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The essence and values of nursing form the basis for all nursing roles and are the foundation for the advanced practice of nursing administration. The elements that guide nurse executive practice include:

  • Networks of wellness, acute care, ambulatory and long term care providers
  • Collaboration among health professionals in interdependent functions
  • Partnerships with consumers
  • Collective accountability
  • Advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves
  • Leadership in cost effective patient care

Within the continuum of nursing executive practice there exist varying titles and an evolving, dynamic configuration of functions. There are varied scopes of accountability and focuses of practice. Influencing, direction setting, designing the processes for care delivery, and system development are some of the functions that have evolved into nurse executive practice. 


The role of nurses in executive practice has evolved from a focus on nursing services to a broader accountability for patient care services across the healthcare continuum. This expansion of role responsibilities positions nurse executives as members of the senior leadership team. Major themes in all dimensions of this role are collaboration, coaching, mentoring, diversity, co-creating, communicating and coordinating outcomes management, and enabling the spirit of the community.

The key roles of nurse executives include facilitating the design of patient care delivery; advancing the discipline of nursing; building relationships and connections with staff and colleagues; and fostering stewardship. Specifically, nurse executives demonstrate leadership in the following ways:

  • serve as role models in exemplifying the mission and vision of their organization; 
  • value diversity and promote cultural competence; 
  • serve as effective communicators and architects of change; 
  • encourage creativity and innovation from staff; 
  • serve as educators and provide learning and growth opportunities for staff; 
  • understand and promote quality improvement and systems-thinking
  • maintain knowledge of the field through continuing education, attendance and membership at regional or national nursing association meetings; 
  • serve as team players and team leaders; and 
  • demonstrate financial accountability. 


Nurse executive specialties include management and administration. For specialty hospitals, preference may be given to nurses with clinical experience in that specialty field (i.e. Children’s Hospital recommends pediatric experience).


Nurse executives must have strong leadership and management skills, along with critical thinking, decision-making, and communication skills.  Graduation from accredited school with master’s degree in nursing administration; hospital or business administration; or equivalent experience.

Nurse executives are required to maintain current licensure in the state in which they work. 

Practice Settings:

Hospitals and Health Systems; Schools of Nursing; serve as consultants. 

Salary Range:

In 1999, according to the 2000 Hay Hospital Compensation Survey, nurse executives nationally earned salaries ranging between $77,600 and $140,000 across a range of disciplines. 


Nurse executives are Master’s and/or Doctorate-level prepared nurses in a wide range of disciplines. 


American Organization of Nurse Executives
325 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Telephone: 202/626.2240
Fax: 202/638.5499
Web site:


  •  AONE News Update and AONE e-News Update
  • Discussion Toolkit for Perspectives on the Nursing Shortage: A Blueprint for Action - February 2001
  • Perspectives on the Nursing Shortage: A Blueprint for Action – October 2000
  • Nurse Recruitment and Retention Survey – January 2000
  •  The Nurse Licensure Compact: Analysis and Recommendations – An AONE Monograph
  • Research on Nursing Staff Shortages – February 1999
  • The Nursing Management Minimum Data Set Monograph 

    All publications can be found at