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6 CNO-to-CEO Strategies

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, June 18, 2013

Why don't more nurse leaders go after hospital CEO jobs? Too many nurses underestimate their potential and believe that landing a chief nursing officer position means that they've reached the pinnacle of their career.

Connie Curran, EdD, RN, FAAN, hears a common refrain among chief nursing officers who are frustrated with their hospital's top leadership: "How many CEOs do I have to teach to do their jobs?"

Curran has ready reply: Why don't you apply to be a CEO?

Most often, though, nurses don't go for it. In a profession where more than 90% of the workforce is female, nurses are still seriously underrepresented in CEO positions.

Why is this? Although there are certainly external factors that hold women back from pursuing executive-level positions—sexism is still alive and kicking, folks—there are also internal factors that hold them back. Curran says female nurses who move up the ranks into hospital leadership positions most often end up in chief nursing roles—and then stop there.

"I think that a lot of people really underestimate their potential, and if we don't see somebody else doing it we think it can't be done," Curran says.  

Her challenge to chief nurses? Dream of being the CEO.

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2 comments on "6 CNO-to-CEO Strategies"


Jackeline Biddle Shuler, DNP, JD, RN (6/18/2013 at 1:42 PM)
I agree with this article but there a few other fundamental issues at work with respect to nursing leadership dynamics. First, there doesn't seem to be enough room in healthcare leadership to accommodate executive nurse leaders of color. This is important because it speaks to the lack of commitment to the communities which are being served. Second, there doesn't seem be many opportunities to become an executive nurse leader to begin with. My experience is that getting all the right academic credentials is not enough because there isn't any kind of succession programs to help potential nurse leaders fulfill executive roles. That is how you get nurse leaders being complacent with staying at a CNO role because they know there isn't going to be much competition for that role so there is no incentive to mentor potential nurse leaders to assume that role so that they can assume CEO roles. What I see are executive nurse leaders moving from job to job in a lateral fashion causing what I call "stagnation" in CNO/ VP roles". Therefore, succession programs to get new blood into CNO roles and diversity are also key drivers to engaging more CNOs to want to aspire to CEO positions.

Betty Noyes (6/18/2013 at 1:20 PM)
Connie you are so RIGHT!!! We need to applaud those who have assumed the CEO role and served as Board Members! My experience at both was Great!!