What Do Nurse Administrators Do: Duties and Responsibilities

A nurse administrator is a healthcare professional responsible for managing nursing staff. They supervise nurses and nursing assistants, hire and train new staff, make and follow department budgets, and work closely with physicians and other administrators.

The role of a nurse administrator is vital in healthcare. They help ensure that medical offices and hospitals run more smoothly and that patient safety and quality of care are top-notch. Before taking the coursework and earning a degree necessary to become an administrator, find out exactly what these professionals do.

What is Nurse Administration?

Hospitals and other extensive healthcare facilities employ numerous nurses of varying levels. The medical facility needs supervisors to manage the medical staff; nurse administrators come into play here.

Nursing administration jobs are a vital part of a functional healthcare facility. Consequently, it is one of the most in-demand executive nursing roles. Nurse administrators streamline day-to-day operations among the nursing staff and coordinate with other departments to ensure that the medical and health facility operates effectively.

Nursing administration merges nursing experience with administrative and business skills. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurse administrators correspond to the “medical and health services managers” category.

As a nurse administrator, you’ll be in a managerial position in your healthcare organization. Nursing management roles enhance the quality of patient care and the nursing staff environment. In addition, nurse administrators are crucial to maintaining functional hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Essentially, they keep things running smoothly.

Skills Needed to Become a Nurse Administrator

Nurses interested in this management role must also be aware of and have the necessary skills to excel in this nursing career. Nursing administrators with a balance of administrative, business and clinical expertise will succeed in this position. Likewise, traits like multitasking, empathy and being able to focus will go a long way.

The nurse administrator role is a good fit for registered nurses who want to step away from direct patient care but still impact patients. This complex role requires a set of specialized skills to take on the responsibility of this nursing leadership position. If you’re interested in becoming a nurse administrator, you will need these skills:

  • Leadership skills – Nurse administrators are solution-focused and need creativity to resolve medical and administrative staff problems. They also engage in HR activities such as hiring, training, motivating and leading staff.
  • Technical Skills – Nurses must be up-to-date with healthcare technology and data analytics.
  • Communication skills – Medical and healthcare managers must communicate effectively to explain policies, procedures, laws and regulations to nursing staff and nurse leaders.
  • Analytical skills – They must comprehend and adhere to updated laws and regulations.
  • Detail orientation –Medical and health services managers must be detail-oriented. Organization and management of schedules and billing information can get messy when dealing with extensive medical facilities such as hospitals.
  • Interpersonal skills – Medical and health services managers deliberate patient data and staff problems with other professionals.

Responsibilities of Nurse Administrators

Nurse administrators’ daily tasks and job duties are all based on the following core responsibilities:

  1. Safety, Quality and Risk Management
  2. Patient and Population Health Advocacy
  3. Clinical Care Delivery and Optimal Patient Outcomes
  4. Healthy Work Environment
  5. Strategic, Financial and Human Resource Management (HR)
  6. Legal and Regulatory Compliance
  7. Networking, partnering and collaborating

The nursing administrator collaborates with an executive-level team to ensure that all core responsibilities are managed.

Safety, Quality and Risk Management

One of the core responsibilities of nurse administration is promoting quality and safety practices. The nurse administrator looks to maintain a balance between the ethical obligations of nurses and protecting the facilities and employees from liability concerns. Nursing administrators exercise their leadership role as they strategize to prevent and lessen medical errors.

The nursing administrator should rely on critical thinking and problem-solving skills to implement processes for error mitigation. An experienced certified nurse manager will be able to separate the staff member from the mistake and take time to review the issue. Reviewing the incident allows for a proper investigation to uncover the root of the problem, whether it’s reckless behavior on behalf of the nurse or an operational fault. This system shows if and what processes need to be reviewed.

Patient and Population Health Advocacy

The nurse administrator advocates for protecting patients’ and faculty’s health and safety rights. Patient advocacy seeks to ensure that patients and caregivers receive the proper education. The nurse administrator also advocates for providers, decision-makers and public representatives. Similarly, nurses play a role in managing expectations to reach conflict resolution.

