Nursing Leadership

Online Graduate Certificate in Nursing Leadership

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$0 Application Fee
$0 Transfer Credit Evaluation

0 Entrance Exams
No GRE/GMAT Required

About This Nursing Leadership Certificate Program

Develop advanced skills aimed at safe nursing practice and high-level patient-centered care with an online graduate certificate in Nursing Leadership offered by American Public University (APU).

With a focus on leadership, human resource management, and operational quality, this online nursing certificate is a post-master’s program suitable for those who do not wish to pursue doctoral studies.

Coursework includes legal and ethical practices, the business of healthcare, and finance. The program concludes with a 16-week practicum. Also, upon completion, if you have the necessary length of field experience, you may be eligible to seek Nurse Executive certification, offered through the American Nurse Credentialing Center.

NOTE: This program has specific admission requirements and is currently not open for admission to residents of Washington state. Completion of this program does not award any professional certifications.

What You Will Do

  1. Apply ethical principles to advanced professional nursing practice
  2. Demonstrate leadership skills supportive of safe nursing practice and patient-centered care
  3. Advocate for healthcare policies that improve healthcare outcomes across the lifespan
  4. Apply theoretical knowledge and evidence-based practice to influence the delivery of cost-effective care to improve health outcomes
  5. Advocate for business practices that promote healthcare quality and patient safety
  6. Synthesize knowledge of key business and human resources practices to effectively lead healthcare teams

Program at a Glance

Number of Credits
18
Cost Per Credit
$455 | $290*
$386.75** | $409.50***
Nursing Courses Start Every Other Month
Online
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Program Requirements Printable Catalog Version

Must take all courses for this section.

Course ID: 4995

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This course explores legal and ethical dimensions of health care in the context of patients’ rights and responsibilities, employee rights and responsibilities, and business practices. The course examines ethical values and principles in healthcare, the Patient Bill of Rights, legal regulations in healthcare, malpractice and risk management, and basics of employment law and labor relations. Students will apply ethical and legal principles to analyze the health administrator’s role in case examples involving ethical and legal dilemmas.
Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
12/25/23 - 05/31/24 06/03/24 - 07/28/24 Spring 2024 Session D 8 Week session
01/29/24 - 06/28/24 07/01/24 - 08/25/24 Summer 2024 Session B 8 Week session
02/26/24 - 08/02/24 08/05/24 - 09/29/24 Summer 2024 Session I 8 Week session
03/25/24 - 08/30/24 09/02/24 - 10/27/24 Summer 2024 Session D 8 Week session
04/29/24 - 10/04/24 10/07/24 - 12/01/24 Fall 2024 Session B 8 Week session
05/27/24 - 11/01/24 11/04/24 - 12/29/24 Fall 2024 Session I 8 Week session

Course ID: 5230

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This course serves as an advanced course in human resource management with an emphasis on the health care workforce. Students will explore the intricacies associated with recruiting, hiring, and managing healthcare workers. Organizational culture as it pertains to human resources will be examined, and strategic planning will be highlighted. (Prerequisite: HCAD500)
Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
01/29/24 - 06/28/24 07/01/24 - 08/25/24 Summer 2024 Session B 8 Week session
03/25/24 - 08/30/24 09/02/24 - 10/27/24 Summer 2024 Session D 8 Week session
05/27/24 - 11/01/24 11/04/24 - 12/29/24 Fall 2024 Session I 8 Week session

Course ID: 5184

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This course is designed to introduce students to the business side of healthcare. Topics include the regulatory environment, employment law, managing and marketing healthcare services. The course also looks at organized delivery systems including the labs, pharmacies, materials maintenance, and physician practice administration.
Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
12/25/23 - 05/31/24 06/03/24 - 07/28/24 Spring 2024 Session D 8 Week session
01/29/24 - 06/28/24 07/01/24 - 08/25/24 Summer 2024 Session B 8 Week session
02/26/24 - 08/02/24 08/05/24 - 09/29/24 Summer 2024 Session I 8 Week session
03/25/24 - 08/30/24 09/02/24 - 10/27/24 Summer 2024 Session D 8 Week session
04/29/24 - 10/04/24 10/07/24 - 12/01/24 Fall 2024 Session B 8 Week session
05/27/24 - 11/01/24 11/04/24 - 12/29/24 Fall 2024 Session I 8 Week session

