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Vice President of Nursing Career

How to Become Vice President of Nursing

In outpatient facilities, hospitals, emergency clinics, and healthcare centers around the world, coordinated nursing teams help patients embrace unique challenges. Responsible for these nursing teams—and the nurse managers and nursing administrators who supervise them—is the vice president of nursing.

As the executive leader in a nursing environment, the vice president of nursing handles the nursing care across all active departments. In this position, you will handle all strategy, organization, implementation, and evaluation of all nursing programs and services, delegating tasks as necessary to other nurse leaders.

The VP of nursing offers a rewarding career option for any individual with extensive experience in a nursing setting. If you’re looking to leverage years of healthcare knowledge and strong communication skills into a fulfilling nursing leadership role, a VP of nursing career is ideal for you. 

A man in a suit talks to a group of doctors.

What Is the VP of Nursing?

The vice president of nursing maintains executive responsibility for all nursing procedures in a healthcare setting. This position is often abbreviated to "VP of nursing" and involves oversight for nursing staff assignments, healthcare IT, patient management, and policy compliance.

The title and role of the vice president of nursing is sometimes used interchangeably with “chief nursing officer” (CNO). Though responsibilities remain largely the same, there may be subtle differences in these job titles. Although a VP of nursing spends a majority of their time coordinating nursing team efforts, all tasks are oriented toward ultimately improving patient care.

As a specialized career option, the role of a vice president of nursing requires a combination of schooling, real-life experience, and nursing certifications.

What Does the VP of Nursing Do?

The VP of Nursing is kept busy with executive tasks, coordinating nursing teams to facilitate high levels of patient care. On some days, the vice president of nursing might spend time communicating with medical center stakeholders or collaborating with fellow executives. On other days, they might spend hours recruiting new nursing staff members.

The exact responsibilities of a VP of nursing can include:

Guiding nursing teams, nursing administrators, and nurse managers toward sustained facility success.

  • Identifying and implementing new policies to ensure continued compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations.
  • Training all nursing staff on the use of any new medical technologies and procedures.
  • Supervising all nursing staff members, gauging their performance, and identifying opportunities for further improvement.
  • Reporting key performance benchmarks to healthcare organization stakeholders and executives.
  • Supporting relationships between external vendors and the healthcare organization.
  • Resolving high-level conflicts among nursing staff members or administrators.
  • Recruiting new nursing staff members to complement existing nursing teams.
  • Releasing employees whenever necessary.

These and other responsibilities allow a VP of Nursing to guide healthcare organizations toward success.

What Education Does a VP of Nursing Need?

Before you can secure a VP of nursing position, you’ll first need to complete a few academic steps. You’ll start your pursuit by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing. You’ll need to have experience working as a nurse so you understand the rigor and practical elements of the job. This will ensure you have the experience you need to move forward into a higher-level position, managing other nurses.

Many aspiring nursing executives continue their education by obtaining a master’s in nursing leadership and management. As students progress, they further hone skills in risk aversion, health management, and healthcare systems. A post-master's certificate in nursing leadership & management can be beneficial too. These and other fields contribute to your skillset, and can eventually qualify you for a role as a VP of nursing.

What Degrees are Best for a VP of Nursing?

Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you...

A one-of-a-kind nursing program that prepares you to be an RN and a baccalaureate-prepared nurse:

  • Locations: offered in FL, IN, TX, MO, and UT only.
  • Tuition and fees: $6,575 per 6-month term.

WGU offers the prelicensure program in areas where we have partnerships with healthcare employers to provide practice sites and clinical coaches to help teach you and inspire you on your path to becoming a nurse.

If you don't live in one of our prelicensure states or don't qualify to apply, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry, while also working directly with patients who need help.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (RN-to-MSN) – M.S.

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and...

This program for RNs includes a BSN component and is a substantial leap toward becoming a nurse leader.

  • Time: 75% of RN-to-MSN grads finish within 42 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,795 per 6-month term during undergraduate portion, $4,385 per 6-month term during graduate portion, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

If you're driven to lead, this online nursing degree will provide you everything needed to make that career a reality.