Client Care Delivery and Optimal Patient Outcomes

Nurse administrators are responsible for maintaining the scope and standards of the nursing practice. The certified nurse manager serves as a model and mentor for staff so they can produce quality work. They hold the nurses accountable for adhering to the Standards of Practice when delivering care. The five characteristics of nursing practice that all nurse executives must adhere to are:

  • Nursing practice is individualized
  • Nurses coordinate care by establishing partnerships
  • Caring is central to the practice of the registered nurse
  • Registered nurses use the nursing process to provide individualized care to their healthcare consumers
  • The link between the work environment and the registered nurse’s ability to provide quality health care and achieve optimal outcomes

Healthy Work Environment

Nurse administrators’ leadership role requires cultivating a healthy work environment. Their goal is to harbor positive health outcomes for patients, medical and administrative staff and communities. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) provides six standards that nurse administrators can apply to institute a healthy work environment:

  • Skilled communication – Effectively impart information
  • True Collaboration – Determination to seek and encourage true collaboration
  • Practical Decision Making – Commitment and ability to be a team player to make policy, direct and evaluate clinical care and lead organizational operations
  • Appropriate Staffing – Be mindful of patient needs and nurse competencies to match up
  • Meaningful Recognition – Recognize team members for the value that they bring to the team
  • Authentic Leadership – Welcome and adopt a healthy work environment and engage others to do the same

Nurse administrators can apply the standards and positively impact their work environments by adopting the following strategies:

  • Transformative leadership and proven management techniques
  • Maximizing human resources capacity
  • Encouraging and putting into effect a culture of safety and research
  • Workspace layout to prevent and reduce error
  • Efficient use of telecommunications and biomedical devices                                                                                                                                  

Strategic, Financial and Human Resource Management

Nurse administrators form an integral part of the leadership team. As such, they are contributing to strategic, financial, and human resource management. To make this happen, the leadership team plans, designates, monitors, analyzes and contributes to the fiscal safety of the healthcare operation.

Nurse administrators must ensure that the strategic nursing agenda aligns with the facilities plan; and that nurses are accounted for and considered.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Various entities and accrediting agencies regulate healthcare organizations. Nurse administrators must be up-to-date with and abide by regulations and state and federal laws. The nurse administrator role suggests improvements to the organization’s compliance program. Along with the other management leaders, they manage the day-to-day operations.

The nurse administrator oversees the health information management system. The health information management system needs sufficient resources to manage patient information. An efficient design with an organized method makes evaluating and improving patient care easy. They are responsible for the documentation the nursing staff produces. The paperwork must meet organizational policies and comply with federal and state regulations.

The nurse administrator supports patients’ having access to their personal health information. In addition, they promote an understanding of how personal health information can be used and accessed by others.

Nurse administrators have a say in the technology used in the department. Health information security is taken very seriously. Nursing administrators and other organizational leaders collaborate to ensure that health information is handled with privacy and confidentiality. The nurse administrator also confirms that nurses receive updated privacy, security and legal training.

Networking, partnering and collaborating

Nurse leaders face complex tasks as they build community partnerships and communicate their vision to groups of decision-makers. They must have the ability to collaborate and network with executives and external community leaders.

The healthcare system is rapidly embracing a new wellness model. The nursing leaders must follow the new model and actively promote frameworks to increase population health. Part of their job duties includes becoming a social influence and promoting the nursing profession’s mission, vision and values.

Daily Nurse Administrator Tasks

  • Hiring and interviewing- Staff turnover varies, but nurse administrators always look for new team members. They spend significant time vetting resumes and interviewing candidates.
  • Staff training-Once hired, the administrator is responsible for training new staff members.
  • Scheduling staff shifts- They also create and updates staff schedules and shifts as needed.
  • Staff supervision- The day-in, day-out work of a nurse administrator is to manage staff. They observe, supervise, and assist nurses and assistants throughout the day.
  • Conducting evaluations-Nurse administrators regularly perform performance evaluations of their team members.
  • Conflict resolution- When disagreements arise between staff, the administrator serves as a referee and counselor to resolve the situation.
  • Budgeting and bookkeeping- Administrators have to keep their departments on budget by tracking expenses and inventory.  
  • Purchasing facility equipment- They must also keep the department supplied and order new inventory as needed.
  • Establish policies- Many nurse administrators ensure their departments follow established policies. Higher-level administrators help set or update policies.
  • Meetings with management and department heads- Administrators communicate regularly with the heads of other departments and often with board members.  
  • Make sure the facility is within safety requirements- A significant part of supervising the team is ensuring all actions and decisions comply with safety and other regulations.

