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What Are the Requirements to Be Director of Nursing in a Long-Term Care Facility?

Long-term care facilities often employ a director of nursing. This individual oversees and coordinates the activities and duties of its nursing staff. Read on to find out about the requirements for this position.

What Is a Director of Nursing?

A director of nursing (DON) in a long-term care facility combines both nursing and administrative skills to meet the challenges of this position. DONs must be registered nurses who are able to provide patient care. However, their primary responsibilities include coordinating the delivery of nursing care, overseeing nurses and other employees, managing communications between nurses and physicians and ensuring that nurses follow regulations and policies.

A degree in nursing or a dual degree in nursing and healthcare or business administration may often be required to earn a DON position. Nursing experience in a healthcare setting is also necessary.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% (for registered nurses)*
Median Salary (July, 2019) $84,217 (for director of nurses)**
Similar Occupations Human resources manager, social and community service manager
Key Skills Leadership, interpersonal and communication skills are required

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Educational Requirements

Anyone applying for a job as a director of nursing should be a registered nurse (RN). To achieve this step, individuals must complete a nursing degree and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). While an associate's degree in nursing alone can prepare individuals to take the NCLEX-RN, those who aspire to eventually hold a director of nursing position should strongly consider earning at least a bachelor's degree in nursing. In many cases, employers prefer to hire DONs who also have a master's degree in nursing, nursing administration or healthcare administration.

Most graduate programs in these areas will include courses in health care policies, business administration and financial management. Some colleges or universities offer dual degree programs. The following list highlights possible dual degree options:

  • Master of Science in Nursing with a Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Nursing with a Master of Science in Health Care Administration

Experience Requirements

Between five and ten years' experience as an RN is the typical requirement for anyone seeking this position. Many long-term care facilities seek a DON who has past experience in a nursing supervisory role. Nursing supervisors who have worked in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes or home health care agencies may have the experience needed to become a director of nursing.