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6 CNO-to-CEO Strategies

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

Here are six strategies for nurses who aspire to the corner office:

1. Step out of your comfort zone: Get on a committee that you may not be entirely comfortable with. For example, if you're intimidated by numbers, join the finance committee.

2. Develop relationships: Have a broad view and understanding of your entire organization, not just your little slice of it. Cultivate relationships with people who work in the lab and housekeeping, as well as with physicians and other nurses.

3. Find a mentor: When you encounter someone you admire and who does something really well, make an effort to learn from that person.

4. Get a coach: If you want to be a better tennis player, you wouldn't hesitate to get a coach; why should developing leadership skills be any different? "It's worth the investment to get a coach to help you," says Curran.

5. Understand the numbers: It's not enough to be a good clinician; you have to understand the financial aspect of healthcare, too. Curran believes deans of nursing schools should require finance classes for students. If you didn't take one while you were in school, though, it's not too late to take one now.

6. Value your work: If you're working unforgiving hours, day in and day out, maybe surrounded by people who appear not to appreciate you, it's easy to forget the just how important your work really is. "When someone diminishes the significance of what you do over and over again you start to lose appreciation for it," Curran says. "You lose the awe about how miraculous it is."


Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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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!!