Experienced, highly regarded among their peers, and great specialists in their fields, Charge Nurses play an indispensable part in the healthcare system. The smooth running of any nursing unit is, in large part, due to them. It’s a nursing role of much responsibility and equal reward.
Every nursing department has a Charge Nurse who is, to put it simply, the nurse in charge of the good functioning of the ward or department. If at one point in your career you have entertained the idea of becoming a Charge Nurse, you probably want to know everything there is to know about this nursing position.
We put together this guide to help you navigate the intricacies of the Charge Nurse role. We’ll cast a light on education and job requirements, salary expectations, duties and responsibilities, and the best skills and qualities to have for a Charge nursing job.
Let’s jump in and see what the role of a Charge Nurse is all about.
What Is a Charge Nurse?
In every medical facility, there needs to be an on-the-ground leadership position to ensure that every shift runs successfully, that all the tasks get completed, the ward is staffed appropriately at all times, and patients are receiving the best quality care.
And that is where Charge Nurses come in. Sometimes also called Nursing Sisters, they oversee a specific department or ward and ensure that the work environment is organized and efficient. Essentially, Charge Nurses are the leader of their respective departments.
Charge RNs supervise the team of nurses working on their ward. They’ll often be in charge of delegating duties, coordinating work schedules, and keeping track of admissions and discharges. Part of the job is also ensuring that their ward is always appropriately stacked with supplies, medications, and equipment.
The Charge Nurse position also requires being the lynchpin between nurses and higher management, hospital administrations, and other Nurse Leaders. By being the link between all the parties involved in healthcare services, the Charge RN sees to it that the nurses’ voices are heard by management and the hospital’s policies and codes are respected and followed thoroughly by the staff.
What Is the Role of a Charge Nurse?
In broad terms, the Charge Nurse is responsible for the efficient operation of a nursing unit or ward. That involves tasks and responsibilities related to planning, coordinating, and evaluating all the nursing activities in their department during their shift.
Because it combines the regular duties of a Registered Nurse with some administrative tasks, the Charge Nurse job description ends up being complex and interesting at the same time. That is a perfect situation, especially for nurses who enjoy working with people, providing direct care to patients, and are ready to commit to a higher degree of responsibility.
Let’s go through a duties checklist and see what some of the things that Charge Nurses have to do on a daily basis are:
- Coordinate daily administrative duties. This includes creating schedules for nurses on staff, assigning tasks and assignments to RNs.
- Keep track of patients’ admissions, discharges, and transfers.
- Train and mentor new staff and offer them the room to grow and become great professionals under our guidance.
- Develop continuous education and training programs for nurses and staff.
- Monitor the needs and requests of the nursing staff in their ward.
- Monitor medical charts and ensure that nurses under their supervision don’t skip steps in providing care.
- Communicate and explain any protocol or policy changes to staff nurses and make sure they understand and follow the new rules and regulations.
- Make sure that health and safety regulations are followed to the dot in their department.
- Record and share with supervisors reports on their department’s activity.
- Completes annual performance evaluations on the nurses that work under their supervision.
- Deal with conflicts or issues that might arise among nurses and patients.
- Solve problems that might occur between personnel on shift.
- Order medical supplies or communicate with the department in charge of that. The goal is to make sure that all the nurses in their ward or unit have access to all the necessary supplies and equipment needed to do their job efficiently.
- Provide direct patient care to patients.
- Provide patient and family education.
- Work with physicians and other members of the healthcare team to develop or update patient care plans.
Nurse Manager vs. Charge Nurse
Many times people will confuse the roles of Nurse Manager and Charge Nurse. Both of these positions require some managerial aspects and require excellent leadership skills. However, their scope of practice is different, thus making these jobs quite distinct.
Nurse Managers have a broader scope of responsibilities. They focus more on the administrative and management aspects of healthcare delivery in the institution. They are in charge of budgets, policy issues and supervise a vaster team. Also, the minimum education requirement for Nurse Managers is an MSN degree.
Charge Nurses are a lot more hands-on compared to Nurse Managers. Even though a promotion to charge nursing means more administrative tasks, it doesn’t mean you leave bedside nursing altogether. You’ll continue having patient-facing nursing tasks, in addition to the managerial responsibilities.
How to Become a Charge Nurse?
To become a Charge Nurse, you need to have a solid foundation of nursing knowledge and clinical skills. In this nursing role, you’ll have to make a lot of judgments and decisions, so you need to be prepared to tackle any issue that might arise with the utmost skill and expertise.
It’s essential to be well-prepared before you can embark on this role. That’s why a combination of specific schooling requirements and work experience is necessary to apply for the position. In this section, we’ll discuss the process of becoming a Charge Nurse.
The very first step is to become a licensed Registered Nurse. For that, you can enroll in an Associate’s Nursing Degree program or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing program – whichever fits your timeline and professional ambitions better. When you complete one of these programs, you will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN. Once you pass this critical final exam, you will officially be a Licensed Registered Nurse.
Although ADN is a perfectly valid way to gain licensure, bear in mind that most hospitals and other healthcare facilities prefer hiring BSN-trained RNs to fill the role of Charge Nurse.
Having an MSN degree under your belt is not a requirement for pursuing a Charge Nurse position. A higher degree will set you apart from the competition and make your resume attractive to potential employers.
Unfortunately, you cannot pursue a Charge Nurse position as soon as you complete a nursing program. Being a Charge Nurse requires a lot of actual work experience, so before you can pursue a career in this field, you ought to get some hands-on expertise. Usually, you’ll need anywhere from three to five years of experience before you can apply for Charge Nurse jobs, or before your employers acknowledge your leadership potential and offer you this promotion.
Where Do Charge Nurses Work?
Basically, every healthcare facility that has nurses on staff will most likely offer Charge Nurse positions. Thus, public or private hospitals, clinics, private physicians’ offices, nursing homes will all employ Charge Nurses to oversee and administer the nursing staff.
As a Charge Nurse, you can also pursue more specific interests. For instance, if you like working with babies, you can opt for a NICU Charge Nurse position after you get enough work experience in the neonatal unit. If you’re loyal to the ER and find working in the Emergency Department the most professionally fulfilling path for you, consider going after the ER Charge Nurse role. If, however, the ED is too hectic and disorganized for your personality, an ICU Charge Nurse job might be the best option for you. There are many nursing units and wards to choose from – just make sure you follow your passion, and you’ll make the best out of the additional responsibilities.
What is the Charge Nurse Salary?
The Charge Nurse position doesn’t only come with additional responsibilities. It will also bring about higher wages and better benefits.
According to data from the job platform Salary.com, the average salary of Charge Nurses is $90,353, with most Charge RNs winning wages within the $83,900 and $100,400 range. This is higher than the average Registered Nurse Salary, which, as the Bureau of Labour Statistics reports, is about $80,010 annually.
Certainly, how much you make as a Charge Registered Nurse can vary widely depending on many important factors, like education level, certifications, additional skills, work experience, employer, or even location.
Best Qualities of a Charge Nurse
To succeed as a Charge Nurse, you need a specific set of skills to complement your clinical abilities and nursing knowledge. These are some of the best qualities that a Charge Nurse can – and should possess:
- Strong leadership skills. The fine print of this role implies that you are a leader in your workplace. You are in charge of a team of nurses, and how well you manage them will influence the quality of care provided to patients in your ward. Under your supervision, the team should function better, ultimately leading to better care and improved outcomes. And leadership skills are at the very core of it.
- Organizational skills. As a Charge Nurse, one of your biggest strengths will be your organizational skills. You need to organize schedules, reports, staff evaluations, supply timetables while also organizing your shift itinerary so that you provide outstanding care to your patients. Handling both administrative and nursing duties is no easy feat, and it’s the sign of a great Charge Nurse to be able to do it gracefully.
- Communication skills. You’ll be working and interacting with people a lot. You have to oversee the nursing staff in your unit, train new nurses, talk to supervisors, collaborate with physicians, care for patients, and educate their families. And all during the same shift. That’s why having great communication skills might be one of the best qualities of a Charge Nurse.
- Critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Real-life nursing rarely follows the textbook examples you went through in nursing school. Often nurses might find themselves in an impasse, unsure of what’s the best way forward. In those situations, they will most likely come to you for advice and guidance on solving their problems and avoiding making nursing mistakes. Being able to think critically and to make decisions will come a long way in this job.
- Patience. Being impatient and getting frustrated when new nurses come to you with questions or when other staff members come to check if they could switch shifts might be one of the biggest weaknesses for Charge Nurses. To be effective in this role, you need to be patient with the nursing staff, your patients, and everyone else involved in the healthcare process. Working as part of a team – and especially leading that team requires empathy, assertiveness, and understanding.
Are You Ready to Take Charge of Your Nursing Future?
Being a Charge Nurse is a fantastic opportunity for Registered Nurses who want to get the best out of both worlds. You are still involved in direct patient care and offer bedside, personal attention to patients. At the same time, you live up to your leadership potential and get more involved in the decision-making process and administration.
It’s a very fulfilling position in which you will tremendously help the entire healthcare team. Are you ready to pursue it?
Enroll in Nightingale College’s RN-to-BSN program and advance your career. A Charge Nurse promotion is just in sight!