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6 CNO-to-CEO Strategies

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

Curran is CEO of Best on Board; a faculty member of the American College of Healthcare Executives; a member of the boards of directors for Hospira Inc., DeVry Inc., and DePaul University; and former chairman of the board of Silver Cross Hospital. 

Nurses—most of whom are women—don't dream big enough, Curran says. "She should stop and think about where she is in her career and is that as far as she wants to go?" she says. "Has she reached the pinnacle of her dreams?"  

Becoming CEO someday isn't an aspiration for many nurses, not simply because they're contented in their current role, but because it never occurs to them that they could be the CEO.

"I do think lots of times we set our bar, or our goal, or our dream too low," Curran says. Plus, many nurses are dedicated to patient care and don't want to move out of that realm. But she counters that nurses who move into chief executive roles can exercise great power and influence over improving patient care.

In fact, the desire to be a CEO "really comes from the very thing that makes you want to be a nurse," she says: Wanting to help people. She says nurse managers should ask themselves, "'Why wouldn't I want to run the hospital or be on the hospital board?' It's kind of an extension of your core mission."  

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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!!