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Steps to Become a Director of Nursing

Higher Education Articles May 1, 2013

Nursing is a career that can go as far as you want it to go. Of course, you must be ambitious, focused and ready to advance in your position. The Director of Nursing position is a leadership role that will put you in charge of managing patient care in a hospital, clinic or long-term care facility. You will be interacting with patients as well as their relatives, and with doctors handling their cases. Furthermore, you will also lead a team of nurses who could be experienced or have entry-level knowledge.

What do you need to reach out for this greater responsibility? For starters, an advanced education is required. This position has high responsibilities, and it is a managerial role. In addition to Registered Nurse training, proven leadership ability, as well as a graduate degree, is usually a prerequisite.

What Type of Education?

A bachelor’s degree is certainly a good start, if you want to progress quickly in the Registered Nurse field, not to mention advanced position at a future date. Medical facilities may hire you with a lower degree, but a leadership role begs a higher quality degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). This course will teach you essential qualities such as management in various departments, medical research, clinical procedures, sciences of nursing and other patient care issues. In general, a BSN degree program takes about four years to complete. However, even after a superior education, you must prove yourself.


You must be licensed as a Registered Nurse before you can progress into a more responsible role. This process is operated at the state level, and requires a certificate from the state. However, you will also be expected to pass the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) for certification. Management positions almost always require more than just state approval. You must be nationally certified in order to be taken seriously, and higher education (perhaps even a Master of Science degree) is expected.


Even if, you come from a higher education background, you must prove yourself on the job. Work experience as a Registered Nurse is required before you can progress into a Director of Nursing position. A managerial role would require a few years of RN experience, probably upwards of five years, though nurses with slightly fewer years have been promoted. Some of this will also depend on whether you want to work in a big city hospital or a smaller clinic or nursing home. Hospitals, while competitive, are most likely to employ you.


Leadership experience is requested specifically of Director of Nursing applicants. Since you will be working with doctors and patients on a routine basis, you will need to demonstrate managerial ability, particularly in dealing with a large group of people. You do not get hired because of training alone; you get hired because of your supervisory experience. This can be completed by showcasing your ability to complete tasks, and take on smaller managerial roles, such as assistant unit manager or head nurse.

You will learn quite a bit about medical research, finance, pharmacology, and ethics as you continue your graduate work and eventually climb the ladder of success. However, you can complete this training and all related state and licensing obligations in a relatively short time. Before you know it, you will be working your way up to a responsible and authoritative role in a profession you love!

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Quick Fact
In 2017, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma*.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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