What Is A Charge Nurse?

how to become a charge nurse

If you’d like to become a nurse, perhaps you’ve already heard of charge nurses. What are they and what does a charge nurse do

In short, a charge nurse is a registered nurse who is in charge of a ward either in the hospital or in other healthcare facilities. 

Charge nurses take care of most of the tasks performed by general nurses, but also have managerial and supervisory duties. Besides caring for patients, as a charge nurse, you’ll also have to make sure everything on your ward is running smoothly, delegate tasks to other nurses, monitor admissions and discharges, and more. 

To be successful in this position, you’ll need excellent communication and managerial skills combined with strong clinical experience. 

To become a charge nurse, you must first obtain a diploma in nursing, either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, then get licensed as a registered nurse. You will then have to gain sufficient working experience to qualify for working in a lead role. 

Some facilities may also require further certifications besides your diploma, usually a master’s degree. 

Not only you’ll have to perform your nursing duties flawlessly, but you must also prove your critical thinking and ability to manage a ward before applying for the role. 

Typically, to become a charge nurse, you’ll need: 

  • Excellent communication, organizational, and leadership skills. 
  • Ability to handle stress and work shifts. 
  • Proficiency in medical software systems and Microsoft Office or equivalent. 
  • Compassionate, problem-solving attitude. 

What Does A Charge Nurse Do?

We already mentioned that a charge nurse has additional responsibilities compared to a registered nurse. These responsibilities include: 

Managerial Duties

If you want to become a charge nurse, know that you’ll be responsible for managing, supervising, and assisting the nursing staff in addition to providing general patient care and administrative support to patients and their families or caregivers. 

As such, you need strong leadership, communication, and management skills. 

Most clinics and hospitals have several charge nurses responsible for different departments or specialized units; typically, a department also has two or more charge nurses, one responsible for each shift. 

Your managerial duties will usually include: 

  • Admission, discharge, and general management of the patients’ flow. 
  • Assigning nurses and support staff to patients. 
  • Ability to prioritize and adapt during emergencies while still meeting daily goals. 
  • Provide guidance and administering care to new patients. 
  • Answer any questions regarding protocol. 
  • Liaising with nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel. 
  • Develop and implement training courses for both new and staff nurses. 
  • Document the performance of your staff nurses, perform their evaluation and counsel regarding unsatisfactory performance. 
  • Meet with upper management and discuss personnel and administrative issues.

Administrative Duties

Apart from managerial responsibilities, charge nurses also have administrative duties that often include providing clerical assistance to the hospital staff. You can expect to: 

  • Create schedules and manage working shifts. 
  • Make sure the ward has adequate supplies and order supplies as needed. 
  • Informing staff of any protocol changes. 
  • Plan budgets and make sure all the administrative needs of your ward are met. 

Nursing Duties

A charge nurse is still a registered nurse, so some of your responsibilities also include patient care. Therefore, you will also have to: 

  • Monitor and assess patients. 
  • Monitor vital signs. 
  • Report patients’ progress and special circumstances to doctors. 
  • Educate the patient and their family about treatments and care. 
  • Liaise with the patient’s family. 

How Much Does A Charge Nurse Earn?

More responsibilities come with higher compensation, but how much does a charge nurse earn? 

According to Pay Scale, a charge nurse earns a mean salary of $31.76 per hour or $66,065 annually. That’s around $6,000 more than a registered nurse. 

Obviously, the pay varies widely based on workplace and the area where you work. At the low end of the spectrum, you’ll earn around $52,000 a year. Experienced charge nurses may look at salaries up to $93,600 per year. 

Like all healthcare jobs, your salary will most likely grow each year until you reach the upper cap for your specialty. 

Is It Worth Being A Charge Nurse?

A delicate question that doesn’t have a universal answer. The only one who can decide if it’s worth it is you. 

If you have a strong personality, the ability to staying calm and taking a decision even when you’re working under pressure, and generally like to be a leader, then this role is more than gratifying. Not only you’ll make a difference in your patients’ lives, but you’ll also get to coordinate each patient’s care. 

However, if you don’t work particularly well under stress or have poor leadership and communication skills, becoming a charge nurse may not be for you. 

If your decision of becoming a charge nurse is driven by financial reasons, you might want to look into jobs that pay better, such as becoming a nurse practitioner. Applying to work as a travel nurse could also be a good compromise if you want higher pay but don’t want more responsibilities. 

Whether or not you should become a charge nurse is down to you. 

So, what do you think? Would you like to be in charge of your ward, or would you rather have fewer responsibilities? What do you think are the requisites for becoming a charge nurse?

Share your thoughts in a comment below. We’d love to hear from you. 

And if you know anyone else who would like to know what is a charge nurse or is contemplating the idea of becoming one, don’t hesitate to share this article with your friends.

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