Types of Nurse Management Positions

There are several different positions in which you could work in nurse management. Many of them have overlapping responsibilities, while some have duties that are specific to their job title. Here is an overview of some of the common nurse management positions and what they do.

Clinical Nurse Leader

The clinical nurse leader (CNL) is one leadership position that can be confused with other nursing roles. However, CNLs differ from nurse administrators because they have different education requirements. CNLs must complete a master’s degree and a CNL certification. In addition, CNLs will sometimes work closely with patients where nursing administrators don’t typically spend time with patients.

CNLs are responsible for handling complicated procedures. They also mentor other nurses and work to implement best practices. They plan and change patient care processes and assess results to continue improving. 

The nurse administrator manages administrative tasks as part of their daily job responsibilities. However, unlike nurse administrators, CNLs don’t usually partake in administrative tasks like scheduling, budgets, or human resource support.

Nurse Shift Leader, Nurse Shift Supervisor and Charge Nurse

Nurse shift supervisors, nurse shift leaders and charge nurses are all managers of nursing staff or direct supervisors. Their daily tasks include:

  • New staff training
  • Scheduling shifts
  • Evaluating treatment plans
  • Enforcing policies
  • Supervising admissions and discharges
  • Handling staffing affairs

Charge nurses don’t have direct contact with patients. However, they might step in if needed. Like nurse administrators, charge nurses are employed in various healthcare management settings.

Nurse Manager

Nurse managers have similar duties to charge nurses but with additional responsibilities. Nurse managers supervise staff, hire other nurses, perform evaluations, and address other personnel matters. Also, nurse managers manage all team shifts, not just their shifts. Duties are as follows:

  • Budgeting and purchasing supplies
  • Responding to crises
  • Improving patient care quality
  • Scheduling shifts and processing leave requests
  • Training staff
  • Collaborating with a team to find solutions to complex cases
  • Dealing with concerns and complaints from patients

Nurse managers don’t work directly with patients except in certain situations to handle complaints or concerns. Nurse managers can work in any healthcare facility.

Director of Nursing

The nursing director is part of the leadership team that oversees various nursing units. Nursing directors are responsible for the patient care provided by their nursing staff. Your responsibilities as a director of nursing would be:

  • Evaluating staff needs
  • Updating job descriptions
  • Preparing budgets
  • Handling staffing issues and work cessations
  • Organizing quality-control programs
  • Founding department policies
  • Communicating with external leadership

A director of nursing is expected to launch new plans to help the progression of patient care and safety. They are also the first contact for communication with patients, families and the public. 

Chief Nursing Officer

A chief nursing officer is considered an executive in their nursing department. Chief nursing officers use their nursing background and knowledge to oversee operations and ensure they run smoothly. Additionally, they look to balance the quality of patient care and budget concerns.

They meet with fellow nursing leaders to share viewpoints on future changes and ensure they comply with the best nursing practices. Executive level nurses also:

  • Operate new programs for patients
  • Maximize profit margins
  • Create new healthcare policies
  • Administer assessments for quality control
  • Gather together other leaders and departments heads

There is no person-to-person patient care in this role. Therefore, chief nursing officers mostly spend their time in an office setting. However, they are still held responsible for being up-to-date on all that’s happening in the team units. Large healthcare organizations, such as hospital systems, employ chief nursing officers.

Where Nurse Administrators can Work

The most common work settings for nurse administrators are:

  • Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Skilled nursing and other long-term care facilities
  • Physicians’ and specialists’ offices
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Mental health facilities
  • Community health organizations
  • Healthcare management systems
  • Government facilities

Nursing Administration Benefits

A career in nurse administration can be gratifying. This is an excellent option if you want to move away from bedside care. Nurse administration will prepare you for other future leadership and executive-level positions. This nursing position comes with a lot of responsibilities. The job performance of the nursing administrator influences the quality of healthcare and the workplace environment. Nurse administrators can cultivate safe and efficient environments for patients and staff.

This nurse management position allows you to make decisions, influence decision-making and advocate for patients, staff and the community. You can experiment with different patient systems and strategies and find what works best for your teams. In addition, the nurse administrator can use their voice and platform to bring awareness to the nursing field.

A career in nurse administration is an excellent option if you already love nursing but want to be more of a leader. From implementing policies for improving patient care to mentoring new staff members, this is a healthcare leadership role that can be very rewarding.