What Does a Director of Patient Care Services Do?

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A nurse discusses patient services with a couple in an assisted living facility.Patients expect competent health care to be given by professionals who are skilled and educated. Today’s patients have a consumer mindset when it comes to medical care, and they expect positive interactions at every step of the process; with front office staff, nurses, physicians, billing coordinators and more.

When considering this mindset, it’s important to note that the patient experience is not the same thing as patient satisfaction. The patient experience represents a measure of what really happened during a patient’s interactions with a health organization, for example, a billing coordinator reaching out promptly and communicating clearly. Patient satisfaction, on the other hand, is far more subjective, pertaining to the patient’s expectations.

Many health organizations now employ a director of patient care services. This role seeks to optimize the patient experience, ensuring that patients feel they are receiving responsive, communicative care throughout their patient journey. Those who choose to earn an advanced education in health care, such as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) can become well-qualified for this important role.

Director of Patient Care Services Job Description

The mission of the director of patient care services is to create a clinical environment where patients are well cared for and provided with the most responsive, communicative and helpful services from their doctors, nurses and administrators.

Typically, the director of patient care services has a nursing background, which gives them familiarity with patient-clinician interactions and also provides credibility as they direct members of the nursing team.

A director of patient care services also requires administrative skills, including the development of policies and protocols that prioritize patient comfort, safety and well-being.

Duties and Responsibilities

Some specific duties and responsibilities associated with this role include:

Regulatory Compliance

One of the most important jobs of the director is ensuring the facility complies with regulations, particularly those related to patient safety. For example, the director may implement standards for hygiene in patient rooms, helping improve patient perception of the facilities while also lowering risk of infection.

Strategy Development

Directors are also tasked with creating holistic strategies, touching on everything from budgeting to human resources, to prioritizing patient experience (e.g., ensuring the right resources and personnel to satisfactorily address patient needs).

Team Building

A big part of the job is directing nurses, technicians and other staff members on how to ensure positive patient interactions. This may involve providing professional development opportunities, with the intention of improving clarity of communication with patients, or better handling complaints from patients who become frustrated.

Customer Service

To a large extent, the director role is customer service-oriented, and may include fielding questions from patients or their family members while addressing any complaints that might arise.

The Skills of a Director of Patient Care Services

To succeed in this position, a number of core competencies are required. Some of the most essential skills for a director of patient care services include the following.

  • Leadership skills. The director must set a vision and articulate clear standards for all personnel, including any nurses, technicians or administrators who directly interact with patients.
  • The director role brings together all departments within the hospital, from direct caregivers to administrative team members. As such, creating a sense of shared vision and cooperation is pivotal.
  • Problem-solving. Inevitably, patients will voice any complaints they have, staff members will note obstacles or other managers will identify logistical shortcomings. The director must be prepared to hear these problems, acknowledge them and brainstorm solutions.
  • Analytical skills. A good director will be prepared to analyze existing policies and protocols, and identify potential areas for improvement.
  • Technical skills. To win the trust of caregivers and earn professional credibility, it’s crucial for the director to demonstrate technical and clinical skills of their own.
  • Interpersonal skills. The director of patient care services must sometimes handle complaints from patients and patient family members, requiring patience, tact and grace.

Earning a D.N.P. is an important way to hone all of these skills and prepare to have a positive impact in a director-level role.

Director of Patient Care Services Salary and Job Growth

The median annual salary for this role is approximately $110,000, according to December 2022 data from the compensation website Payscale. Factors that can affect the salary range include years of experience and level of education, along with geographic location.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes the job outlook for health management roles is booming.  Job openings are projected to grow 28% between 2021 and 2031, which is much faster than the average for all professions.

Build a Better Patient Experience

Through a strategic approach to patient safety and quality of care, hospitals and other health organizations can ensure every patient has the best possible experience, every time. Putting this kind of strategy into place may require leadership from a director of patient care services.

To hone the skills for this role, consider an advanced nursing degree, such as the University of North Dakota’s online Post-Master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program and its Leadership track, focused on director-level and management positions in patient care.

Recommended Readings

Why Get a DNP?

3 Nursing Trends for 2022

What Is Population Health Nursing?


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, What Is Patient Experience?

AHMC Seton Medical Center, Patient Care Services

Houston Chronicle, “Education Needed for a Patient Care Director”

Journal of Patient Experience, “Understanding the Patient Experience: A Conceptual Framework”

Payscale, Average Director of Patient Care Services Salary

Society for Human Resource Management, Executive Director, Hospital

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers