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Chief Nursing Officer Career Guide

A Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) is a nonclinical administrative post at the top of a healthcare organization. While CNOs no longer work at the bedside, people who are interested in management but still want to work in a medical facility may discover that a CNO is the right fit. This career guide will provide you with all of the information you need to make an informed decision whether you are contemplating becoming a CNO or think this is a route you might want to pursue in the future.


Any healthcare company requires a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO). It's a non-clinical administrative role that's most frequent in hospitals around the country. They are the highest-ranking nurse in an organization, and they supervise other nurses as well as the delivery of patient care.

The CNO is the voice of the nurses in an organization, and they must collaborate with the rest of the staff to carry out the organization's goal, values, and vision. This non-clinical administrative position does not work directly with patients, but supervises those who do. They have demanding and complicated duties that need responsibility, leadership, and good communication skills in order to guide the organization's nurses to achieve high-quality patient outcomes.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Depending on the scale of the healthcare system, a CNO can manage a single hospital or numerous hospitals. This role is critical to an organization's performance and is often regarded as a top priority job. The daily responsibilities of a Chief Nursing Officer will include:

  • Personnel development

  • Employee engagement, recruiting, and retention are shared responsibilities.

  • Putting in place corporate rules, processes, and standards of care

  • Creating and executing a safe staffing schedule

  • In the nursing department, delegating jobs to lower-level administrators

  • Nursing and nursing ancillary staff recruitment, training, and monitoring

  • Budget development and management for departments

  • Creating and executing departmental strategic goals

  • Developing and directing patient care and education programs

  • Developing nursing best practice recommendations

  • Human resource management

  • Daily nursing operations coordination

  • Making plans for new patient services

  • Collaboration with the board of directors and other senior executives

  • Assuring that the department follows the rules

  • On behalf of the nursing department, I am soliciting funds.

  • Maintaining accreditation and compliance clearances

  • Relationship building across all areas and jobs

  • Developing strategic plans in collaboration with physicians

Chief Nursing Officers strive to establish an atmosphere that empowers their nursing staff and provides them with the resources and support they need to offer the best possible patient care. They are held accountable throughout an organization for patient outcomes and the quality of bedside nursing service. Even though a CNO does not work at the bedside, they are responsible for all aspects of the nursing department.


According to, Chief Nursing Officers make an average annual income of $128,031 or $53.54 per hour as of May 2020. With further years of expertise, the Chief Nursing Officer might receive a greater yearly compensation. Here is the list of average annual salary of CNOs as stated by

  • $111,381 - 1-4 years of experience

  • $118,087 - 5-9 years of experience

  • $119,348 - 10-19 years of experience

  • $143,984 - 20 years+ of experience

Highest Paying States for Chief Nursing Officers (Average Annually)

  • Los Angeles, California - $178,206

  • Chicago, Illinois - $157,642

  • Miami, Florida - $152,577

  • Las Vegas, Nevada - $144,519

  • Houston, Texas - $141,190

CNOs have substantially higher average wages, according to According to them, the average annual income for a CNO in the United States was $232,500 as of April 2020, with the range frequently lying between $198,750 and $270,380.

Work Locations

CNOs can operate in a number of contexts as an important job in any healthcare company. Some of the most well-known are:

  • Hospitals

  • Outpatient clinics

  • Outpatient surgery centers

  • Group physician practices

  • Group Nurse Practitioner practices

  • Healthcare system corporate office

  • Insurance corporate office

  • Government agencies

  • Rehabilitation facilities

How to Become a Chief Nursing Officer

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Degree

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN

Step 3: Obtain Experience or Continue Your Education

Depending on their circumstances, nurses might choose to get some nursing experience before returning to school or to enroll immediately in an MSN program. ADN-prepared nurses will need to either finish their BSN degree or enroll in an expedited RN to MSN program to achieve their BSN and MSN at the same time.

Step 4: Finish an MSN degree

Step 5: Acquire Certifications

Step 6: Land on a Job

Step 7: Go to a Doctoral Nursing Program or Acquire Administrative Experience

A doctoral degree is not necessary, however it is preferable for Chief Nursing Officers. Working in administrative positions might also help you develop experience.

Step 8: Attain a Chief Nursing Officer position.


According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNOs are classified as Top category. Unfortunately, there is no current analysis of a CNO's individual career prospects; instead, they are grouped with other senior executives. In 2018, there were 2,639,500 senior executives in the United States, with a demand for 2,790,200 by 2028, a 6% rise. CNO roles tend to fill rapidly and are not always available. Interested persons may frequently be required to relocate in order to discover available opportunities.

Continuing Education

Chief Nursing Officers must maintain the same level of education as other registered nurses. This will differ from state to state. Unless a Chief Nursing Officer has acquired advanced certification, there are no explicit CEU requirements. CNOs must keep their RN certification even if they no longer work at the bedside.

To retain certification, all advanced certificates require a certain amount of CEUs. These must all be tied to administration, leadership, and management in some way. They can also be used to renew RN licenses.

In most cases, an individual must fill out an application, complete a certain amount of CEU hours, and pay a small cost in order to renew their RN license. Each state has its own standards, so verify with your state's nursing board before filing for a license renewal.

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