From county hospitals to rehabilitation centers to at-home health providers, there is unlikely to ever be a shortage of nursing careers. Through a variety of degree programs and certification exams, nurses can become registered and enter the workforce to begin making a difference in the lives of patients.

And for a registered nurse (RN) who earns a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), there are several opportunities for career improvement and moving into leadership roles.

Among the diverse leadership careers in this field, the role of chief nursing officer has proved to be extremely competitive and rewarding. Recently developed with the goal of consolidating health care best practices and executive responsibilities, the position of chief nursing officer requires excellent skills in time management, business, leadership and medical care, along with an extensive education.

Chief Nursing Officer: Job Description and Responsibilities

According to Nursing Management, the executives and board members of several health facilities in the United States have recently sought to merge procedural operations with other medical organizations. By combining the best practices and service procedures of one facility with another, many hospitals are now able to offer high-quality care at lower costs. However, because of these changes, many facilities are faced with new needs among staff.

To satisfy these needs, the position of chief nursing officer has been created. Although the general goal of this role is to provide direction to an entire nursing staff, a chief nursing officer plays a much different role than a health care director. While the responsibilities vary among facilities, there are some common duties CNOs are expected to perform:

•  Cultivate a team-oriented work environment founded on positivity.
•  Continually refine and improve workplace policies and best practices.
•  Monitor all operations conducted by the nursing staff to ensure adherence to the facility’s best practices and legal standards.
•  Construct and monitor an annual staff budget.
•  Expand staff by interviewing and hiring new nurses.
•  Manage all nursing administrative duties.

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Nursing is a versatile industry with several different career paths requiring varied levels of education. The most common educational program is an associate degree in nursing (ADN). This degree qualifies the graduate to become an RN and begin an entry-level career. According to PayScale, the median annual salary for this type of nurse is $57,538.

An RN thinking of moving into an upper-level position must earn a BSN. This degree equips graduates with the extensive skills needed to succeed as a health care professional, along with the experience and practice needed to become an outstanding leader. The median annual salary for an RN with this degree is $61,153.

BSN graduates who have the desire to excel further in the medical field by specializing in a specific area of health care must consider pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). This degree is required to qualify as a specialist and for most executive positions in hospitals, including the role of a chief nursing officer. Depending on the position and the area of specialization, nurses with this degree can earn an annual salary of more than $120,000.

Chief Nursing Officer Salary

The median annual salary for a chief nursing officer is $124,528. Because the position is relatively new, this amount is only expected to grow as demand increases. Experience also serves as a significant factor when determining the salary for this position. Due to its considerable list of responsibilities, several years of experience working as both an entry-level and managerial RN, along with an MSN degree, are required to be considered for a job as a chief nursing officer.


If you’re interested in advancing your nursing career, Notre Dame of Maryland University’s online RN to BSN program is a step in the right direction. This degree can increase your salary potential and set you on the path to career success. Available completely online, this program provides even the busiest of students with the opportunity to earn a degree at a pace that fits with their schedules.