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RN to Healthcare Administration: Getting Ready for a Career Change

Oct 16, 2023

Nurses change career paths for countless reasons. Some seek a better work-life balance. Others want to impact healthcare on a larger scale by shaping the policies and procedures that directly affect patients.

If you’re currently a registered nurse interested in pursuing a different job in the healthcare field, healthcare administration is not only a promising career path but also an attainable one. As the proportion of elderly individuals in society increases, the demand for healthcare administrators also rises. Nursing homes, hospitals, physicians’ offices, and other healthcare facilities all need qualified administrators to oversee operations and ensure that patients receive the best care possible.

This blog will explore the main avenues for transitioning from nursing to healthcare administration, the educational requirements for healthcare administration jobs, and the skills you’ll need to succeed.

How to Transition from RN to Healthcare Administrator

If you want to transition from an RN job to a healthcare administrator career, you’ll need a combination of work experience and formal education. On-the-job experience can give you many of the practical skills needed to thrive as a hospital administrator, nursing home administrator, quality improvement coordinator, or other type of healthcare administrator.

Formal education provides theoretical knowledge, specialized skills, networking connections, and priceless personal and professional growth opportunities. Acquiring a degree in healthcare administration or a related field also increases your credibility in the eyes of employers, widening your potential career options.

Leadership Experience Can Streamline The Transition from RN to Healthcare Administration

Gaining on-the-job experience in nurse leadership roles is a great way to prepare for a career in healthcare administration. Consider pursuing the following positions if you’re hoping to enter the healthcare administration space:

  • Nurse manager. As a nurse manager, you’ll oversee the nursing department and manage the nursing staff. Your daily responsibilities could include conducting performance reviews, providing feedback to the nurses, resolving staff conflicts, enforcing policies, and ensuring that nurses meet job expectations.
  • Nurse leader. Nurse leader roles involve additional tasks above and beyond the typical nurse duties. If you become a nurse leader, you’ll oversee scheduling, resource allocation, regulatory compliance, and safety protocols. You’ll also have greater involvement with other nurses, which may include leading training programs and mentoring other nurses.
  • Quality management nurse. Quality management nurses play a crucial role in ensuring that patients receive high-quality care. They collect data about patient outcomes, conduct quality assessments, develop policies and procedures to improve patient care, and implement feedback from patients and their families.

Additional Education for Jobs in Healthcare Administration

Transitioning from a nursing role to a healthcare administration position typically requires additional education. Online degree programs are a popular choice for working nurses pursuing further education due to their flexibility and convenience. Online courses allow you to gain the skills and education needed without sacrificing your current job.  

 The following degree programs will teach you valuable skills that will help you get ahead in a healthcare administration career.

  • B.S. in Business Administration–Healthcare Management. This degree program integrates general business skills and healthcare-specific knowledge to provide a well-rounded educational experience for those seeking a career in healthcare administration.
  • B.S. in Health and Human Services. In this program, you’ll take health sciences, healthcare management, and leadership courses that prepare you for a thriving career in health services. A Bachelor of Science in Health and Human Services degree can set the foundation for a job as a healthcare coordinator, patient advocate, health services manager, or healthcare administrator.
  • B.S. in Nursing (RN to BSN). If you’re a registered nurse, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing will enhance your résumé and expand your career opportunities.
  • B.S. in Health Information Management. If you’re interested in the business and technological aspects of healthcare, then consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management. This degree can lay the groundwork for a career as a health informaticist, health records manager, information systems auditor, or health information manager.

Earning an associate or bachelor’s degree is usually the first step toward building a flourishing career in healthcare administration. If you want to further increase your industry knowledge and skill set, consider earning a master’s degree.

Transferable Skills: From RN to Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administrators are instrumental in the efficient operation of healthcare organizations. Some of the most essential skills you’ll need to succeed as a healthcare administrator include:

  • Healthcare industry knowledge. It’s important to understand how healthcare facilities operate and to know the challenges healthcare professionals must overcome. Your real-world experience as a nurse can be a valuable asset during your healthcare administration career.
  • Leadership skills. Managing, inspiring, and directing others is a crucial aspect of a healthcare administrator's job. Your leadership can directly impact team morale, organizational efficiency, and patient outcomes.
  • Interpersonal skills. Whether it’s a hospital, nursing home, doctors’ office, or even an insurance company, you’ll need effective communication skills to collaborate with healthcare professionals, patients, administrators, and stakeholders.
  • Critical thinking skills. Healthcare administrators face complex challenges and tough decisions on a daily basis. They must be able to weigh options, analyze information, and think critically to solve problems and meet challenges.
  • Attention to detail. Meticulous record-keeping is often a key aspect of healthcare administration. Even minor oversights can significantly impact patient outcomes, billing and financial reports, regulatory compliance, and other crucial matters.
  • Ability to multitask. The healthcare industry is dynamic and fast-paced. Healthcare administrators must be able to manage multiple responsibilities, prioritize tasks, allocate resources, and quickly adapt to evolving situations.

Next Steps

With the right education, it’s possible to transition from a nursing role to a career in health administration. WGU offers online courses designed to fit into the lives of working professionals. You can earn a career-aligned bachelor’s or master’s degree on your own timeline. Our degree programs are competency-based, meaning you complete coursework and take assessments as soon as you’re ready. At WGU, the emphasis is on mastery of the course material, not the number of hours you spend in a classroom.  

Combined with your hands-on experience as a nurse, the knowledge and skills you acquire at WGU can set the foundation for a thriving healthcare administration career.  

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