When individuals visit a health care facility, they interact with the aides, nurses, and doctors who provide care, but rarely meet the professionals who work behind the scenes. One of these roles, the director of clinical services, is responsible for ensuring that the clinical component of operations runs effectively.
A review of the typical director of clinical services job description reveals what employers are looking for in a candidate, including the types of experience, knowledge, and skills that organizations are seeking. While specific day-to-day duties may vary, the aim of the role remains the same: to reduce the administrative burden on medical staff, empowering them to focus on delivering positive health care outcomes for patients. By allowing doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals to focus on their primary jobs, the director of clinical services helps ensure the safest and most effective patient care possible.
Understanding the responsibilities of the director of clinical services role and the essential skills and knowledge it requires is important for individuals interested in this challenging but rewarding field. Salary data and career growth projections also provide job seekers with vital information about what to expect when applying. For individuals looking to prepare for leadership at the highest level of health care, earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can create opportunities for career advancement.
Director of Clinical Services
The director of clinical services is a high-level position with the primary responsibility of ensuring that health care staff have the essential resources to treat patients. Directors of clinical services typically report directly to a health care organization’s CEO. They guide the clinical and medical operations of various health care facilities, including the following:
- Hospitals – Individuals in this role commonly oversee a single department in a hospital, though in smaller hospitals, they may supervise multiple departments.
- Physicians’ offices – Due to the small size of a physician’s office, a director of clinical services typically oversees the clinical operations of the entire facility.
- Nursing homes / residential care facilities – A director’s duties in a nursing home / residential care facility include ensuring compliance with state regulations and guidelines. Depending on the size of the facility, a director may oversee multiple assistant directors.
- Outpatient care centers – From primary care clinics to community health centers, supervising these centers involves ensuring that patients receive same-day quality care as efficiently as possible.
- Government hospital facilities – A director working for a government hospital facility ensures that primary care, specialized care, and related medical and social support services are effective for specific patient populations, such as American military veterans and active military personnel. Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Defense and the Veterans Health Administration, run these hospitals.
The many types of clinical services and medical specialties in health care facilities include primary care services and medical specialty services. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), U.S. hospitals have more than 160 such specialties.
By establishing policies, setting goals, developing procedures, evaluating staff performance, and creating reports and budgets, the director of clinical services helps ensure efficient operations so that medical personnel can worry less about administrative activities and focus on meeting patients’ needs.
What Does a Director of Clinical Services Do?
Looking at the directory of a large health care facility, such as a hospital, reveals the dozens and sometimes even hundreds of clinical services offered. A director of clinical services’ job description may vary depending on the hospital. At larger facilities, a director of clinical services may oversee a specific department, such as nursing or surgery; in smaller settings, they may oversee multiple departments.
Common clinical services offered in hospitals with director of clinical services oversight include the following:
- Primary care – Addresses most health concerns for all types of patients and refers patients to specialists for specific issues
- Pulmonary – Deals with diagnosis and treatment of lung conditions
- Cardiology – Diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions
- Gastroenterology – Diagnosis and treatment of the digestive system and its disorders
- Gynecology – Branch of medicine involving the diagnosis and treatment of women’s diseases
- Neurology – Deals with diagnosis and treatment of issues with the central and peripheral nervous systems
- Oncology – Diagnosis and treatment of cancer
- Pharmacy – Provides medicines for patients getting treated in hospitals and their homes
Directors of clinical services supervise and direct all aspects of health care operations, from employee development and budget management to technology operations and finances. Daily activities can include developing policies and goals, running meetings to keep staff updated on changes and working toward a common vision, evaluating staff performance, and setting budgets. The goal is to ensure that patients receive comprehensive, personalized, and effective care.
Day-to-day activities that directors of clinical services may perform include the following:
- Recruiting, training, and supervising all nursing staff, clinical professionals, and office and administrative staff, including providing continuing education opportunities for individuals and teams to advance their skills
- Ensuring that laboratory materials, tools, equipment, and other resources are managed efficiently and in accordance with safety protocols and guidelines
- Championing high standards of patient care by implementing strategies and plans and advising medical personnel on clinical service matters
- Keeping track of standards and regulations to help ensure that the organization complies with all federal, state, and local laws and is up to date on accreditation policy and procedures
- Improving the efficiency of clinical staff and fostering collaboration among physicians, nurses, and other care providers by minimizing their administrative burden
- Managing budgeting, accounting, and finance functions to ensure that clinical operations are financially sound
- Meeting the needs of patients by planning and overseeing all patient care or administrative operations and programs
- Providing teams and individuals with what they need to excel in their roles and resolving conflicts and issues
Path to Becoming a Director of Clinical Services
The health care field encompasses a wide range of work settings and environments, and the path to acquiring the qualifications to fill a director of clinical services position can vary. Regardless of where they work, expert knowledge of health care and management is crucial for anyone interested in this role. Individuals can acquire this foundation — along with the soft skills and competencies the role demands — through education and experience.
A bachelor’s degree with a focus on medical or nursing science, health care management, clinical administration, or another relevant subject can all qualify applicants for a career as a director of clinical services. However, an advanced degree, such as a DNP (which differs from a Ph.D. in nursing), can be appealing to employers looking for individuals with the right mix of clinical and leadership expertise.
