Director of Nursing: Duties, Requirements and Responsibilities

Directors of nursing might require significant formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

Directors of nursing provide direction to the nursing staff and coordinate health services. They are typically required to have a diploma, associate's, or bachelor's degree in nursing; in some cases a master's degree is required.

Essential Information

Directors of nursing are nurse administrators who work at hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities. Their duties might include supervising the nursing staff and overseeing patient care as well as administrative functions such as record keeping and budgeting. At minimum, they need a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing, along with a current state nursing license. Many employers want directors of nursing with master's degrees in nursing or healthcare administration.

Required Education Diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing; master's degree often required
License State nursing license required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 17% for medical and health services managers*
Median Salary (2015) $94,500 for medical and health services managers*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Job Duties for a Director of Nursing

Directors of nursing, also known as nursing directors, are registered nurses (RNs) who wish to assume more responsibility in a managerial capacity. Their duties can include:

  • Supervising and reviewing nursing staff
  • Overseeing the department budgets
  • Reporting to high-level staff members
  • Maintaining high standards of care
  • Managing patients' data and medical records
  • Interacting with doctors, patients and family members

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Education Requirements

Like other nurses, directors of nursing must be registered. This involves acquiring either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a similar diploma. They also must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nursing (NCLEX-RN). Additional licensure requirements vary by state.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Healthcare Administration might be necessary for today's directors of nursing ( This is because the scholastic focus in such programs includes leadership training, communication and critical thinking. In addition, there are dual master's degree programs in nursing and health services administration. Organizations such as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing can recommend accredited undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.

Additional Responsibilities

Directors of nursing should be caring and empathetic people. Though their position requires much more administrative than clinical duties, they still deal with doctors, administrators, other nurses, orderlies, patients and the general public and therefore should enjoy working with and being around people. Since many nursing directors spent years working as nurses, their medical expertise and experience can be valuable in determining policy and making difficult decisions on certain cases. Possessing strong leadership qualities, being a good judge of character and developing conflict-resolution skills should also prove helpful.

Career and Salary Information

According to the BLS, medical and health service managers, including nursing directors, can expect see a 17% increase in employment from 2014-2024. The median annual salary for these professionals was $94,500 in May, 2015.

Directors of nursing perform key functions, such as supervising nursing staff, overseeing budgets, and maintaining standards of care. Those desiring to advance their career often obtain a master's degree, but a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree is required along with state licensure.

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