Course ID: 5185

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This course is designed to give healthcare administration students a foundation in economic principles of health insurance. Topics will include managed care, employer-sponsored health insurance, the functioning of Medicare and Medicaid, the history of health insurance in the United States, and special topics in health insurance. (Prerequisite: HCAD650)
Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
12/25/23 - 05/31/24 06/03/24 - 07/28/24 Spring 2024 Session D 8 Week session
01/29/24 - 06/28/24 07/01/24 - 08/25/24 Summer 2024 Session B 8 Week session
02/26/24 - 08/02/24 08/05/24 - 09/29/24 Summer 2024 Session I 8 Week session
03/25/24 - 08/30/24 09/02/24 - 10/27/24 Summer 2024 Session D 8 Week session
04/29/24 - 10/04/24 10/07/24 - 12/01/24 Fall 2024 Session B 8 Week session
05/27/24 - 11/01/24 11/04/24 - 12/29/24 Fall 2024 Session I 8 Week session

Course ID: 5186

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This course is designed to develop the skills that will allow students to create safe and efficient quality healthcare systems through an understanding of the quality management cycle, goal-setting, and goal obtainment metrics. Topics include creating satisfied patients, high quality service, efficient processes, and examining tools used within the field. (Prerequisite: HCAD650 and HCAD651)
Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
12/25/23 - 05/31/24 06/03/24 - 07/28/24 Spring 2024 Session D 8 Week session
01/29/24 - 06/28/24 07/01/24 - 08/25/24 Summer 2024 Session B 8 Week session
02/26/24 - 08/02/24 08/05/24 - 09/29/24 Summer 2024 Session I 8 Week session
03/25/24 - 08/30/24 09/02/24 - 10/27/24 Summer 2024 Session D 8 Week session
04/29/24 - 10/04/24 10/07/24 - 12/01/24 Fall 2024 Session B 8 Week session
05/27/24 - 11/01/24 11/04/24 - 12/29/24 Fall 2024 Session I 8 Week session

Course ID: 5013

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This practicum is completed with a nurse leader in a selected setting and will apply the leadership theories and concepts essential to the nurse leader role. The practicum provides the student the opportunity to apply their learning to their area of interest. Students engage in leadership activities such as committees, staff education, or quality improvement projects. Students work with their faculty member to select the practicum site. 160 clinical hours are required for completion of this practicum. All core and specialty courses must be completed before taking this course. This course requires an additional cost for the use of Typhon student practicum tracking software, to be purchased by the student prior to the start of the practicum.
Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
01/29/24 - 06/28/24 07/01/24 - 10/20/24 Summer 2024 Session A 16 Week session
03/25/24 - 08/30/24 09/02/24 - 12/22/24 Summer 2024 Session C 16 Week session
05/27/24 - 11/01/24 11/04/24 - 02/23/25 Fall 2024 Session K 16 Week session

What Is This Nursing Leadership Certificate and Why Is It Needed?

As healthcare continues to evolve in the 21st century, there is an increasing need for nurse leaders with the necessary knowledge and experience to help guide the industry through these changes. Nurses who have earned a graduate certificate in nursing leadership may possess the skills needed to develop and implement strategies that can enhance patient outcomes and improve operational efficiencies.

Nurse leaders are responsible for managing complex healthcare environments that involve multiple stakeholders, such as providers, payers, patients, and families. They must be well-versed in the latest trends in healthcare policies, regulations, and technologies that are constantly evolving. These leaders should also be able to build strong relationships with other professionals within their organization and ensure excellent customer service experiences for patients.