Work Experience Requirements
Although specific requirements will vary by organization, clinical director candidates can improve their chances by showing clinical experience, a background in managing teams, and knowledge of health care regulations. Many directors are registered nurses (RNs), although being an RN isn’t always required.
Advanced education and the right amount and kind of experience can be crucial in securing promotions to senior levels of health care organizations.
Certification and Licensure Requirements
Employers may require candidates to have specific certifications depending on the organization and role. Director of clinical services candidates with experience in clinical settings are ideal hires for some organizations because they often bring professional licensure.
While special licensure for director of clinical services jobs isn’t always required, it depends on the type of organization and the state. For example, while every state requires nursing home administrators to be licensed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the licensure process may differ. The California Department of Public Health, for example, requires nursing home administrators to be licensed through its Nursing Home Administrator Program.
Director of Clinical Services Skills
Leadership and organizational skills are among the most important competencies for a director of clinical services. These skills are essential for managing people and processes. Director of clinical services job descriptions typically require that candidates have broad health care knowledge and experience. This can include exposure to clinical research, clinical development, clinical trials, and quality management.
Additional skills span the areas of business and technology. For example, business skills that employers may look for in applicants include budgeting, project management, and business development. From a technology standpoint, a director of clinical services should understand how to use medical diagnostics technology and electronic medical records.
Experienced nurses, such as DNP-prepared nurses who can combine their leadership competencies with hands-on knowledge of health care information systems and diagnostic equipment, have the advantage of possessing many of the essential skills needed to become a director of clinical services.
Other essential competencies and skills that are typically part of a director of clinical services’ job description include the following:
- Leadership – Leading people and teams, developing strategy, encouraging initiatives, motivating individuals, building a sense of common purpose, and empowering employees
- Strategy – Defining the mission and vision for an organization and outlining the actionable steps needed to reach goals
- Mentoring – Providing guidance and mentoring to staff, helping set the path for their personal and professional growth
- Patient care – Ensuring that medical staff have the resources to ensure the prevention, treatment, and management of illness
- Communication – Ensuring straightforward, clear, and honest communication between patients and medical providers
- Negotiation – Understanding that reaching consensus about wide-ranging issues, from patient treatment methods to budgets, is necessary to ensure operational success
- Conflict resolution – Looking at issues from various angles to help mitigate conflicts, ensuring that the greater good is achieved
- Problem-solving – Investigating the root cause of issues and problems and coming up with solutions
- Relationship-building – Creating an environment where people can communicate with each other and build trust, essential for avoiding miscommunication and negative work environments
- Planning and organization – Maintaining order for every aspect of operations, which helps ensure that work is productive and eliminates process gaps
- Budgeting – Ensuring the sound financial standing of organizations using various accounting, financial, and numerical data methods
- Staff management – Providing supervision to individuals, ensuring that everyone knows what their contribution is to the organization
- Quality assurance and control – Taking steps to ensure that processes, equipment, and clinical practices are elevated to the highest quality standards
- Collaboration and teamwork – Laying the foundation for allowing people to work together, inside or outside their respective teams
- Research – Taking a deep dive to learn as much as possible about a particular topic, such as investigating the best medical devices or searching for ways to improve clinical practices
- Writing – Recording and documenting essential data and information and ensuring that others can clearly understand them
Director of Clinical Services Salary
The median annual wage for medical and health services manager roles, which includes directors of clinical services, was $101,340 as of May 2021, according to the BLS. The top 10% of medical and health services managers earned over $205,620, while the bottom 10% earned $60,780.
Various factors, such as location, determine the exact salary of a director of clinical services. For example, Payscale reports that the median annual salary for a director of clinical services in New York City was 39% more than the national median as of May 2022. Other higher-paying regions included Houston, Texas, and Seattle, Washington, with median annual salaries that were about 19% and 12% higher than the national median, respectively.
Different skills can also influence salary. For example, individuals with competencies in project management, clinical information systems, and quality assurance / quality control typically earn more than the median annual salary ― 29%, 25%, and 17% more, respectively, based on Payscale data.
Medical and health services manager roles were projected to grow by 32% from 2020 to 2030, according to the BLS. This growth is much faster than the average for all occupations (8%). The states with the highest concentration of jobs for medical and health services managers included Massachusetts, Connecticut, Arkansas, Montana, and Maryland.
Transform Your Career Path and Become a Health Care Leader
Individuals with the right experience, knowledge, and skills can enable health care facilities to operate cost-effectively and efficiently. By ensuring that health care facilities have access to the necessary resources to provide patients with the care they need, a director of clinical services can reduce the administrative burden on medical staff, resulting in improved health outcomes.
The curriculum of Bradley University’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program prepares health care leaders with the skills and knowledge that director of clinical services roles require. Individuals enrolled in the program can take courses in health care economics, finance, nursing science theory, health promotion, research design, evidence-based practice methods, advanced practice nursing leadership, and health care policy and ethics.
Individuals who are ready to take on increased responsibility and become health care leaders can enroll in Bradley’s DNP program to acquire the competencies that health care employers seek, such as leadership, project management, and technical skills, as well as knowledge of health care information systems, quality assurance, and other clinical services areas.
Explore how Bradley’s DNP program can help you become a director of clinical services.