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Director of Nursing

Director of Nursing

What is the role of a Director of Nursing?

Becoming a Director of Nursing (DON) can offer you a unique opportunity to learn and grow in a dynamic, advanced nursing leadership role. You’ll find that the responsibilities are as diverse as there are job descriptions and workplace structures. In comparison to a Nurse Manager role, the DON has a much broader scope of responsibility and oversees multiple nursing units, programs, or departments. This includes supervising manager performance and assuring that organizational goals and quality outcomes are met.

When you become a DON, your role includes supervising Nurse Managers as well as fostering their professional growth and leadership development. But that doesn’t mean you lose focus on frontline staff needs and perspectives, or the patient experience, for that matter—you’ll still be expected to round regularly to interact and “take the pulse” of those in your areas.

How do I become a Director of Nursing?

Skills that you gain as a Nurse Manager or supervisor will help support your progression to the next leadership level in your career path. Because a DON holds an advanced leadership position, 3-5 years of experience in a Nurse Manager or similar supervisory role are typically required. Bachelors-preparation in nursing, and often masters-preparation, are expected.

Your accomplishments demonstrate that you’re ready to be promoted into a role that has more responsibility and greater authority.

It’s equally important for you to have a history of professional achievement and measurable success in your prior leadership positions. Your accomplishments demonstrate that you’re ready to be promoted into a role that has more responsibility and greater authority. Consider asking current or past supervisors to give you a strong letter of recommendation for a DON position whenever possible. Also be sure to show that you’ve pursued continuing education in nursing leadership to expand your knowledge base. Continuing education conveys dedication to nursing excellence.

How will my performance be measured as a Nurse Manager?

Your success as a Nurse Manager is linked to your team’s success. The saying, “There is no ‘I’ in team,” rings true. Your personal performance will be measured by outcomes related to how well you foster the health of your team and how your team functions in achieving patient care and organizational expectations.

What leadership development opportunities and resources are available to Directors of Nursing?

The healthcare landscape is constantly changing. It’s very important for all leaders to stay on top of new trends and advancements.  As a Director of Nursing, you are expected to pursue ongoing professional development, including mentoring relationships. ANA makes it easy to find all the latest and most convenient professional development opportunities and resources available, so you can map out your continuing leadership development plan and stay up-to-date.

Should I pursue professional certification as a Director of Nursing?

Preparing for and becoming certified as a Nurse Executive (NE-BC) or Nurse Executive Advanced (NEA-BC) is not only a mark of professional excellence—it validates that you possess a distinctive body of leadership knowledge that will give you a real competitive edge in the job market. The DON role is considered an executive-level position; check out the requirements for NEA-BC certification to learn if you qualify.

What are my options or career advancement as a Director of Nursing?

If you’re looking ahead to learn the possibilities for advancement beyond being a DON, options include becoming a Chief Nursing Officer or Chief Nursing Executive. Taking that next critical step up requires further development of executive-level skills and competencies as well as demonstrated success in the DON role.