6 Must-Have Skills and Qualities for a Director of Nursing

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Written By Charlotte Miller

A nursing director has a crucial job to perform at a healthcare facility. This person has to ensure that the patients get the best care; concurrently, the staff remains satisfied and happy. 

To become a nursing director, you must first become a registered nurse. Some healthcare facilities require aspiring nursing directors to have a few years of related work experience. 

Apart from educational credentials, some personality traits and skills are necessary for a nursing director. A nursing director’s personality should be such that all stakeholders, such as the hospital management, nurses, and patients, feel them on their side. People should be able to come to them and discuss their grievances. Therefore, to be a nursing director means having a multidimensional personality. 

Let’s explore more about the qualities and skills of a nursing director below. 

  • Knowledge of the field 

A nursing director’s first quality is clinical knowledge of their field and the job. Knowledge of their domain is essential because a person in a directorial position must understand their work area. 

Directors don’t just have to perform their managerial duties; they have to act as role models for others. For this reason, they are often observed closely for their ability to lead a team of professionals. 

A bachelor’s degree is the least possible qualification you must possess, though higher education increases your chances of employment. 

Your clinical IQ or clinical knowledge is often a deciding factor for your earning potential. The higher the educational qualification and experience, the higher the take-home salary. The average director of nursing salary is $158,670 per annum, but higher-earning professionals can also receive as much as $182,88 per year. 

A director of nursing earns a higher salary than other nursing careers because they can bring and affect fundamental change and develop all-encompassing plans with a broader effect. 

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  • An abundance of emotional intelligence 

A nursing director works with people. And when it comes to human beings, you cannot discount emotions. Therefore, you are suitable to become a nursing director only if you have high emotional intelligence. 

Emotional intelligence is your ability to understand others’ emotions and feelings. At the same time, it is your propensity to choose the right emotions to respond to a situation. 

You cannot work in a hospital if you don’t have emotional astuteness. You are required to assess the emotional underpinnings of a situation to see what all involved parties are thinking and feeling. Without emotional intelligence, you might take inflexible actions, which do more harm than good. 

Besides understanding others’ emotions, if you are emotionally intelligent, you will understand your feelings and the consequences of your actions on others. 

Your emotional awareness of others and emotions often becomes your guiding force when you are in a crucial leadership position. This ability helps you manage emotions in the face of stressful situations. 

The nursing field deals with people all the time, and often circumstances are dire and stressful. Therefore, the ideal person for this career, especially the nursing director position, is someone who can manage and discern emotions and use them for their and others’ advantages. 

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  • Communication skills 

Communication is the main component when it comes to performing your duties effectively. Effective communication skills are paramount for a nursing director who has to engage with various stakeholders inside and outside the healthcare facility. 

Nurses can do great things for their patients in particular and the profession in general. But expecting them to excel without proper direction and communication skills is a broken promise. Nurses need the help and support of a director who explains organizational goals and breakdown milestones and demonstrates standard care practices. 

When nurses don’t get enough guidance, they make mistakes and get reprimanded. Ultimately, resentment and dissatisfaction find their way into their behavior. They display their displeasure through decreased performance, absenteeism, medical errors, and patient health risks. For all these reasons, the nursing director must have excellent communication skills. 

You should be able to work on your communication skills if you lag in this department. Also, you must be ready to use technology to streamline your communication with staff. Also, communicate with your team in a respectful, helpful, and supportive manner. 

  • Be organized

Besides communication skills, a director of nursing must be organized. You should be able to manage your appointments, meetings, and negotiations without running after them. Also, you must be skilled at managing work-related documents and schedules. 

As a nursing director, you must produce evaluations, statistical, and performance reports and comply with rules and regulations. Without effective organizational skills, you won’t be able to perform your job effectively, lose important documents, miss crucial meetings, face staff shortages due to insufficient hiring and training, etc.  

  • Accountability 

Being in a higher position does not mean you are spared accountability for your actions. As a department director, you must uphold the organizational goals and ensure your subordinates’ adherence to patient care standards. Therefore, you should be ready to hold yourself responsible for things turning in the wrong direction. 

You have to not only set a higher performance bar for your team but also ensure that you comply with and live up to those standards too. 

When directors ensure a culture of answerability for themselves and their teams, they promote self-accountability. On the contrary, having a leader with no penchant for changing their behavior is demotivating for the staff too. It is like getting stuck in a rut with no progress or growth. Hence team morale remains low. Along with affecting the performance, this behavior trickles down to impact patients and the hospital’s reputation too. 

  • Passion for your work

Another must-have quality you must possess as a director of nursing is passion for your work. Your passion for your job is the essential intrinsic motivation that makes you a perfect candidate for this job.

Know that your job is not a bed of roses; you will be faced with various challenges every day and will be required to solve the team’s and patients’ problems. Therefore, you must have the desire to excel in leading and being responsible for the work of others. Plus, feel thrilled about your job duties and the challenges that come with them. 

If you are passionate about your job, it will be visible in everything you do. You can keep your team and yourself inspired, have higher performance targets, and face challenges with dignity and prudence. 


The director of nursing is a crucial position in the nursing hierarchy. Therefore, the suitable candidate must possess various qualities and skills to excel in their job. Some of those skills and qualities are mentioned in the article above. If you aspire for this position, you must possess these traits or train yourself to have them.