In a time of health care reform and rapid change, nurse executives need effective leadership skills to be able to respond to a challenging environment, provide quality cost-effective care and promote the professional development of nursing. This research aimed to provide an understanding of nursing executives' roles and professional development needs and obtain concise information for the development of strategies and professional development programs to enhance the effectiveness of the present and future roles of nursing executives. A descriptive cross-sectional postal survey was sent to all public sector Level 4 and 5 nursing executives in Queensland (n = 281), with a response rate of 52.3% (n = 147). Financial management, human resource management and information technologies were identified as the areas where professional development was most needed. Structured educational activities such as short courses or seminars covering information technology, financial and budget management and general business management were identified as the type of activities best suited to nurse executives' needs. The most frequently reported barriers to professional development were difficulties obtaining relief staff, inadequate time, financial cost and inadequate district manager and regional support to enable access to professional development programs.
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