How to Become a Director of Nursing

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Directors of Nursing have a job that is just as rewarding as it is demanding. The road to becoming a nursing manager starts with obtaining your Registered Nurse’s license through an accredited nursing school or Associate’s degree program at a local college. Further educational achievements, such as a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Nursing Science, may also give you a leg up when it comes to being considered for coveted openings. Just as important, however, is the leadership experience and critical thinking skills you bring with you, as these translate directly to a Director of Nursing’s daily responsibilities. Become an RN. Before you can rise to the position of Director of Nursing, you’ll first need to get your start as a nursing professional. If you haven’t already, sign up for nursing school or a nursing program through an accredited college. There, you’ll gain an understanding of the basic skills and knowledge needed to be successful as a caregiver. Caring for the sick and injured, interacting with the families of patients, and cooperating with a team of other medical professionals and administrators are just a few of the essential things you’ll learn during your time in nursing school. All nursing graduates must register for and pass the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Exam) in order to be issued a Registered Nurse’s license. Obtain your Associate’s degree. In some cases, getting your RN’s license may also require you to complete an Associate’s degree program or an equivalent number of hours at a collegiate level. You may be able to save yourself time and expense by looking at two-year schools that offer nursing-focused programs. At the end of your time there, you’ll be awarded both your RN’s license and Associate’s degree. Exact educational requirements will depend mostly on the nursing program you’re in, as well as the specific criteria outlined in job listings. It’s usually not necessary to have an associate’s degree in order to work as an RN.
3. Get your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). Enroll at a four-year university to continue your education. While it’s not always a strict requirement to have a BSN in order to become a DON, it’s a good way to deepen your understanding of the demands of the profession while adding to your credentials. Some employers prefer that their prospects possess at least a Bachelor’s-level nursing education. 4. Go on to receive a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). If you’re determined to see your formal schooling through to the end, the last stop is a Master’s degree. Your MSN signifies that you’ve pursued your education in the field of nursing to the fullest extent. An advanced degree can serve as a major advantage, and may be instrumental in helping you stand out from the crowd during the hiring process.
As part of your Master’s of Science in Nursing education, you’ll get your first look at the administrative side of the job, such as operations management, scheduling, budgeting and finance, and legal compliance. MSN programs are typically structured as two-year courses, which means you could be looking at 6-8 years of schooling in total. Work in an acute care setting. Once you’ve got your RN’s license, you can begin applying for jobs at area medical facilities. This is where you’ll accumulate most of the hands-on experience that will come into play every day as a Director of Nursing. Keep an eye out for eligible positions in places like hospitals, walk-in clinics, and psychiatric care centers.
While larger facilities like hospitals aren’t your only option, they are one of the best. Rapid patient turnover, complex administrative systems, and exposure to a diversity of medical conditions will give you a chance to see and learn more than you would in a nursing home or pediatrician’s office. As a general guideline, recruiters recommend that new RNs build up at least 5-10 years of nursing experience before attempting to land a position as a DON.
Absorb as much knowledge as you can. Your education doesn’t end with nursing school or an MSN. Make it your goal to learn something new everyday by observing your superiors closely and asking pertinent questions not only about what you’re doing, but why. Strive to apply the insights you gain in the way you do your job. Devour as many medical journals, research articles, and other publications as you can in your free time to stay current on new developments in the realm of nursing.
Consider attending seminars or lectures put on by prominent members of the medical science community. Dedicate yourself to your profession. Work hard everyday to continue your climb to the top of your field. Follow every instruction you’re given to the letter and do your best to carry them out in a timely and efficient fashion. It takes an exemplary nurse to become a Director of Nursing—being a dependable staff member is like making an investment into your professional future. Some of the best advice an RN can heed is to “leave yourself at the door.” Whenever you show up for work, set aside your ego, hangups, and personal problems and focus on giving your patients the best care possible. Avoid complaining about your work conditions. Instead, view stressful challenges and setbacks as hurdles to clear on your way toward your goal.
Exhibit strong leadership qualities. Be ready to take charge and lead by example whenever an opportunity presents itself. This may mean learning to rely on your own judgment when confronted with situations where you know the answer but doubt yourself, or serving as a mentor to new and inexperienced members of the staff. With enough of a presence, you may even be appointed to a supervisory role, which will help you attract the attention and favor of administrative higher-ups. If you’re used to handling things on your own, make an effort to become more of a team player to prove that you can get along well with others.
Strong critical thinking skills and the ability to make difficult decisions on the fly are essential attributes of any Director of Nursing candidate. Part 3. Landing a Position as a Director of Nursing. Inquire about a position where you currently work. In the event that the acting Director of Nursing at your facility transfers or quits, you may be eligible for a promotion from within. Talk to your supervisor about recommending you for a meeting with the hiring administrators. Since you’re already acquainted with these people, they’ll have an idea of what kind of caregiver you are and what you’d be bringing to the table.
This is the best-case scenario for many aspiring nurse managers, as they’ll already have invested considerable time and energy into establishing a good working relationship with the staff they’ll be overseeing. Seek out opportunities with nearby care facilities. Should you happen to hear through your ongoing job search or conversation with your colleagues that a hospital or clinic in your area is looking for a Director of Nursing, throw your name in the hat. Once you submit your resume, you’ll be invited to sit down for a formal interview with the facility’s chief administrative staff. They’ll review your credentials and decide whether you would be a good fit for the facility. Directors of Nursing are typically employed by hospitals, trauma centers, and specialty practices where their organizational expertise and years of experience can best be put to use. The hiring process for a DON can be exhaustive, and may take place over multiple sessions, days, or even weeks. Browse openings online. If you live in the US, you can use online job search resources like Monster and Indeed to discover potential opportunities elsewhere. The listings you turn up will be arranged by city and state, giving you a much wider range of options to choose from. When you see one that catches your attention, click on it to take a closer look at the job description, projected salary, and educational and professional requirements.
An online search can be a useful approach for nurses who are willing to relocate.
In addition to the technical requirement outlined in the listing, there will also sometimes be a list of employer preferences. The items on this list may disqualify you or make you a shoe-in for the position. Carry yourself well during your interview. This is your chance to demonstrate not only how well you know your profession, but how much being a nurse means to you. You’ll be asked to summarize your education history, qualifications, and relevant experience, as well as what unique strengths you stand to offer. Express yourself confidently yet modestly, and take pride in the fact that your hard work and perseverance have brought you this far. One way to leave a lasting impression on your interviewer is to describe your experience in terms of measurable results. For instance, you might mention that your unit is ranked highest in patient satisfaction in the state, or that you’ve had perfect work attendance for over 3 years running. Mention the specific “leadership vision” you have for your facility and staff in the event that you get hired. This shows that you’re already thinking of ways to improve the current state of operations.
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