Director of Nursing Job Description

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Nurses work together as part of a team, collaborating with doctors as well as other nurses to achieve optimal patient care. In many hospitals and other health care organizations, this team is led by a director of nursing. This advanced nursing position involves a number of administrative and managerial functions. Additionally, the director of nursing may serve as a liaison between the nursing staff and other health care leaders.

Though directors of nursing are typically not involved with direct, day-to-day patient care, they share a common goal with all the other nurses in the organization: to provide the highest standards of patient care for the best possible outcomes.

Those interested in the director of nursing job description should consider pursuing an advanced education in nursing, such as an online BSN to DNP. This can help students gain the skills to succeed as nursing leaders.

Director of Nursing Job Description

The director of nursing is tasked with overseeing a team of nurses and ensuring those nurses comply with the facility’s best practices. While directors of nursing do not necessarily provide direct care to patients, they are responsible for scheduling and supporting the nurses on their team to ensure all patient needs are met. Directors of nursing are most often employed in hospital settings, but they also work in large private practices.

Day-to-Day Duties of the Director of Nursing

In terms of day-to-day tasks and duties, the director of nursing is usually responsible for the following:

  • Building a qualified nursing team. The director of nursing is responsible for ensuring the facility’s nursing needs are met by a team of able professionals. As such, the director of nursing is tasked with recruiting and hiring skilled nurses and supplying training and development opportunities for staff nurses.
  • Handling finances and payroll. The director of nursing must steward the department’s available resources, maintaining a reasonable budget while also paying all nurses fairly and in a timely manner.
  • Setting goals. The director of nursing must set a vision for the entire nursing team, which may involve short- and long-term goals. These goals may include quality metrics, patient outcomes, length-of-stay reductions, infection control, or other key aspects of nursing.
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance. Nursing teams must comply with many laws related to maintaining a healthy and sanitary environment and protecting patient confidentiality. The director of nursing is typically charged with ensuring the facility’s adherence to local, state, and federal regulations.

Director of Nursing Salary and Job Outlook

The duties in the director of nursing job description require a high level of responsibility and leadership. As such, directors of nursing usually command high salaries.

Director of Nursing Salary

PayScale reports that the annual median salary of directors of nursing was about $93,700 as of January 2022. Those in the upper 10th percentile earn around $136,000 annually, while those in the bottom 10th percentile make around $69,000.

Many factors can affect a director of nursing’s actual salary, including their experience level and education levels, geographic region, and where they are employed.

Director of Nursing Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts the field of medical and health services managers — which includes directors of nursing — will grow 32% between 2020 and 2030. This represents a much faster rate of growth than the average projected for all professions.

Director of nursing working at a desk with a computer in an office.

How to Become a Director of Nursing

To become a director of nursing, there is a standard educational and certification trajectory to follow.

Become a Nurse

Before becoming a nurse leader, it is first necessary to become a registered nurse (RN). This means earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and gaining on-the-job experience providing patient care.

Gain an Advanced Education

Next, nurses must hone their leadership skills and clinical knowledge with a graduate education. One way to do this is by completing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. However, pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree can provide even greater exposure to nurse leadership skills and can create opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries. Students who have completed their BSN can also bypass earning an MSN with a bridge program like a BSN-DNP.

Get Certified

Aspiring directors of nursing may take their training a step further by seeking specialized credentials, which can be done by completing the relevant requirements and passing an exam. Examples of certifications include certified director of nursing (CDONA), offered by the National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration, and director of nursing services (DNS-CT), offered by the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing.

Take the Next Step Toward Becoming a Director of Nursing

For those who are researching the director of nursing job description, a good next step is to explore educational options. The director of nursing position is a generously compensated one with plenty of opportunities for job growth and for providing real leadership to other nursing professionals.

To pursue these opportunities, consider Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online BSN to DNP program. The program has three concentrations to choose from and a well-rounded curriculum, with courses including Advanced Pathophysiology and Advanced Nursing Research. Explore Hawai‘i Pacific University’s BSN-DNP and continue your trajectory toward becoming a director of nursing today.

Recommended Reading:

10 Effective Nursing Communication Skills for Nurse Leaders

What Is Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing?

Overcoming Cross-Cultural Communication Barriers in Nursing


American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing, Director of Nursing Services — Certified

Betterteam, Director of Nursing Job Description

Indeed, Director of Nursing Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Indeed, “How to Become a Certified Director of Nursing”

Indeed, “Learn About Being a Director of Nursing”

LeaderStat, Director of Nursing: Resources and Facts

National Association of Directors of Nursing Administration in Long Term Care, Certified Director of Nursing Exam

PayScale, Average Director, Nursing Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers