employEvery healthcare facility, office, unit and ward needs some sort of leadership. Without it, nothing would run smoothly and utter chaos would ensue.

Medical facilities face this problem by appointing “leaders” for each of their departments. These leaders are responsible for making sure everyone is doing their job and everything runs smoothly.

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What is a Charge Nurse?
What do Charge Nurses Do?
Where do Charge Nurses Work?
How do I Become a Charge Nurse?

What is a Charge Nurse?

Traditionally referred to as a “nursing sister”, a charge nurse is basically a nurse that is, well, in charge. These nurses are often supervisors in specific areas of a healthcare facility. They are often in charge of specific shifts, and they might also be referred to as shift supervisors.

Charge nurses typically work to ensure that everything goes as it’s supposed to under their watch. They will also often act as links between staff nurses and higher supervisors, and well as patients and medical staff on their shifts.

Being a charge nurse requires a great deal of ambition and responsibility, and it is not a career to be taken lightly. In order to become a charge nurse, you should have a few basic skills and characteristics, including leadership skills and effective communication skills. You should also be extremely organized, yet slightly flexible and able to “roll with the punches”, so to speak. If you’re looking to become a charge nurse, you should also be able and willing to tackle problems head-on and efficient in finding ways to solve them. Successful charge nurses must truly enjoy working with other people and be able to act as a teacher and disciplinarian, if necessary.

What do Charge Nurses Do?

Charge nurses typically have a number of different responsibilities and duties, and none of these should be taken lightly. They must take on several roles, including those of nurses, organizers, supervisors, disciplinarians, teachers, and patient advocates.

First of all, they have many of the same duties as traditional nurses. This involves caring for patients and maintaining a clean, safe, and sanitary work environment. As a charge nurse, you can expect to assist with monitoring and caring for patients, including recording vital signs and administering medications. Many charge nurses also work closely with care managers and physicians in an effort to create or update patient care plans.

One of the best traits for charge nurses to have is organizational skills. These nursing professionals are often responsible for making sure that the healthcare professionals in their areas or on their shifts have access to the necessary supplies and equipment. In order to do this, charge nurses must usually directly order necessary supplies or confer with their facility’s administration department. Charge nurses might also be responsible for overseeing the schedules of the nursing staff as well as the admissions, discharges, and transfers of patients to and from their areas.

Charge nurses are also responsible for a number of supervisory tasks as well. For instance, they may be responsible for meeting and conferring with their healthcare facility’s administrators or managers, and relaying any changes in protocol to the rest of the nursing staff. They might also need to evaluate and document the performance of the nursing staff, and sometimes deal with unsatisfactory behavior or performance.

Charge nurses should also act as role models and may be required to provide any necessary training and orientation for new nursing staff members. They are typically expected to assist and teach the nurses under their supervision.

Finally, charge nurses are expected to assist other nurses in dealing with difficult patients. They may be called upon to act as mediators between patients and members of the nursing staff, and they may also need to look into complaints from patients as well.

Where do Charge Nurses Work?

Nearly all healthcare facilities that employ nurses have charge nurse positions. These nursing professionals can often be found in hospitals, clinics, and private physician offices.

How do I Become a Charge Nurse?

Becoming a charge nurse is typically less about education and training, and more about experience, ambition, personality, and performance. Of course, in order to become a charge nurse, you must first become a licensed nursing professional. This usually involves becoming and RN by earning your nursing degree and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).

Below is a common education path associated with a charge nurse

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

Experience is also often a must before becoming a charge nurse. Generally, charge nurses are often required to have at least three years of nursing experience under their belts before they can assume this role. Some charge nurse positions may require additional experience, particularly if the position is for a specialty field.

Your performance working as a member of the nursing staff should be exemplary if you’re looking to eventually become a charge nurse. You’re more likely to be promoted to these types of supervisory positions if you demonstrate excellent leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Additional Resources For Charge Nurses

  1. Strategies For Nurse Managers
  2. Development of Skills and Leadership For Charge Nurses
  3. Emerging RN Leader