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What Is a Charge Nurse?

Written by: Wilson College   •  Jan 12, 2024
A charge nurse meets with another nurse in a hospital room.

What Is a Charge Nurse?

To keep up with the ongoing nursing shortage, nursing professionals with supervisory experience are destined to play an increasingly important role in healthcare. Among their many responsibilities are guiding new nurses, managing current staff, and performing advanced duties. These individuals are called charge nurses.

So, what is a charge nurse? They’re registered nurses (RNs) who supervise shifts. In addition, they use their problem solving and multitasking skills to provide patient care and act as a point-of-contact for administrators, physicians, and senior nursing staff. Charge nurses ensure various elements of the patient care process run smoothly.

Nurses who are interested in advancing and becoming a charge nurse need to understand the duties, responsibilities, and skill requirements of the role, as well as the benefits of earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

What Does a Charge Nurse Do?

Charge nurses manage the operations of a nursing unit or department during a specific time period or shift. They’re in charge of certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, and other registered nurses. Staff nurses look to charge nurses to provide leadership. Charge nurses also perform traditional RN duties.

Charge nurses not only manage staff, but also work closely with hospital administrators, monitor supply inventories, maintain nursing guidelines, and handle administrative tasks. They ensure patients and staff have a clean and safe environment, resolve patients’ complaints, and reinforce quality of care standards. They also assess the skills and abilities of other nurses when pairing them with patients. Like most RNs, charge nurses work in shifts, but may be on-call during holidays and weekends.

Work Settings for Charge Nurses

Charge nurses may work in a variety of settings where their combined management and clinical skills are needed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that as of 2022, 59% of RNs worked in hospitals. Other places of employment may include:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • Private doctor’s offices
  • Clinics
  • Educational facilities
  • Government healthcare settings
  • Nursing homes
  • Long-term care facilities

Key Job Responsibilities

Responsibilities may vary by employer but, what’s consistent in this role is the ability to lead in a healthcare setting. Aspiring charge nurses should be prepared to master the following tasks.

  • Investigating patient complaints
  • Conducting job interviews and performance evaluations
  • Mentoring student nurses
  • Actively monitoring and ordering medical supplies, medical equipment, and medication
  • Delegating nursing tasks (e.g., assign patients to staff)
  • Overseeing patient admissions and discharges
  • Acting as a liaison between physicians, nurses, patients, and administrators
  • Conducting shift handovers
  • Coordinating staff schedules
  • Taking a leadership role during emergencies

Fundamental Skills for Charge Nurses

Aside from essential skills like problem solving, physical stamina, compassion, and professionalism, there are a number of advanced skills that charge nurses need to carry out their responsibilities.

Leadership

Since charge nurses supervise a group of nurses, they must possess strong leadership skills, especially when there are questions or concerns. These professionals also provide guidance and mentorship to other nurses.

Communication

Charge nurses provide written and verbal instructions to medical staff as well as to patients and their families. They use their advanced communication skills to clearly convey important medical information, care updates, and instructions to nursing staff.

Organizational Skills

Since charge nurses oversee staff in a unit or department, they should possess excellent organizational skills to create work schedules, manage resources, and coordinate care with other healthcare departments.

Attention to Detail

Having superb attention to detail is crucial for charge nurses who are responsible for double checking a patient’s chart for accuracy, confirming medication dosage, and pinpointing changes in a patient’s condition.

Empathy

Charge nurses encounter numerous stressors and emergencies, so they should be skilled in maintaining their composure in high-stress situations and in front of patients. This enables charge nurses to more easily exhibit empathy, empowering them to make sound decisions while relating to patients, their families, and nursing staff.

Charge Nurse Salary and Job Outlook

Charge nurses earned a median salary of about $80,900 as of November 2023, according to the compensation website Payscale. However, specific salaries depend on education, location, certification, and the type of employer. Payscale also notes that charge nurses with specialty skills in areas such as neurology, post anesthesia care, pediatric intensive care, and interventional radiology may earn 15% to 39% more.

The BLS projects a 6% increase in RN positions, which includes charge nurses, from 2022 to 2032. Job growth is estimated to remain consistent due to the need to replace retiring nurses and those who leave the profession. In addition, the expertise of RNs will be needed to care for older adults and patients with chronic conditions as the U.S. population continues to age.

Develop the Skills to Become a Charge Nurse

While it’s possible for some licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to be charge nurses, most employers require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). A BSN offers better preparation to assume the varied duties of a charge nurse. While optional, some charge nurses also have certifications in advanced life support, pediatrics, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The LPN to BSN program at Wilson College Online is specifically designed to prepare working LPNs with the advanced skills and clinical expertise to advance in their nursing careers.

Discover how Wilson College Online can prepare you for a successful career as a charge nurse.

Recommended Readings

LPN vs. RN: Comparing Nursing Roles

How to Become a Nurse Manager

What to Expect from an RN to BSN Curriculum?

Sources:

American Association of Colleges of Nursing, New Graduate Employment Data 2023

American Nurses Association, “Charge Nurse vs. Nurse Manager: What’s the Difference?”

GoodRx Health, What’s a Charge Nurse? Role, Duties, and Salary Information

Indeed, Charge Nurse Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

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