In senior living, having the right nursing leadership is critical to ensure quality care for clients while providing a positive, safe environment for nursing staff. Hiring the right Director of Nursing means putting your nursing unit in safe hands – and reaping the benefits.


What Is a Director of Nursing?

It’s right there in the name: a Director of Nursing is the person who oversees the overall care provided in a long-term care, skilled nursing facility (SNF) or other healthcare facility. The job requires both administrative and clinical expertise, with directors managing the business side of operations along with overseeing clinical care.

Directors of Nursing function as a bridge between the administrative and “active” nursing aspects of a particular organization or an individual location. They are typically involved in ensuring the smooth operations of the nursing department (as well as a safe and supportive professional environment for nursing staff) while also communicating with other stakeholders and overseeing care planning for best results. Duties for a typical Director of Nursing might include:

  • Overseeing the nursing staff on a day-to-day basis and ensuring clinical competencies are met to provide care for varying levels of acuity
  • Managing and updating policies, standards of care, and best practices as needed
  • Ensuring the nursing staff/unit is compliant with all relevant regulatory guidelines
  • Communicating between nursing staff and other medical professionals, administrators, clients, and families
  • Overseeing resident care planning and ensuring they are carried out properly
  • Overseeing business aspects of the nursing unit, including budgets and hiring

The exact position of a Director of Nursing in an organization’s hierarchy may vary based on the organization’s structure and size. A Director of Nursing is senior to the entire front-line nursing staff but will usually report to an administrator.


Hiring Directors of Nursing

The population, both in the U.S. and globally, is predicted to shift to a higher proportion of seniors in the coming years. As this demographic shift happens, the need for senior care professionals will likewise need to expand, and Directors of Nursing are among the professions likely to see significant growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the job outlook for “medical and health services managers” will grow approximately 28% between now and 2031, a “much faster than average” growth rate.

Hiring a Director of Nursing requires finding a professional with the right combination of clinical/nursing expertise and administrative/leadership experience.  This is something that cannot be taken lightly because a Director of Nursing who is not able to maintain the nursing department within state and federal regulations could cost the company as much as $10,000/day in civil monetary penalties.

Directors of Nursing must be licensed RNs in the state their building is operating.  There are also several different certifications for Directors of Nursing, as well as continuing education requirements to maintain their nursing licensure. These professionals need a strong understanding of nursing, clinical care, and various regulatory guidelines, as well as experience that lends itself to administrative oversight and overall leadership.

When you’re looking for a professional with the right qualifications and enthusiasm for your organization’s opportunities, count on an experienced search partner like Aspen Associates. We connect clients with a robust pipeline of qualified candidates, help the search process run smoothly, and save you time by ensuring only the best-fit candidates are presented to you.

The right Director of Nursing can make an enormous difference for the experiences of your employees and clients alike. At Aspen, we always put in the work to address every detail and ensure an outcome that exceeds expectations.

By Tom Zeleny, NHA