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How Can I Become a Director of Nursing?

Research what it takes to become a director of nursing. Learn about education requirements, job duties and salary to find out if this is the career for you.

What Does a Director of Nursing Do?

A nursing director is in charge of coordinating and overseeing healthcare administered by nurses within a medical institution, combining aspects of business administration with healthcare services. They may be responsible for hiring staff, providing training, monitoring budgets, representing the facility in board meetings and communicating with other department heads, among other things. They will interact with a wide range of people within the hospital, such as doctors, patients and administrative staff, and so need to have excellent communication skills as well as a thorough knowledge of medical terminology and practices. Consult the table below for more information:

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's degree often required by employers
Education Field of Study Nursing, nursing administration, health services administration (for master's degrees)
Key Responsibilities Hire and assign duties to nursing staff and supervisors, develop and implement policies, promote staff development, manage budget
Licensure/Certification Licensure required, certification is voluntary
Job Growth (2018-2028) 18% (for all medical and health services managers)*
Median Salary (2018) $99,730* (for all medical and health services managers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a Director of Nursing?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the minimum educational requirement for a management-level nursing position, like director of nursing, is typically a bachelor's degree; however, employers increasingly require graduate degrees (www.bls.gov). Bachelor's degree programs are available in nursing and nursing administration. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs may also prepare you for positions in this field, and MSN programs with nursing administration concentrations may be particularly relevant. Also available are master's programs in nursing administration and health services administration. These programs typically focus more on business administration and management than MSN programs, which tend to focus on nursing practice and patient care.

In some cases, you can earn your master's degree in nursing administration or health services administration on the weekends or even entirely online. In addition to an undergraduate or graduate degree, you also need good judgment and strong leadership, negotiation and communication skills to excel in this field.

To enroll in most nursing master's degree programs, you need to be an RN with a bachelor's degree in nursing. Although many health services administration master's programs accept applicants from various undergraduate backgrounds, you'll likely need to be an RN to seek a job as the director of nursing.

How Do I Become an RN?

Becoming an RN is one way to begin your journey to a director of nursing career. Not only is a current RN license an admissions requirement for some master's programs, but the BLS also suggests that some RNs can work their way into management roles without earning a graduate degree.

Although diploma and associate degree programs can qualify you to become an RN, you'll need a bachelor's degree to qualify for entrance to a master's program. According to the BLS, RNs who hold bachelor's degrees also enjoy the best advancement opportunities. In addition to completing an approved nursing program, you'll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) in order to become a licensed RN.

Although not typically required, credentialing is available that may help you in the job market. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers two levels of Nurse Executive credentials for individuals in nursing administration.

What Might My Job Duties Be?

As a director of nursing, you would work in a hospital, nursing home or other health care setting. This job typically involves overseeing a staff of nurses and nurse supervisors to ensure that patients receive proper care. Your job duties are likely to involve policy development and implementation, evaluating and hiring nursing staff, promoting staff development, assigning nursing duties and budgeting. Much of your time is likely to be spent in an office environment, but some of your duties, such as supervising employees and evaluating patient care, will require you to be on the nursing floor. You might also coordinate with dieticians and housekeeping staff to ensure patient care is up to standard.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are many different career paths available to those interested in working within healthcare. Instead of becoming a nursing director, you could work as a registered nurse, providing patients with personal care and aiding doctors with treatment. There are a number of distinct educational paths that you could take to become a registered nurse, one of which is earning a bachelor's degree. If you are skilled at working with medical records, you may want to consider becoming a health information manager. With the same educational background as nursing directors, health information managers oversee and organize all patient information and medical records to ensure everything is secure and up-to-date.