8 Tips to Becoming a Successful Director of Nursing (Part 1)

By AADNS - February 03, 2017

8 Tips to Becoming a Successful Director of Nursing (Part 1)

Are you considering becoming a director of nursing (DON), or have you just started your journey? If so, here are the first four out of eight tips to help you become successful in your new career:


1.     Provide a clear vision for your staff

As a new director of nursing services (DNS), it’s so important that your staff understands your mission, your leadership style, and why they do what they do every day. Ask yourself: what is the main goal and message you want to impress upon your employees? What should they live by day in and day out?

As Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Come together as a team to discuss the mission and the focus of your work as a whole. It should center on providing the best quality of care for your residents and valuing the input and ideas from your staff.

It’s also important to be clear about your expectations as their leader. In order to ensure your staff is accountable for all that they do, they need to know what it is expected of them. Does each of your staff members understand their role and the tasks they are required to do? Make sure there is no confusion and that everyone knows what they are accountable for.


2.     Never stop improving

A director of nursing services excels by always being innovative. Work on your goals, your staff’s goals, and your residents’ goals. Remember to seek the input of staff and residents when goal setting. Be creative every day.

Find little ways to make things better, easier, or new for everyone. Keep a list of measurable and attainable goals with you and check back to make sure you are reaching them. If you come together as a team in your goals, you’ll not only be able to keep each other accountable for reaching them, but you can encourage each other to do better as well.

For more tips on goal setting,
see our recent blog post.


3.     Learn every day

Long-term and post-acute care is constantly changing, and it’s important for the director of nursing services to stay up-to-date on regulation changes.

A few ways to stay current on new regulations are:

You should also look into expanding your certifications or taking DON training courses. AADNS offers both the Director of Nursing Services—Certified (DNS-CT) and QAPI Certified Professional (QCP) certifications to help you show you are dedicated to a high standard of professional excellence.


4.     Surround yourself with competent staff

According to the revised staff requirements in §483.35 Nursing Services, facilities are required to ensure that there’s not only have enough staff to provide quality care, but that the staff also has the correct skill sets to provide nursing and related services while maintaining resident safety and well-being. As a director of nursing services, this task will more than likely be yours.

How can you work toward ensuring staff competency?

Amy Stewart, RN, DNS-MT, QCP-MT, RAC-MT, and curriculum development specialist at AADNS, offers these suggestions:

  • Identify competency gaps and address them
  • Provide your staff with competency-based training
  • Pay attention to the staffing schedule and the competency of individuals per shift
  • Create competency checklists for specific units
  • Don’t assume competency when hiring

To learn more about competency and staffing requirements, watch the AADNS recorded webinar: The Key to Competency-Based Approach to Staffing.

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