Preparing and managing an operating budget


Prepare an 8-10 page operating budget for a hospital unit.


Note: Complete the assessments in this course in the order in which they are presented.

Sound financial management is essential to the fiscal well-being of all health care organizations, and the nurse leader plays an important part. Consequently, the preparation and effective management of operating budgets is a critical skill for nurse leaders. The budget guides leaders in optimizing the use of resources, and because nurses are closest to patients, they understand very well what it takes to operate on a daily basis and provide safe, high-quality care.

This assessment provides an opportunity for you to develop an operating budget for a health care unit. Keep in mind, staff is a large part of this budget and is often hard to control.

Numbers on a budget sheet or report are only numbers. Nurse leaders are major decision makers who must be informed and able to make data-driven decisions, often in a very limited amount of time. Financial analysis consists of the organization and presentation of data in a meaningful and relevant format that enables analysis, comparison, and synthesis.

Note: Complete the assessments in this course in the order in which they are presented.


You are the nurse manager of a 35-bed hospital unit with 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff. You have been given the task of getting the budget under control. Several people have recently left the unit, and you have been working to fill those open positions. Your staff work scheduled overtime and many sign up to work extra shifts. Your unit serves an older population, as well, and has incurred expenses associated with this group of patients.

Note: Remember that you can submit all of, or a portion of, your draft to Smarthinking for feedback, before you submit the final version for this assessment. However, be mindful of the turnaround time of 24–48 hours for receiving feedback, if you plan on using this free service.

As you prepare to complete this assessment, you may want to think about other related issues to deepen your understanding or broaden your viewpoint. You are encouraged to consider the questions below and discuss them with a fellow learner, a work associate, an interested friend, or a member of your professional community. Note that these questions are for your own development and exploration and do not need to be completed or submitted as part of your assessment.

  • What major sections would you include in an operating budget?
  • What are your primary sources of budget information?
  • Would you include nice-to-have items in your budget? Why or why not?
  • What factors, such as organizational objectives, policies, and competition for funding, might affect the development and management of an operating budget?

The following resources are required to complete the assessment.


Note: The following requirements correspond to the grading criteria in the assessment scoring guide. Be sure that your budget addresses each point, at a minimum. You may also want to read the Guiding Questions: Preparing and Managing an Operating Budget [DOCX] to better understand how each criterion will be assessed.

Prepare and submit an operating budget for your hospital unit.

  • Prepare the operating budget.
    • Note: Assemble your budget figures in a table, using a format of your choice. You may use either Microsoft Word or Excel to create your budget table.
  • Explain how the budget was designed and created.
  • Develop a strategic plan.
  • Develop an approach to ongoing budget management.
  • Present budget data and information clearly and accurately.
  • Integrate relevant and credible sources of evidence to support your budget data and information, correctly formatting citations and references using current APA style.

Additional Requirements

If you use Microsoft Excel to create your budget table, submit the Excel file along with your budget narrative. You may also add the Excel file to your Word document as an embedded object.

Format your budget narrative using APA style.

  • Use the APA Style Paper Tutorial [DOCX], linked above, to help you in writing and formatting your document. Be sure to include:
    • An APA-formatted title page and reference page. An abstract is not required.
    • A minimum of five properly formatted citations and references.
  • Your budget should be 8–10 pages in length, not including the title page and reference page.

Portfolio Prompt: You may choose to save this learning activity to your ePortfolio.

Competencies Measured

By successfully completing this assessment, you will demonstrate your proficiency in the following course competencies and assessment criteria:

  • Competency 1: Design an operating budget that incorporates variances or discretionary spending.
    • Prepare an operating budget.
    • Explain how a budget is designed and created.
  • Competency 2: Develop a plan for managing the labor force, within the parameters of the budget and productivity.
    • Develop an approach to ongoing budget management.
  • Competency 5: Apply financial principles to a strategic plan for achieving organizational goals and fiscal success.
    • Develop a strategic plan.
  • Competency 6: Communicate effectively with diverse audiences, in an appropriate form and style, consistent with applicable organizational, professional, and scholarly standards.
    • Present budget data and information clearly and accurately.
    • Integrate relevant and credible sources of evidence to support budget data and information, correctly formatting citations and references using APA style.

Grading Rubric:

1-  Prepare an operating budget.

Passing Grade:  Prepares an operating budget, and identifies knowledge gaps, unknowns, missing information, unanswered questions, or areas of uncertainty where further information could improve the budget. 

2-  Explain how a budget is designed and created. 

Passing Grade:  Explains how a budget is designed and created, and impartially acknowledges conflicting data or information that was not incorporated in the budget. 

3-  Develop a strategic plan. 

Passing Grade:  Develops a strategic plan, and proposes criteria for future evaluation of whether the outcomes of the proposed plan support the organizational or unit mission. 

4-   Develop an approach to ongoing budget management. 

Passing Grade:  Develops an approach to ongoing budget management, and identifies assumptions on which the approach is based. 

5-  Present budget data and information clearly and accurately. 

Passing Grade:  Presents budget data and information clearly and accurately. Expresses main points succinctly, using correct grammar and mechanics. 

6-  Integrate relevant and credible sources of evidence to support budget data and information, correctly formatting citations and references using current APA style. 

Passing Grade:  Integrates relevant, credible, and convincing sources of evidence to support budget data and information. Sources are current, and citations and references are error-free. 

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