CNOs Seen as Prime Candidates for Hospital CEO Role
PLANO, Texas, May 9, 2023 — Hospitals conducting CEO searches should consider Chief Nursing Officers (CNOs) because their unique qualifications make them prime candidates for a hospital’s top leadership position, according to Community Hospital Corporation.
CNOs already possess certain traits required to run a hospital. That includes a practical and passionate understanding of ways to deliver quality, a commitment to service-oriented care, skills that attract and engage clinicians, teamwork building, and the resolve to be a firm but compassionate leader. If promoted from within, nurse CEOs have earned the respect of frontline workers, and they understand the challenges through their own experience.
“CNOs have transferable skills that allow them to lead at the highest level,” said Stephanie Guidry, a former CNO who is currently the CEO at Bayou Bend Health System in Franklin, Louisiana, a CHC-supported hospital. “Nursing develops excellent interpersonal and teamwork skills, the capacity to sort out details, make informed decisions, manage risks, and expertly communicate information and relay difficult news.”
To fill the CEO role, hospitals and health systems typically seek candidates with advanced degrees in business rather than nursing, or a combination of those degrees. Those with advanced degrees in nursing can still qualify for a CEO position but should expand their business education through mentorships, certifications and on-the-job experience.
“It’s critical for nurse leaders seeking a CEO position to acquire both clinical experience and business acumen in order to run a hospital as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Guidry, who earned advanced degrees in nursing and business,
Taking the Leap
Some of the qualifications CNOs bring to the CEO role also come with challenges. For example, CNOs can relate well with physicians because of their clinical background, but as CEOs they must firmly handle matters such as discharge planning expectations. While remaining open, CEOs are ultimately in charge of operational decision making.
“When I relinquished my CNO position to become a CEO, I felt it was necessary to offer clinical leaders the opportunity to maintain their authority in their practice areas,” Guidry said. “But they also understand that the CEO is responsible for making the final decisions impacting the hospital.”
Another challenge was adjusting to a new role that doesn’t revolve around daily patient care. Nurse CEOs can still interact with clinicians, patients and families, though in a different capacity. They can greatly impact care delivery, and their desire to help people still drives their work.
Nurse CEOs also are expected to stay active in the community to garner support for their organizations through not-for-profit boards and industry associations. Their involvement leverages opportunities to help raise their hospitals’ profile. For Guidry, her community involvement includes the local chamber of commerce, the rural hospital coalition board and other community activities. In an ever-changing healthcare environment, CEOs must continue to sharpen their skill sets and further their education in order to stay on top of developments. Most nurse CEOs are keen to refresh their skill sets. As part of their retention and succession strategies, they may offer clinicians advancement opportunities or flexible scheduling to enroll in school to further their education.
“With today’s focus on value-based care and patient experience,” Guidry said, “the time is ripe to put more nurses at the helm of hospitals and health systems.”