Furthermore, nurse leaders play an essential role in developing strategic plans for organizations that promote optimal patient care. This includes establishing protocols for evidence-based practice guidelines to improve overall quality of care, setting goals for performance metrics, developing innovative approaches to service delivery, and implementing programs focused on reducing medical errors. They serve as inspirational figures within their respective organizations who motivate their staff members toward achieving excellence in patient outcomes.

In addition to managing day-to-day operations of a health facility or organization, nurse leaders also work with medical directors and other executives to create effective long-term strategies that achieve sustainability while promoting effective public health practices and safety initiatives. With their expertise in both clinical practice settings as well as administration roles, nurse leaders have become a vital resource within today's complex healthcare environment.

For registered nurses (RNs) who have already obtained an MSN degree, this post-master’s certificate in nursing leadership may be the next step in their professional nursing education. The graduate certificate in nursing leadership can help to prepare nursing professionals for clinical and/or administrative nurse roles, which may contribute to a more positive healing environment for patients and other employees.

 

Benefits of Earning This Nursing Leadership Certificate Online

Nursing professionals who wish to pursue this graduate certificate in nursing leadership can take advantage of its flexible, mainly online delivery method which accommodates a working nurse’s busy life. It offers those with an advanced degree in nursing the opportunity to improve their skills and advance their expertise without having to rearrange their schedule. 

This online program can provide nurses with a comprehensive understanding of the foundations of healthcare leadership and help them stay up-to-date on the current trends in healthcare. Through easily accessible asynchronous coursework and other online class resources, participants learn how to effectively manage personnel in a variety of settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, home health care agencies and more. Nurses also gain insight into financial management and analytics as well as application of legal regulations that guide day-to-day operations in healthcare facilities.

The convenience of earning a certificate online is unmatched— students can continue working while pursuing their education without having to worry about commuting or sacrificing personal obligations. Online courses allow for asynchronous learning which gives participants more flexibility when it comes to creating their own study schedules. Online platforms also give students access to experienced faculty members who can offer valuable guidance or provide feedback when needed.

Students who successfully complete this certificate can obtain a deeper knowledge of healthcare delivery systems and organizational models that are essential for making informed decisions related to nursing management. Certificate completion may equip students to become innovative leaders who can drive change initiatives within their organizations that improve patient outcomes--a critical component for achieving high quality healthcare today.

This online program does require the completion of a practicum which must be done in person in order to gain hands-on experience with the concepts being taught. The practicum requires completion of 160 hours of supervised clinical practice where students can observe and participate first-hand in tasks related to nursing leadership.

Note: This course requires the use of Typhon student practicum tracking software, to be purchased for $100 prior to the start of the practicum.

 

nurse leader

Paths to Earning This Nurse Leader Certificate

RNs looking to advance their knowledge and expertise can explore a variety of avenues, depending on their education and/or career goals. First and foremost, those wishing to explore higher professional roles, like those in nursing leadership, should already have their MSN degree and licensure as a registered nurse (RN). 

The University offers three concentrations for its MSN degree program: nurse educator, nurse leader, and community and public health. RNs undertaking their master’s education may opt for the nurse educator concentration during their degree and, upon successful completion, return for this graduate certificate in nursing leadership.

This graduate certificate also complements the Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Healthcare Administration degrees. Both of these programs lay the foundation for the learning outcomes in the certificate program and may enable students to pursue specialized certifications such as the Certified Nurse Manager (CNM) or undertake a doctoral program such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).. These certifications help provide nurses with additional knowledge and experience that may be applicable to nursing leadership roles. 

Note: Completion of this program does not award any professional certifications but may be helpful in preparing to earn such certifications.

