A Look at a Typical Chief Nursing Officer Job Description

Chief nursing officer and healthcare professionals having discussion

Do you have a passion for serving others in your community? Are you looking for a meaningful career that would truly enable you to make a positive difference? Every single career option in the healthcare field fits that description, and there are plenty to choose from.

Many healthcare careers involve providing direct patient care, whereas others jobs — such as chief nursing officer — involve the day-to-day operations of the organization. What is a chief nursing officer, and what does a typical chief nursing officer job description look like? Explore this career guide to learn the answers.

What Is a Chief Nursing Officer (CNO)?

In every type of healthcare organization, there are two main job classes: clinical and administrative. Those in clinical positions work directly with patients and provide clinical care, whereas administrative workers oversee the organization’s daily operations and provide leadership.

A chief nursing officer (CNO) fulfills an administrative role within a healthcare organization. The CNO does not provide direct patient care, although CNOs are licensed nurses with clinical nursing backgrounds.

A CNO typically has many priorities, including:

  • Identifying strategies for improving the quality of patient care and patient outcomes
  • Improving operational efficiency within the organization
  • Serving as a voice for clinical care nurses and empowering them to reach new heights of clinical excellence
  • Ensuring that the organization’s daily operations and procedures are aligned with its mission, values and vision

In short, a chief nursing officer is responsible for making sure a healthcare organization runs smoothly and serves its patients with integrity.

Common Responsibilities for Chief Nursing Officers

A chief nursing officer job description may vary from one healthcare organization to the next. In general, however, CNOs can expect to handle the administrative side of patient care delivery. They wear many hats, performing tasks related to human resources, budgeting, regulatory compliance, patient services development and more.

Some of the specific tasks that a CNO can expect to perform on a regular basis include the following:

  • Developing and implementing procedures, policies, best practices and standards of care
  • Developing and monitoring departmental budgets
  • Overseeing the healthcare organization to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations, and staying on top of the latest regulatory changes in the healthcare industry
  • Guiding the organization through the processes of acquiring and maintaining accreditation
  • Recruiting, training and overseeing nurses and ancillary staff members
  • Identifying opportunities for staff development and continuing education
  • Overseeing the daily operations of the healthcare organization
  • Overseeing safe staff-to-patient ratio at all times
  • Collaborating with department heads, other administrators and providers
  • Identifying and implementing new technologies that promote better patient care, more efficient operations and a safer environment

Beyond these daily tasks in a typical chief nursing officer job description, the CNO seeks to lead by example and inspire their staff. CNOs are visionaries who understand the need for continuous improvement so that their healthcare organization can always serve its community to the best of its capacity.

Essential Skills and Characteristics of Chief Nursing Officers

The job of a chief nursing officer is demanding, but also rewarding. You will face many challenges as you lead your healthcare organization forward and pursue strategies to continuously improve patient care and safety. A CNO can benefit from having the following skills and characteristics:

  • The ability to see both the big picture and the finer details
  • Leadership that inspires and serves others
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • An innovative, forward-thinking mindset
  • The desire to continually seek improvements
  • A commitment to lifelong learning
  • The ability to make difficult decisions while prioritizing professional ethics and responsibility

Your future awaits at Grand Canyon University. In addition to our many undergraduate programs in nursing, the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions is pleased to offer the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with an Emphasis in Health Care Quality & Patient Safety degree program for aspiring chief nursing officers. This MSN degree instills critical competencies in learners, including servant leadership, professional responsibility and evidence-based research. Learn more about furthering your career with a degree from GCU.


Approved by the Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions on Sept. 21, 2022.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.