Compare degrees
This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

Nursing Leadership and Management – Post-Master's Certificate

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in...

A certificate for registered nurses with a...

A certificate for registered nurses with a master's degree in nursing who are ready for greater responsibility in a leadership and management role.

  • Time: 12 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a one-time Health Professions Fee of $350. The cost to sit for the NAHQ Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) exam is included in tuition.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Nursing (RN-to-BSN Online) – B.S.

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...

An online BSN degree program for registered...

An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking the added theoretical depth, employability, and respect that a bachelor's degree brings:

  • Time: 66% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition and Fees: $3,795 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.
  • Transfers: On average, students transfer 81 credits.

With over 35,000 BSN alumni, this is one of WGU's most popular online degree programs. View our RN to BSN degree guide.

If you don't currently have an RN and don't qualify for your nursing prelicensure program, consider getting our Bachelor's Degree in Health Services Coordination instead. This degree allows you to work inside the healthcare industry in a unique way.

Nursing – Leadership and Management (BSN-to-MSN) – M.S.

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree...

For registered nurses with a bachelor's degree who are ready for greater responsibility:

  • Time: 82% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,385 per 6-month term, plus a Health Professions Student Fee of $350.

Sample careers and jobs this degree program will prepare you for:

  • Director of Nursing
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Quality Director
  • Clinical Nurse Leader
  • Project Manager

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of medical and health services managers to grow 17% by 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Compare degrees

This program is not the only degree WGU offers designed to create leaders in the field of healthcare. Compare our health leadership degrees by clicking the button below.

Compare Similar Degrees

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Medical staff sit around a conference table discussing business things.

What Skills Does a VP of Nursing Need?

A VP of nursing will rely on a dedicated skillset to help them complete daily tasks. Whether communicating with fellow nursing executives or reviewing policies for implementation, a VP of nursing is continually focused on improving patient outcomes. 

To facilitate patient recovery and ensure long-term healthcare organization success, a VP of nursing might need the following skills:

  • Nurse management. The ability to effectively manage nursing staff, motivating individual nurses and their supervisors toward consistently high levels of care.
  • Interpersonal communication. The ability to correspond effectively with all nurses, nursing administrators, healthcare staff members, and patients on occasion.
  • Problem-solving. The ability to identify and solve high-level problems that a nursing department might be facing.
  • Leadership. The ability to guide the nursing department of a healthcare organization toward sustained success, leading by example as they implement policies that help each nurse do his or her job well.
  • Public speaking. The ability to address groups of nurses or executives.
  • Staffing. The ability to perform recruitment, onboarding, hiring, and firing processes that contribute to a well-functioning nursing team.
  • Data collection/analysis. The ability to gauge nursing performance benchmarks, draw helpful conclusions from the figures, and create user-friendly reports that identify opportunities for further improvement.
  • Research. The ability to stay up to date with any pending healthcare developments or compliance policy updates.

These and other skills help any VP of nursing lead his or her nursing teams toward success. Once these skills are properly implemented, nurses under a VP of nursing should clearly understand their roles and be able to advocate improved patient outcomes.

How Much Does a VP of Nursing Make?

$162,942

The exact income of a VP of nursing can depend on several factors. These can include your employer, employer’s location, years of experience, education, and obtained certifications. On average, the salary of a vice president of nursing can average $162,942, with a range of roughly $96,000 to $210,000 earned each year.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

7%

Like other executive-level healthcare positions, VP of nursing careers are expected to enjoy a favorable job outlook in upcoming years. Employment for all registered nurses is expected to increase 7% from 2019 to 2029, a growth rate well above the average for all occupations. VP of nursing positions should experience increased demand over the next decade, for several reasons. Increased financial pressure on hospitals to expedite patient discharge, in addition to heavier patient populations at outpatient facilities, will enhance the demand for registered nurses.

Do VPs of Nursing Need Certifications?

Yes

In order to be qualified to become a vice president of nursing, you'll need your RN license. This can be obtained through a nursing diploma program, an associate degree, or a bachelor’s degree. You’ll also need to keep your RN license active by meeting continuing education requirements. 

Interested in Becoming a VP of Nursing?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this meaningful career.

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