Job Requirements: Act as leader and coordinator of the nursing staff for a given shift. Delegate patients, handle staffing schedules, work through conflicts and promote patient-centered quality care.
Education Requirements: Associate’s Degree and Registered Nurse who has passed the National Council Licensure Examination. Typically 5 years of experience as RN.
Work Locations: Hospitals, private practice
Salary: Median expected salary is 71,891
A Charge Nurse is the leader and coordinator of the nursing staff for a given shift, in addition to regular nursing responsibilities. A person in this role has demonstrated exceptional leadership skills, strong clinical skills and is great with organization and planning.
In a given day a Charge Nurse will take care of patients, supervise nurses working on the floor, facilitate physician rounding, act as safety liason and work with the facility administrator as needed.
The start of each shift is the most important aspect of a nursing team. During this time, the Charge Nurse will provide an overall update of patient status based on information obtained from the nurse on the previous shift. Any critical issues or procedures involving advanced skills will be discussed at this time to make sure the entire team is involved in handling more complex patients.
Next, the nurses will be assigned to the patients on the floor. A Charge Nurse will have examined the patient records prior to this meeting and assign patients to nurses based on the best match between the health issue and the nurse’s skill set. For example if a patient has a broken leg, a nurse with experience in this area will be assigned to this patient over a nurse who has more experience with blood transfusions.
Once patients have been assigned, a brief time is dedicated to ongoing education. The Charge Nurse will either distribute evidence based practice information to review as a group, invite a guest speaker to discuss specific health realted information or deligate the responsibility to another nurse on the team who will share information from a training or seminar they attended.
An ongoing initiative for all employees of any medical facility is quality improvement. Healthcare professionals are trained to have ongoing sessions to review specific scenarios and outline ways to do them better in the future. This is important as nurses are often put in situations where a call needs to be made quickly and doctors are not immediately available. These types of cases must be reviewed carefully and processes put in place to eliminate doubt or second guessing on quick decisions. A Charge Nurse will discuss quality improvement matters during their meeting before the shift and throughout the day, one-on-one with his or her team members.
On the floor, this nurse is responsible for diffusing any conflict between nurses, patients and patient families. This part of the job requires a cool head and excellent people skills. It can take time to master this role as you learn to get creative in becoming a mediator and finding solutions that make all parties happy.
A Charge Nurse has demonstrated advanced clinical skills and is responsible for being a clinical expert to the nurses on their team. If there is a nurse on the team who is being asked to perform a procedure they have never done on a real patient, they will need to be trained and supervised before doing it solo.
This role requires more time and energy than a staff nurse. Taking initiative to come in early, speak with the nurses from the previous shift, then planning the day accordingly can mean the difference between a good day with safe patients and a frantic day where patient safety is on the line.