Executive Health Administration

Advanced Nursing Careers: Skills, Opportunities, and The Path to Success

[fa icon="calendar'] May 31, 2017 10:06:00 AM / by EMHA Blog

Advanced Nurses in leadership positions are in high demand

Nursing is a time-honored and rewarding profession with demand in the field projected to rise 16% through 2024, more than twice the average growth rate of all industries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But as with so many careers, the skills required, the employment landscape and the opportunities for advancement continue to evolve.

Leadership Skills for Today's Nurses

In an article for Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, two healthcare leaders spotlighted eight key skills for today's nurses in the value-based care environment. Standing out among them: a mindset of continuous learning and a commitment to advanced education.

“A (Bachelor of Science in nursing) is a door-opener; it’s no longer the ceiling,” said Lamont M. Yoder, CEO of Banner Gateway Medical Center and Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center in Gilbert, Ariz. Yoder goes on to say,

“With the fast pace of change in today’s healthcare system, it’s impossible for any B.S.N. program to perfectly situate a nurse to transition from an academic setting and be fully prepared for a nursing career.”

Carol Bradley, senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Legacy Health in Portland, Ore, added,

“Nursing leaders need to have the business acumen to analyze the way care is being delivered and apply clinical value analyses and the kind of 'lean' thinking that can reduce waste, inefficiency and costs.”

Opportunities for Advanced Nurses

In the 10 years between 2012 and 2022 healthcare adminstration employment is expected to grow 23%. The Affordable Care Act and its triple aim created many new administrative positions in areas such as compliance and reimbursements.  

Many organizations are calling for physician leadership and embracing the role of nurse executives to help lead transformative change.

Anna Montgomery, who earned her Master of Public Health Administration at USC Price School of Public Policy, touted the many options for nurses in the field beyond hospitals:

  • ambulatory care facilities

  • consulting firms and associations

  • home health agencies and hospices

  • integrated delivery systems

  • long-term care facilities

  • managed care organizations

  • medical group practices

  • mental health organizations

  • public health departments

  • universities or research institutions

These are all areas within the healthcare ecosystem where knowledgable, experienced and capable leaders are needed.

As the delivery system changes, executive healthcare career opportunities abound. The field needs transformation-minded leaders – in hospitals, health plans, medical practices, health-related enterprises, and community health organizations – who have the passion, knowledge, and skills to shape the future of healthcare.

How to Advance your Nursing Career

Advance your nursing career with an Executive MHA


Now you might be thinking, "Yes, there is opportunity, but how can I take advantage of it?"

Managing career mobility in Health Administration can be difficult.  With the right process you can advance your medical career in a few short steps.

Here is some advice from Anna Montgomery:

“Take the time to investigate your options, find a good fit between your current skill set, what you can gain from further education (formal and informal), and where you’d like to go.” 

Elsevier, the medical and scientific publisher, has a great article titled "5 Essential Steps to Advance Your Nursing Career” that will help clarify your next steps.

Elsevier caps the list with: Go back to school. They elaborate:

“For anyone seriously interested in advancing their nursing career, going back to school and pursuing a master's degree … can be a way to stay ahead of the curve for state requirements related to certain jobs and will give you the tools and credentials necessary for taking on new challenges.”

Advanced Degrees for Nurses

There are many types of advanced degrees, including:

  • Continuing Medical Education Certifications

  • General business MBAs or MBAs with a Health focus

  • MHA - focused on administration, finance, human resources and information technology

  • MPH - centered on community and public health programs

  • Executive MHA - designed to strengthen the administrative, leadership, change management, and strategic skillsets of working healthcare professionals and prepare them for executive roles

The rapidly changing healthcare environment will continue to offer executive-level careers for highly talented healthcare professionals looking to make a difference.

Download this helpful guide: Learn the Differences Between an MBA, MPH, and MHA.

3 Critical Factors for Graduate Programs

become a nurse executive with an advanced degree

Selecting a graduate program can be arduous.  

So what factors should you consider when evaluating a graduate program?  The three critical factors that routinely stand out are flexibility, the curriculum, and the institution itself.

1. Flexibility

Advanced nurses with 5, 10, or 15+ years of experience know that time is precious. In many cases then a full-time, on-campus MHA program doesn't fit the schedule of a working healthcare professional.

There are many benefits to having a convenient, dynamic, “blended-online” model, which combines online learning with face-to-face, in-person learning (including, working-world healthcare site visits and residencies).

Some programs can also accommodate you better than others if your work and personal obligations require a course sequence that varies from the standard schedule in terms of timing.

2. Curriculum

The courses should provide the knowledge and experience necessary to advance your nursing career. For nursing executives, five curricular areas are worth noting to advance your career:

  1. Innovative Leadership – To develop nursing executives who anticipate healthcare delivery system changes and create strategies to take advantage of these opportunities, including understanding the role of performance measurement, risk assumption and evidence-based medicine in an era of population health management

  2. Cost-Effective Care in an Era of Value-Based Purchasing – Including developing the ability to conduct economic analyses of healthcare issues and acquiring core financial skills

  3. Efficient Management and Administration – Learning to address emerging issues, understanding and applying Six Sigma and Lean Methodology, and being comfortable with financial management in a changing environment

  4. Patient Safety and Quality of Care – Operationalizing outcomes that matter to payers, organizations, and clinicians

  5. Organizational and Clinical Effectiveness Through Information Systems – Learning how health IT systems provide a foundation for the strategic growth of the organization

3. Institution

Finally, weigh such things as the instructors, the types of students that will be your classmates, the student experience and the reputation of the institution.

Whether you want to rise up to a more senior role within your current organization or transition to a brand new one, the professional network you build while receiving an advanced nursing degree will offer you support and the tools you need to be successful.


Are you considering an advanced degree?  Take 5 minutes and find out if an Executive MHA is the right program for with a self-assessment.

Take the Self-Assessment Now 


Topics: Healthcare Careers


Written by EMHA Blog

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