Graduate Certificate in Nursing Leadership Outcomes

Successful completion of this graduate certificate does not automatically qualify students for leadership roles as there may be additional work or experience requirements. But the coursework may satisfy the educational eligibility requirements needed to sit for certain credentialing exams.  Prospective students should research requirements for their desired certification for complete details.

Potential career trajectories for nurse leaders vary, but some of the roles on both the clinical and administrative side include: 

  • Charge nurse 
  • Nurse manager
  • Head of department
  • Nurse leader
  • Chief Nursing Officer
  • Executive Director/Vice President
  • Nurse executive

 

Certificate Outcome FAQs

The primary difference between a nurse manager and nurse leader is their approach to the role. A nurse manager focuses mainly on the administrative aspects of managing staff and resources, while a nurse leader is focused on developing strategies to help improve patient outcomes, implement change, and advocate for better healthcare policies. Nurse managers could be described more as supervisors, while leaders take an active role in guiding teams and inspiring them to achieve their goals.

Depending on the credentials and training a nursing professional has obtained, nurses who take on a leadership position may be referred to as nurse executive, nurse administrator, or clinical director, to name a few.

A nurse executive is a senior-level nursing leader responsible for the planning, coordination, and supervision of nursing personnel. The role requires strong leadership and management skills combined with an advanced level of clinical knowledge. Nurse executives must be adept at strategic planning, financial management, information technology, and quality improvement initiatives. They are responsible for overseeing all aspects of patient care including staffing, scheduling, safety protocols, budgeting, and resource allocation.

Why Get This Nurse Leader Certificate

Completion of coursework in the nurse leadership certificate program may help you prepare to sit for certification exams such as the ANCC Nurse Executive Certification (NE-CB), AONL Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) or Certified in Executive Nursing Practice (CENP). In some cases, additional education or work experience may be required.

Post-Master's Certificate in Nursing Leadership Curriculum Overview

There are five online courses and one in-person practicum that make up the program’s curriculum. Students enrolling in this certificate program can expect coursework to include a focus on managerial topics as well as the legal and ethical principles of nurse leadership.

Students can also expect to explore human resources, administration, and the financial side of leadership in a healthcare setting, taught by faculty with real-world, first-hand knowledge in these subjects. The in-person practicum can be completed at a facility of the student’s choosing, offering them a chance to practice what has been learned throughout the certificate program. 

Note: This course requires the use of Typhon student practicum tracking software, to be purchased for $100 prior to the start of the practicum.

 

How to Pay for This Certificate

Paying for school with federal student aid is an easy process that can help you cover the costs of tuition, books, and other expenses. The first step is filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This form helps you determine if you qualify for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs.

While the University does not directly offer scholarships to potential students, there are more than 100 organizations that do. They can be found using sites like FastWeb, Go College, and FinAid on the Web. Additionally, private loans like those serviced through credit unions, banks, and credit cards may be an option.

In some cases, employers may offer educational benefits. The process varies by employer, but a good first step is to check with the human resources department at your company to see what, if any, education benefits may be available.

The University accepts self-pay in the form of e-check and automatic debit plan (ADP). ADPs spread tuition payments out over time and frequency depends on the length of the courses you are enrolled in. 

American Public University supports military students with a tuition grant that can help limit out-of-pocket costs. The grant is designed to cover tuition above the military tuition assistance cap of $250/credit hour for U.S. active-duty servicemembers, National Guard members, Reservists, and military family members.

Eligible servicemembers, National Guard members, and Reservists may be able to use their GI Bill® benefits to cover the cost of tuition.

Prospective students should also take advantage of the no-cost transfer credit evaluation to see if the overall program cost can be reduced by applying credits from professional experience, prior learning, or other earned credit scenarios. Please visit our transfer credit policy’s webpage for complete information.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by the VA is available at the official website: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.



Frequently Asked Questions

In order to help develop the skills needed for thriving in this role, many nurses pursue a graduate certificate in nursing leadership. This program provides instruction in applied healthcare systems, administration principles, and financial management which can help prepare them for taking on positions of increased responsibility. With experience and expertise, many nurses can position themselves for responsibilities as a nurse leader.

