A director of nursing, also known as a nurse director, is a registered nurse who specializes in assuming the administrative and leadership responsibilities of a healthcare facility’s nursing staff. They guide the rhythm of the nursing department by overseeing all nursing personnel and determining the structure and standard of nursing care. Nursing directors also bridge the gap between the nursing staff, doctors, patients, and administration. DONs take on tremendous responsibility as both a lead nurse and an overall administrator, which can be a highly stressful yet rewarding career choice.
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Director of Nursing FAQs
What does a director of nursing do?
DONs have an expansive role in a healthcare facility, which includes being responsible for coordinating all aspects of the nursing department. They completely direct nursing programs, rewrite and implement new policies and procedures, oversee the development of the nursing staff, and ensure the nursing unit remains compliant with all local, state, and federal regulations. Other common tasks of a director of nursing may include:
Supervising the nursing team to ensure quality patient care
Interviewing, hiring, and firing nursing staff
Monitoring nursing staff performance
Leading training and staff development efforts
Managing nursing staff schedules and workloads
Establishing long-term goals for the nursing department
Providing input on budgets
Overseeing inventory and ordering
Completing reporting and auditing requirements
Acting as a liaison between staff and administration
Assisting with treatment planning
Advising on difficult or long-term care situations
Managing patient records
Where does a director of nursing work?
Hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities all need a director of nursing to lead its staff so many find employment within these healthcare facilities. They may also work in county and state departments of health, physicians’ offices, outpatient clinics, or anywhere a healthcare facility has a large nursing staff that needs a director to lead them.
What skills make a good director of nursing?
A good director of nursing has excellent clinical, management, and organizational skills that allow them to effectively lead nursing professionals and oversee patient care. They possess a passion to improve staff performance and help patients by ensuring the delivery of consistent patient care. DONs are strong leaders with superb verbal and written communication and conflict-resolution skills, which helps them successfully interact with nurses, patients, doctors, and hospital administrators. They’re skilled at managing staff schedules and workloads, staff development, nursing department compliance, and treatment planning.
How to become a Travel RN Director of Nursing
The first step towards a career as a director of nursing is to become a registered nurse, which requires an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN licensing exam. However, if a nurse’s goal is to become a DON, a BSN is required. Gain clinical experience then transition to a leadership role by pursuing a position as a charge nurse or nurse manager.
Many employers prefer hiring DONs with a Master of Health Administration or Master of Business Administration, so consider pursuing advanced education. Professional certification, such as the Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML) credential through the American Organization for Nursing Leadership puts nurses in a better position for DON employment or advancement. Other relevant credentials include Nurse Executive Certification (NE-BC) from the American Nurses Credentialing Center and Director of Nursing Services-Certified (DNS-CT) from the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing.