How to Become a Director of Nursing Services

As a generation of physicians and nurses are set to retire and the need for quality patient care continues to grow, a host of new career opportunities have arisen in healthcare. For nursing professionals, this means there are an increasing number of entry-level and advanced positions to pursue. Directors of nursing services play an important role in supervising teams of nurses, providing consistent and qualified leadership that is essential during these times of change. Those who invest in the education and training to become a director of nursing services may find exciting opportunities to further their careers and become leaders in healthcare.

Director of Nursing consulting with his team while reviewing report on a clipboard

Beyond the typical steps required for attaining the director of nursing services position at a hospital, assisted living facility, or other healthcare organization, there may be additional training, education, certification, or experience required that is dependent upon the employer, organization, or nature of the position.

What Does a Director of Nursing Services Do?

The director of nursing services is in charge of managing a nursing staff to ensure its optimal performance and maintain the highest level of care for its patients. In supervising a team made up of nurses, office personnel, and other healthcare professionals, the director of nursing services must train new nurses and continue to educate them on policy and regulation changes, as well as any changes to organizational procedures or directives. It is the director’s duty to clearly communicate the standards of care for the facility and evaluate the performance of the nursing staff so the facility continues to meet a high standard of care.

When necessary, directors of nursing services also collaborate with physicians, community agencies, and other institutions to resolve departmental problems and improve the efficiency and quality of overall care. As representatives of their departments, they may be required to request and acquire new equipment and to address other staff concerns. Directors of nursing services meet with patients, residents, and families, as well as with business associates, vendors, department heads, and government representatives.

The director of nursing services often reports to the chief nursing officer. When working in a larger setting, such as a hospital, the director of nursing services is usually in charge of a specific department and responsible for managing its personnel. In smaller organizations, such as nursing home facilities, the director of nursing services may be in charge of the entire nursing staff. This position also entails some business-related tasks, such as budgetary planning and oversight, creating work schedules for staff members, monitoring complaints, and completing other administrative duties.

Steps to Become a Director of Nursing Services

To attain the advanced position of director of nursing services, healthcare professionals must have a bachelor’s degree. For this role, the degree should be in nursing, health administration, health management, or business administration. Many employers also require a master’s degree in nursing or another field that combines healthcare and business courses. Earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice may or may not be required to become a director of nursing services, depending upon the position or organization, but this advanced degree does provide many benefits for nursing professionals looking to take on leadership roles in healthcare.

The curriculum offered in DNP programs can help working nurse practitioners develop the leadership competencies necessary for making decisions, handling conflict, and managing teams of skilled nurses at an administrative level. DNP students may also choose to hone their expertise in a particular healthcare specialty, such as family and pediatric care, adult-gerontology primary or acute care, or psychiatric mental health.

The director of nursing services role also requires that professionals have relevant experience working in a healthcare setting as either a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner. Aspiring directors of nursing services can gain this experience at a hospital, mental health facility, nursing home, or other clinical organizations. This work provides candidates with a firsthand understanding of how healthcare systems function, what daily activities one might expect working when in a clinical environment, and what nurses and other professionals need to provide quality care.

Director of Nursing Services Salaries

The role of a director of nursing services is complex and requires high-level organization and management skills. For performing the supervisory functions of this position, these leaders are usually well-compensated. According to PayScale, the average director of nursing services salary is $83,260. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specify average pay for this particular position, it has found that medical and health services managers earned a median annual pay of $98,350 in 2017, while managers working in state, local, and private hospitals earned annual wages of $107,230.

Future Growth for Director of Nursing Services Roles

There are many reasons why the BLS projects leadership positions in health services management to increase at a much faster rate than the average for all U.S. occupations. As more people age and stay active in their older years, there will be a greater demand for health services. Combine this with the national nursing shortage, and there will be an unprecedented need for more nursing professionals. The BLS predicts that 1.1 million nurses will need to be hired to prevent a further nursing shortage. Although the BLS does not have figures showing the job outlook for the director of nursing services position specifically, it predicts that the employment of all medical and health services management occupations will grow by 20 percent from 2016 to 2026.

Learn More About Becoming a Director of Nursing Services

There are a wide range of exciting and challenging opportunities for nursing professionals to advance in their field, including the role of director of nursing services. Working in this position can give nurse leaders opportunities to take on critical supervisory roles and gain indispensable experience in providing a high level of care to patients and residents. Nurses can also learn to educate other nursing practitioners in the delivery of healthcare services and continue to advance their own careers to achieve other top positions in healthcare.

Learn more about how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice program can help working nurses develop the technical, administrative, and leadership skills they need to advance their careers.


Maryville University, Advanced Nursing Careers for BSN to DNP Graduates

Maryville University, Online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice

NCBI, “Nursing, Shortage”

PayScale, Director, Nursing Salary

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