If you have already worked as a nurse for several years, you may be looking for a new horizon with a nursing director that puts your clinical knowledge to work but involves some new and challenging tasks.
Experienced RNs often look to a Master’s in Nursing degree as a way to become qualified for a more senior position. If becoming a director of nursing is the career path that interests you, there are several different degrees that might help you. It’s not necessarily easy to choose which type of MSN to pursue.
Although nurses without master’s degrees are often given administrative responsibilities, most who are appointed to the position of nursing director have an MSN nursing. It may seem obvious that a nursing management degree would the key qualification for a director of nursing job, there are other degrees with names like clinical leadership, executive leadership or nurse leadership that offer some of the same knowledge. Just to complicate things more, it’s not unusual for a nursing director to be appointed who has a master’s in health care administration or, a bit more rarely, an MBA.
The Nursing Director Job Description
There can be a real distinction between nursing director positions in large and small health facilities. At a very large hospital or long-term care setting, the nursing director may be responsible for several different departments and spend most of his or her time working on financial, HR or health policy issues. The job may also involve a great deal of time in meetings and writing out business plans and directives. The director, sometimes called the “Chief Nurse Executive,” may be occupied almost all the time interfacing with business and management people rather than other nurses. Senior nurse managers generally stop providing any direct patient care to focus on leadership functions.
In smaller facilities, the shift from bedside nursing to management may be very gradual. Nurse managers are salaried, so they’re not paid overtime like most RNs. As a result, a nurse who has recently moved into management may actually see a drop in salary for a period, until his or her salary rises to a point where it counterbalances the loss in overtime. Middle management can also be stressful, since the nurse manager tends to receive work pressure both from the senior management above and the nursing staff below.
Some RNs try to get a “taste” of nursing management before they start an MSN program by simply working their way up into jobs like “head nurse” or “assistant unit manager.” It can be a good way to improve skills at working with many different nurses, doctors and managers before focusing on a truly senior nursing management job. Other skills like writing work schedules, coordinating meetings and making personnel decisions can be honed while working in middle management.
It If you believe you have leadership qualities, you may consider an MSN in nurse leadership that will sharpen your skills in areas like staff management, budgeting, treatment planning, case management, discharge planning and scheduling. Two additional areas of important skills are finance and informatics, which will generally require you to learn how to use several.
Nursing Director Salaries
Salaries for nursing directors: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that medical and health service managers earn a median salary (figure for 2016) of $96,540 per year. The number of jobs in this specialty is expected to grow 17%, between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the average for most U.S. jobs. According to U.S.B.L.S., medical and health services managers work in office settings at healthcare facilities, nursing homes and group medical practices, and must know how to direct changes that conform to new regulations, healthcare laws and technologies.