Although the terms nurse administrator and nurse manager are sometimes used interchangeably, there is usually a difference in the overall responsibility, duties and salary for the two positions. A nurse administrator is usually responsible for a group of departments, an entire hospital or several hospitals, while a nurse manager is more likely to have the responsibility for one or more nursing units within a hospital or other health care organization. A nurse administrator often reports to the chief executive officer in the organization or to a vice president directly below the CEO, while nurse managers generally report directly to the nursing administrator.
A nurse administrator may also be called a director of nurses, a nurse executive or a vice president of nursing. In some organizations, the term chief nurse executive is used to denote the nurse administrator. As these titles indicate, the scope of a nurse administrator’s responsibilities is usually very broad. The nurse manager might have responsibilities that seem similar but on a smaller scale. Nurse managers may also be known by the term head nurse or chief nurse.
Skills and Responsibilities:
Both positions need basic business skills such as financial management and experience in areas such as human resources, strategic planning and systems thinking. Although both positions usually have financial and budgeting responsibilities, a nurse manager will develop and manage a budget for a nursing unit or department such as a critical care unit or emergency room. The nurse administrator, however, might need to budget for multiple nursing departments and may also be responsible for support services such as a transport department or home care.
Education and Credentialling:
Nurse managers might have diploma or associate degrees, although many organizations prefer a bachelor’s degree in nursing. A nurse administrator is nearly always bachelor’s prepared and many have masters or doctoral level degrees in nursing or a related field such as health care administration. Certification in nursing management is available from the American Nurses' Credentialing Center; the minimum educational level for certification is a bachelor’s degree.
Accountability and Patient Care:
Both nurse administrators and nurse managers usually have 24-hour accountability for their areas of responsibility, although there might also be charge nurses or assistant nurse managers assigned to a particular shift or unit who provide management support. Nurse managers may provide direct care to patients, depending on the size of the unit, the availability of staffing and the demands of their management duties. It is unusual for a nurse administrator to work at the bedside.
Nurse administrators tend to have higher wages than a nurse manager, although wages vary according to practice setting, locality, education and experience. A chief nurse executive had a base salary of $157,754 in April 2005, according to NurseUniverse.com, while a nurse manager salary was $73,988. In comparison, the mean annual wage for RNs in the United States in May of 2011 was $69,110, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.