In today’s fast-paced managed care arena, nurses seeking management positions need to hone a competitive edge. One strategy for the truly driven is to earn master’s degrees in both nursing and business. For example, an MBA can open your eyes to how nonclinical managers make health service decisions, while an MS in nursing administration can provide you with a more sophisticated understanding of nursing as a science and practice discipline. Having both perspectives can optimize your work flow, progress and efficacy.
This trend – combining professional and business degrees – is also occurring among chemists, lawyers, physicians, and engineers looking for job protection. According to Eugene Miller, author of The Barrons Business Guide to Graduate Business Schools, “It (having two master’s degrees) makes you more versatile. It shows you have ambition, perseverance, are a self-starter, and it opens up job opportunities.”
Savvy nurses understand that business is now an integral part of nursing care. As revenues shrink, cost is as important as quality. “The financial rigor of my MBA and my confidence from the field experiences of my MSN have catapulted me into executive leadership,” says a recently appointed director of maternal/child health nursing at a large metropolitan hospital.
Today, hospital nurse managers frequently direct multiple units, with all the financial and supervisory responsibilities this entails. Opportunities are growing outside hospitals within health-care systems such as managed care programs, ambulatory care centers, long-term care centers, and home health agencies. Nurses are competing with those from other backgrounds for these positions. For instance, some of the administrators of regional ambulatory care centers in a Baltimore-area HMO are nurses. Others are opting to become entrepreneurs, providing case management, continuing education, or management consulting.
For the nurse aspiring to become a manager or to open her/his own business, what graduate programs offer the best preparation? Look for a school that offers dual degree programs that combine requirements for a master’s degree in nursing administration and in business. Typically, one application, a standardized test (GRE), and a set of recommendations are required. These programs offer part-time options, multidisciplinary courses, individualized placement for practicum experiences, and a faster way to earn a master’s degree in both nursing and business.
Two recent surveys of hospital nurse executives and chief executive officers found a strong preference for hiring MSN/MBA dual degree graduates for management positions. Interestingly, a third survey comparing MS in nursing administration and MSN/MBA dual degree students found that while they were similar in qualifications and many other characteristics, dual degree students were much more likely to seek nontraditional positions outside of hospitals.
Graduates of dual degree programs are working in ambulatory surgery, home health, long-term care, managed care organizations, their own businesses, and acute care. Dual degree programs are developing nurse leaders for a healthcare environment that demands expertise in financial decision making, strategic thinking, resource management, and outcome-based approaches to quality patient care.