcare industry.

How to know that you are a good fit

How to know that you are a good fit

Attitude to hard work

The job of a CNO is very lucrative and appealing, however, it does come with lots of hard work.

You will be responsible not just for your facility but also for other medical professionals and also for the government.

You might typically be huggling several floors at the same time and even physically jumping from one Nursing department to another.

Chances are that you might find yourself working late or waking up very early.

If you love hard work, then maybe you are cut out for this.

Consider administrative meetings

Such executive or administrative positions require that the person occupying them attend lots of administrative meetings.

If you feel meetings are boring and they easily frustrate you, then do not start training with this position in view.

But if you love meetings and presentations, let nothing stop you from continuing your course of study.

Ability to work under immense pressure

The role of a CNO is like a pressure cooker; coordinating all the activities in a medical facility can be challenging especially as you have to manage several personalities.̱

Ability to work under immense pressure

While you are expected to be a problem solver, ‘putting out a fire can cause another fire,’ so to speak.

If you know you are mentally and emotionally capable of handling all of these, then you are on the right path studying to become a Chief Nursing Officer.

Can you step down from a clinical role?

Many Nurses love their job of providing direct medical care to patients.

However, the moment you step into the role of a CNO, you are in effect giving away your right to directly care for patients who are recovering from one condition or another.

Because you will now be playing an administrative and supervisory role within the healthcare organization,  you won’t have much interaction with patients.

Will that hurt your passion? But can you cope with it?

If so, then you are a good fit for a CNO.

Are you good with decision-making?

Chief Nursing Officers are leaders and as a leader, you will have to make some major decisions at some point.

Remember, your decisions will either gain you some admirers or critics.

If you can comfortably handle critics of lower colleagues or even higher colleagues because of some decisions you make, then you can handle the responsibilities that come with the position.

Also, keep in mind that you may always be in the limelight because you will always represent the medical facility at board meetings and other administrative meetings.

Are you interested in managing funds?

The duties of a Chief Nursing Officer are not limited to just managing the clinical affairs of a medical facility (like monitoring patient outcome), it also involves business administration.

Of course, you are expected to be a good Nursing advocate.

But you will also be tasked with ensuring that the facility budget is not exceeded while still keeping the facility running.

Sometimes, it can involve letting some workers go and in other cases, it can be a salary reduction in some sections.

No matter what it takes, you cannot avoid managing money as a CNO.

So, is this something you are interested in doing or will you be willing to learn it? If your answer is yes to both questions, you can work as CNO.

Must appeal to evidence not emotions

We, humans, are emotional creatures and as such, we get to be sentimental most time.

However, as a CNO, you will be making lots of decisions, and if these decisions will be a success, they must be made based on verifiable pieces of evidence and not just on mere emotions.

For example, during hospital staffing, if the candidates are narrowed down to two, you must select who of the two is best qualified not because you like one and not the other.

For every choice, you make, ascertain that there are compelling reasons for making such.

So, do you feel that the decisions you make now are evidence-based? If so, you can become a CNO.

Delegate responsibility

No matter how much you try, you can’t do everything on your own.

Looking at the duties of a CNO, to succeed you just need to delegate tasks.

Apart from giving you some breathing space, collaboration can often achieve the best results.

You will get to know your team members and their abilities.

This way, you can figure out some of them that can help you handle some tasks.

Check your qualifications

Finally, your educational qualifications matter a lot.

To become a CNO, candidates need a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

For some, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) that focuses on one healthcare discipline is preferred.

Some don’t just stop at obtaining a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree, others study to obtain a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

Some certifications needed include Nurse Executive, Certification (NE-BC), Executive Nursing Practice Certification (CENP), Nurse Manager and Leader Certification (CNML), Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL), and Nurse Executive, Advanced Certification (NEA-BC).

If you possess some or all of these qualifications, there should be nothing that’s stopping you from applying to become a Chief Nursing Officer.


Differences between CNA and Nurse Aide Work Environment

The highest rank a Nurse can achieve is the post of Chief Nursing Officer.

This position is more of administrative and supervisory roles and less of real-time clinical tasks.

However, as sweet as the prospects seem, there are challenges too.

Feel free to go over this guide again as you contemplate making this big decision to further your career.

Remember that we love to see you succeed!


FAQs on informatics nurse

What is a CNO in a hospital setting or healthcare system?

A Chief Nursing Officer is at the top of Nursing management within a healthcare or hospital setting. Sometimes, they are referred to as Chief Nurse Executives (CNE). It is a complex role that involves lots of Nursing leadership and organizational leadership.

What is the highest rank for a Nurse?

The highest rank for a Nurse is the Chief Nursing Officer. The CNO will usually not have much interaction with hospital patients, rather, they work directly under the facility’s president or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Their assignment is entirely administrative and supervisory.

What makes a great Chief Nursing Officer?

Chief Nursing Officers must understand the importance of setting both short and long-term goals that will benefit the facility. A good CNO is a problem solver and he is also concerned with the business part of the job. They manage the company’s budget and the needed equipment.

What is the American Organization for Nursing Leadership?

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), founded in 1967, has provided leadership, professional development, advocacy, and research to Advance Nursing Practice and patient care in America and Europe. Apart from that, they also promote excellence in nursing practice and healthcare policies nationwide.

Are CNOs health service managers?

Yes, they are! Health Service Managers, also called Healthcare Executives or Healthcare Administrators, fulfill the role of strategic planning, directing, and coordinating medical and health services. Given what we have discussed so far in this article, these are the duties of a Chief Nursing Officer too.

What is the average salary of CNOs?

As of January 2022, PayScale pegs the Chief Nursing Officer’s salary at approximately $135,500. The same survey estimated that some CNOs receive as much as $203,000 in salaries and other bonuses. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the job outlook of CNOs to increase by 16% in 2030.


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