Eligibility for post-master's certificate in nursing programs varies by institution, but generally require applicants to have a graduate degree in nursing from an accredited college or university, as well as a valid state nursing license. They must also possess at least one year of clinical experience, and some may require additional qualifications such as teaching experience or specific courses.

Nurse leadership is a vital role in the healthcare system. To be an effective leader, a nurse must possess several qualities and qualifications, such as:

  • A passion for patient care and advocacy
  • Excellent communication skills
  • An understanding of the legal, ethical and regulatory standards of healthcare
  • Critical thinking capabilities
  • Understanding of patient rights
  • Ability to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals
  • Knowledge of best practices in nursing
  • High level of organization and attention to detail
  • The ability to effectively delegate tasks when needed
  • Leadership experience or training in management

Obtaining a post-master's certificate in nursing can provide specialized knowledge and skills that may help further your knowledge in the field of nursing. Additionally, it can also broaden your experience and potentially lead to new responsibilities.

A Certified Nurse Leader (CNL) is a professional-level nursing role that works collaboratively with healthcare organizations to improve the quality of care for patients. CNLs have the ability to use evidence-based practice and innovation to design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based systems of care. 

The Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) certification is a specialized credential for nurses in leadership roles, while the Nurse Executive - Board Certified (NE-BC) certification is an advanced professional credential specifically tailored to nurses in executive roles. The CNML certification focuses on developing skills in patient engagement, interprofessional care coordination, and performance improvement, while the NE-BC credential emphasizes competency in finance, informatics, and organizational dynamics.

  1. Ensure that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements as outlined in the admissions requirements section
  2. Gather the necessary documents for enrollment including transcripts which communicate a conferred MSN degree or BSN with a master’s in a closely related field and a signed Statement of Understanding
  3. Apply to American Public University
  4. Engage in a transfer credit evaluation to see if you might be able to receive credit for prior education or professional experience (optional)
  5. Complete the financial aid process, if necessary 
  6. Enroll in the graduate certificate in nursing leadership program

Courses Start Monthly

Next Courses Start Jun 3
Register by May 31

Admission Requirements

In order to be eligible for this post-master's certificate, the following documentation is required and must be provided prior to course registration:

  • Official transcripts showing a conferred Master of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited program or a BSN degree in nursing and master’s degree in a closely related field
  • Current and active unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license in state where practicums will be conducted
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 for the Master of Science degree
  • Current resume/CV
  • Signed statement of understanding (SOU)

NOTE: This program has specific admission requirements and is currently not open for admission to residents of Washington state. Completion of this program does not award any professional certifications.

Materials Cost

Most courses in this program use Open Educational Resources (OER). These teaching, learning, and research materials are made available to you at no cost, meaning there are minimal book costs associated with earning this certificate. There will be a one-time fee for the Typhon student practicum tracking software. This fee will be paid directly to the Typhon group. Technology fee: $85 per master's-level course.

 

Need Help?

Selecting the right program to meet your educational goals is a key step in ensuring a successful outcome. If you are unsure of which program to choose, or need more information, please contact an APU admissions coach at 877-755-2787 or [email protected].

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Disclosures

Maryland Residents learn more about costs, completion rates, median debt, and more.

 

1The University reserves the right to accept or deny credits according to policies outlined on our University website. Please see the University's transfer credit policy webpage for complete information.

*Cost Per Credit Hour

The Preferred Military Rate is $250 per credit hour for all undergraduate and $290 per credit hour for master's-level courses. This rate is available to all U.S. active-duty servicemembers, National Guard members, Reservists, and military families, including parents, spouses, legal partners, siblings, and dependents.
See all military student benefits.

Cost of Attendance

Learn more about American Public University's cost components and full cost of attendance